Below you can find stories that the HenPower Hensioners have compiled about hen keeping from the war years until now. Use the category filters to look at specific stories.
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Nicola and Steve
It started when I was in plaster I'd had to give up a job I loved and couldn't ride my horses - it was the 3rd op out of 6 so far. I have osteoarthritis in both hands and wrists and have had them partly and fully fused.
We live in the country my daughter works while studying at a free-range egg farm, she was banned from taking anymore hens home who were injured to her boyfriends place. She fetched me one hen, we called her Hettie she was in a poor state I actually took her to the vet for antibiotic but sadly she died. My daughter calls it Hettie hospital.
I now have about 45 not all Hetties I also breed and show vorwerks have a few runner ducks. I still take in the Hetties and have a coop of limpy hens that have come with either deformities from old breaks or have new ones I splint until healed. From peck injuries to nasty open wounds their ability to heal once separate and treated is astounding. I rehome the fully recovered that can go back with other hens. It's time consuming but rewarding I remember my famous last words after finding out my daughter had been banned from having anymore hens. No way, don't ask we're not having any chickens here, lol.
My husband was offered a cockerel in the pub one day, and agreed to have it. I was not happy. The person he got the cockerel from also gave him 2 orpington. We had a small coop and nothing else, no food, bedding, nothing. We currently have 10 chickens, 9 ex batts and one of the original orps and have worked our way up to a run and living enclosure that would easily house 20 or more. They are my babies, I love them and hubby, who started it all, isn't really interested at all.
My fist encounter with chickens was when I was a child. I used to stay on my granny's farm, and being the only child there, hadn't any one to play with. When the dog got tired of me dressing him up, I used to go into the hen house and play 'school' with the hens. I was the teacher and they were my students. They'd be sitting up on the nest boxes and I'd sit across from them with some books and a pen and teach them. Then if one of them moved, I'd put it in the corner because they never asked permission to leave their seat. Lol....
So fast forward 18 years, my boyfriend and I moved into a house in the country. The previous tenants kept chickens and intentionality left one behind because they 'couldn't catch her' apparently. 'Don't worry about her, the fox will get her' is what I was told when I questioned what to do with her. I'm a huge animal lover so that was out of the question. Susie as I named her lived free range in the garden for a few weeks and slept in the bushes. She would come running down the garden like a lion was chasing her in the mornings, fly up on the window sill and tap on it to get her breakfast. Then a close encounter with a neighbours dog, made me build her a secure run and convert a disused rabbit hutch into a house for her. She was quite happy, started laying and was officially my newest pet. Over Xmas, I built her a big new house and extended her run bit. A few weeks later I got her a friend, Doris, the white Sussex. Despite following the recommended introductory procedure, day 1 was bad, day 2 was good and day 3 was like a blood bath. My little innocent Susie had turned into a raging, blood thirsty lunatic. So now, currently one and half weeks of them being separated (although living beside each other so they will more used to eachother) Susie has escaped twice to sleep in the bushes and tries to eat me if she sees me taking her eggs, Doris feathers has started growing back but she has decided it would be safer to act like she's a Duck! But over all I love having my girls, even though I never would have chickens if it wasn't for them leaving Susie behind. Now I'm just hoping and praying the next introduction will go well and they will be friends.
Felicity Anne Hayes
My chicken story started with my husband designing a chicken coup. He works in the timber industry and has always had access to cheaper timber as a result. My son was a carpenter, and together they decided that, after clearing our back garden, which was a mammoth task, they would build the chicken coup. Well, they did that beautifully and even had help with one of my son's friends, who, being in the roofing industry, was able to put a proper corrugated iron roof on it and attached gutters and a down pipe. Then came our first three rescue chickens, Rhonda, Darkie and Honey. We had all three for just over two years and I became very attached to them, although I was nervous about the responsibility at first, and knew absolutely nothing about looking after chickens. Rhonda and Darkie unfortunately and sadly passed away last winter, but Honey has stayed with us and she is a very, very strong chicken, and lays lovely eggs about three times a week. I was going to just keep her on her own, but my son said you have to get more chickens to keep her company. I resisted at first but then, upon returning from a vacation to help my sister move, my husband and I bought two pullets, Bec and Jo, off a breeder. Honey was really bossy at first and caused some grief as she was always picking on the pullets. Bec had a cold but she started to lay eggs every day and has been very resilient. Jo got sick early this year and I took her to the vets and he treated her for chicken bronchitis. Thankfully, she has now recovered fully and she laid her first eggs this week. I am absolutely delighted. Even Bec has stopped her sneezing, so I think all the chickens are now happy and content. I have always liked animals and I really enjoy my new lifestyle with my friendly chickens.
My love of chickens-- especially bantams started when I was about 8 years old. As a child I used to stay with my Uncle on a farm in Shropshire. His son kept bantams and although he was the same age as me there wasn't anything he didn't know about looking after animals --- I adored him and was absolutely convinced I was going to marry him and be a farmers wife when I grew up! Well that didn't happen but my love of animals stayed with me and when I acquired 2 allotments 4 years ago-- guess what I did. Yip -- got my bantams!!!! Best thing ever -- they have taught me so much and never fail to make me smile.
My neighbour was selling a chicken coop with or without a beautiful grey bantom I decided due to my fear of birds I would get it a few weeks later I got my beautiful ex batts from my local rescue now I have gotten over my fear of birds so much so I can lift my girls up and love nothing better than being out in there run having a conversation with my 4 girls all different characters and when the weather breaks a new coop and run is being built for me to slip a few more girls in.
My chicken story is when I started caring for my elderly mum I needed a realise for me and hubby some where we could do our thing our hobby. Being tied to the house and caring we need a release started with 7 chickens 4 years ago still have 6 of the original ones plus the daughter of the one we lost, come Saturday we will have 61 a wonderful mum still with us and a happy family.
It all started when I went round my friends house, he blurted out that he had chickens with Afros (silkies) and we had to have a look. Sure enough they did, and that's where I caught the chicken madness...
Over time I hassled my mum enough for her to buy me some barbu duccles. They were the best chickens I ever had. Then I rescued some ex batteries and sizzles, they had the biggest personalities. Summer went by and I ended up hatching (both naturally and artificially), rearing chicks inside and outside, selling the eggs and POL chickens. I'm glad I went round my friends house to see the chooks or I wouldn't have my chickens now
Never take their care for granted. Always be aware of illnesses and predators and make sure you can make them as safe as possible! Sometimes you experience deaths and I wonder whether I could prevent them and if I had noticed earlier that they were poorly... You feel guilt.
Chicken keeping is rewarding if you really want to do it. It takes time, can take a lot of money if you want it too, but the rewards can be immense. I think some people think they don't need to do much but they do need care, again for health reasons and fox attacks etc. If they are pets they should be treated as such.
They take time and need to opened up in the morning and put away at night for their own safety. I am worried that if I ever forgot, not that I have, but if I did something awful would happen. Its all about routine. If I keep to that, the hens like it too, then hopefully everything will be okay.
In May 2014 I saw a crash on the M62, where a truck driver spilled his load of ex battery hens onto the motorway. Over a thousand dead, and some 2000 left wandering. My Ladies were rescued from being slammed back onto the truck by a group of people who went down to help save the live hens. We got our Ladies the day after the crash, from the shed where the poorly hens were being kept before they left for rescues. We took home SJ, Amybird and Clara, the impossible chicken. Sadly, we lost Clara a few days afterwards as her pelvis was shattered. We then gained Donna and Martha from the same crash a few days later. Joining the flock was Gertie, an old ex batt who came to us to live out her days with us as she was a lone bird.
Sadly, we lost Gertie to old age and Donna to EYP, but Amy, SJ and Martha are still going strong. It was a struggle, watching them at first, to understand just why they were in this state. Parallel to the injuries from the crash, they were bald, and their poor beaks were dreadfully wonky. It has taken 10 months for the worst of the beaks to regrow/trim down to a point where Amy can now pick up food.
These Ladies are such funny little girls, and a huge entertainment to us all. The eggs are welcomed also, though if they decided to stop laying tomorrow, they'd all have homes till the end of their days. We are beginners, and boy were we thrown in at the deep end, but we wouldn't change it at all!
They even have their own Facebook page! www.facebook.com/cluckybunch
My hubby always wanted chickens, so when we were in a position to do so, we got 6 cuckoo Marans hens and a cockerel. They were allowed free rein in the garden, and my flatcoated retriever, Moss, got used to them strolling around and often sat surrounded by chooks. Our first brood failed (too dry in the coop for the eggs) but learning from our experience, we hatched (or rather Eglantine did!) a second brood of delightful fluffy chicks. When they were out and about in the garden, it became too much for Moss, my dog. He hated to see them running away from Mum, and would go and pick them up in his soft mouth and put them back in the coop or bring them to us.. completely unscathed. They had to be kept in order! Eglantine wasn't very impressed, but Moss felt it was his duty to be co-mum
Linda, 62, Las Vegas
I feel blessed to reintroduce chickens to my life. How little did I remember the time when my mother had a few hens, leghorns when I was a kid.
Now 62 years old, relocated and kids grown, it was time. After helping my son, Stephen start his flock, I went home in 2012 to visit. Totally fell in love with his birds, and once returning home found a breeder of Seramas. Since the bird was going to be an indoor pet, the Serama being the worlds smallest chicken was my best choice.
After seeing all of the birds I fell in love with a beautiful little rooster, Kasey Kahne he was named after my grandsons favorite Nascar driver. What a sweetie...but feeling he should have a companion I returned a couple of weeks later to purchase a hen, Danica Patrick. Yes, another Nascar driver.
To make a long story shorter many birds have came either by hatching eggs....oh yes had to have an incubator and since we didn't use the second bedroom it was converted into the bird room. In 2013 I was given Angelina a tiny tiny little Serama hen who was almost featherless due to her molt and it is now November. Living in Las Vegas NV the nights get chilly and she was outside. So home with me she came and we were inseparable. She went shopping and loved riding in the car. I adored her. She was special. I have many birds I love but none as much as Angie. I rocked her to sleep and spend endless time with her. On Sunday February 22 she was gone. She had past away overnight. I was devastated, lost and cried for days. But God works in mysterious ways...
One of my other hens, Snuggles who is full sized saw my sorrow and has become my constant companion. She comes to my bedroom early in the morning to lay beside me, and fall asleep in my arms. She is always talking to me, I just wish I knew what she was saying...but I have a pretty good idea. She is saying, I am here for you, I love you and will watch over you. I am so blessed for the chickens in my life.
Always liked helping my Dad with his gals when I was a little girl, he had a 70ft shed he built and kept them in, still have the shed(pic follows)you'll all laugh at it now. When Dad finally got so he couldn't get up an down the field any more I started to look after the gals, found a peace I'd forgotten in life. He is gone now. Still have one of his left, she must be 15 now. True. Now all in a safe outdoor enclosure, mostly rescues, my best friends!
They live in the large shed, some in cages, Dad had a small veg an egg round. He delivered in his van, completely small time. I used to be allowed to help sometimes, guess I was only 8/9 which would have made about 1969/70. I adored his gals. Recall wanting them to be outside though......
When they didn't lay they would be for the pot, horrid memories of them hanging upside down plucked but head on and a little burner, kerosine i think to burn off stubble. Probably because they were old hens.
My gals enjoy retirement peacefully, some are ripe old ages.
My story is only from about three weeks ago.
I was in the garden, cleaning the coop and run, and the dogs and the chooks were just bumbling about the garden.
After a while, I realized that not only had no one tripped me up for a while, but that it had gone awfully quiet. Looked about - not a hair or a feather anywhere! I fair panicked, thinking they'd escaped some how so ran indoors, checking the undergrowth and bushes on the way, and saw I'd left the backdoor open.
The chooks often steal my dogs' dinners, if they can sneak in so I headed for the kitchen. No dogs, no chooks.
Was about to proper panic and headed for the stairs to wake my OH up (he's a night-worker) to panic him too, when as I passed the living room I heard a 'bok'.
Popped my head round the door and there are the two dogs, sitting comfortably, one either end of the couch and my three Ladies sitting in the middle WATCHING TV!
Oh, I SO wish I was a modern techie person with the mobile always to hand, but I'm not - it was on charge in the kitchen...
Mr and Mrs Ritson
I had a 40 foot fox-proof run which used to be for rescue and rehab of wild owls. When it was no longer needed (the bird intake moved to other premises) I decided to start with chookies. Ive had burford browns, speckledies, goldline and white star and cannot imagine life chookless. I mean, what other pet makes you breakfast ? My hen is a mouser too! Has anyone else got one that catches and eats mice ? It was initially for a few eggs but they are such entertainers, I now consider the eggs as an added bonus.
Mine are in a 40 foot fox-proofrun with a semi covered and wire roof. Inside the run they have a range of perches of varying heights and positions, and an eglu go up which some hate, some love, some just go in to lay. They are free ranging when I'm home
I only keep a couple at a time and their names are usually old fashioned like Betsy, Lucy, Matilda. However, my current goldline favourite is Bouddica and she suits it well... Boudicca is a mouser! I was stunned to see her race across the garden and next I knew, there was a little mouse wriggling in her beak. She ripped it to shreds and ate it before I got to her. She wasn't hungry, she isn't short on protein .. stunning !
Pros: Eggs! Entertainment. Cuddles
Cons: There are non as far as i'm concerned!
Advice: Get hens! Get Happy!
My story started when I moved to my Grandads farm, however the most I did with chickens was to collect the eggs and give them the corn in the morning. It wasn't until me and my boyfriend moved in together that I decided I wanted some chickens. His grandad was kind enough to give us three and that's where the story began. Since then my flocks increased to 16 hens and a free range cockerel. These have come from people giving up so I've gotten them for free, or I've bought them or hatched them myself. I've got breeding pairs of polish and booted bantams. Plus I'm getting a trio of silkies in March. It's hard work. Nobody wants to go out in the rain and snow but to be honest I don't think I want to stop :)
Sophie Hunter, UK
What got me into chickens? Well that would be the animal house my high school used to have, it's also where my first 2 ever chickens come from. 2 tiny utterly beautiful black tailed white Japanese banties, originally called Nono & Ellen (I named them Gretchen & Matilda). I was told by my teacher they were going to be put to sleep as they were too old (aged 4) to breed. so I paid him £5 and took them away. Aged 8 they incubated eggs for me & gave me 4 chicks. aged 11 I got another 2 chicks incubated. These chicks became my flock. after being told they were useless aged 4 they lived another 6 1/2 (Gretchen) & 7 years (Matilda). they introduced me into the wonderful world of chickens.
My story begins with my granddaughter giving me 4 hens several years ago. I had told my granddaughter about having chickens as a child and loved going down to the chicken coop to feed/water and gather eggs. I had a small coop built and then "chicken math began". I then closed in an area under my garage to accommodate more hens. At the time I lived in a neighborhood, in town and was getting concerned about talk of the town council putting rules on having backyard chickens. So I sold my home of 25 years and me and my 38 "girls" and 2 roos moved to the country....best thing I ever did!
Mr and Mrs Haigh
Raising Happy Chickens
I have a tiny little bantam Lemon Millefleur Sablepoot called Bono (he was called Bonnie until he started crowing and squaring up!) who insists on squaring up to everyone, including my huge 50 kilo Livestock Guardian Dog. She is completely bemused by him and never tries to hurt him - she just stares him down. He doesn't actually do her any damage as he can't even reach the top of her leg.
I'm the partner of someone who keeps chickens. He kept chicks as a child and asked if we could have some on the farm. It was 'No, no... well okay', and now I'm a chicken widow. The chickens have taken over.
We were given an egg at the westmorland county show and put it under a broody hen. A very small, black bantam cockerel was the result and we took it to all of the local shows. It was the first one we hatched and reared ourselves.
I had to go to the Scottish National Show last weekend with the Modern Game as my partner was on milking duty. We won first price, best opposite sex.
I'm quite new at the game and only really stand in when needed.
I got into chicken keeping because i'm interested in rare breeds and collecting different breeds to sell in the future. I keep them to sell and for enjoyment, however I can see many backyard chicken keepers would buy them to be self sufficient or just for pets!
I have a couple of acres full of different types of chickens. They all have their own pens so they are seperate. I have blue laced wyandottes, silkies, polands, rhode island reds, gold laced wyandottes and a few more. There are too many to count! But they're all very friendly and inquisitive.
Pros: Beautiful, friendly creatures. Eggs and hatching eggs
Cons: They tend to wander off!
If I were to give advice I would suggest people recognise that they do need looking after, ie, locking in at night. And research breeds, for example silkes don't fly, vorwerks can fly 2 meteres! And Ixworths lay lots of eggs.
My cousin had a henhouse that he had built at school and advertised in the local paper to sell it. He sold it and we just thought that we wouldn't actually mind getting into hens. So we went to a local auction, started with wellsummers first and he bought some cream legbars and then after that we sort of got the bug and went to different sales and making henhouses and stuff like that. It was after we used to go clubbing... when we stopped we needed something to do!
So we looked at all the different breeds and what they should be like in Poultry Standard and 5 years later we have 28 different breeds, one for every letter in the alphabet. And bantems, geese, turkeys, allsorts. Then we did a little bit of showing and it was just a hobby that got carried away! The people you met through it were interesting because they're different to the sorts of people you'd meet before.
The shows are just a bit of fun. Everyone has got a chance. Whatever background you come from, everyone has got a chance at winning a rosette. If you do start winning and collecting prizes it just gets quite addictive. It's just about doing the best you can. It's just not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
I've had a council allotment for the last 30 year, but tomorrow night there is a big meeting about whether to evict us because of the noise of the cockerels. I'm a pensioner, everyone encourages pensioners to get a hobby - I've had this hobby for 30 years and now they're going to take it off me. The cockerels crowing is a noise nuisance, but there's a big meeting tomorrow night so we'll see how we get on.
I lived on a farm and always looked after hens. I got some pure bred bantams and started showing them and then carried on from there. It's what you get up for in the morning when you're a pensioner... it keeps you going. It gives you purpose in life... I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have my chickens. But that's how it goes. So fingers crossed.
Jacob, Luke & Harvey
We got into hen keeping because they looked good and it's a good hobby - it's nice to look at them and that. We thought we'd have a go at showing them... we thought it'd be good to take part, that's the main thing. Today we're showing old English game bantams. The judges are looking for a bird that's shaped like a heart, and I think that's about it
We've been doing it for a couple of years - my dad used to always keep them. They just make you happy. It makes you proud of keeping them. We aim to get some of the best, and have some of the best in the game and win everything.
Well before I actually got hens, I used to go to my mams friend's farm when she went there and I used to go around looking at all the animals, but I always found myself looking at the chickens the most. I used to sneakily give them food and look for their secret nests etc. Their hens all died and I was quite sad about it and they said we could get more and they could be mine too, but it never happened. I pestered my mam for ages asking for some but we had nowhere to put them. After a while of pestering her she eventually gave in and asked my uncle if we could put some in his field and he said yes! I was nine years old at the time.
We went to a battery farm for the hens. I was complaining to mam that we needed to go sooner for them incase someone bought them all, but she said theres thousands so there will be loads. I didn't know what a battery farm was at the time, so I was excited and thought I would love it. On the 17th of May, we went to pick them up, I was shocked when I walked into that battery farm, I stopped eating chicken and have never touched it since and I'm 17 now. The hens were my responsibility and at the time were my only pets apart from two goldfish. My parents have only seen the hens about 10 times since I got them 8 years ago, so they trusted me to look after them.
I love my hens and really wouldn't be without them now. They each have a different personality and a few of them actually make me laugh because they are that crazy. All my friends ask "why do you like them so much? They are just chickens!" But I say that they wouldn't know until they kept them.
I did everything. The cleaning, feeding and watering etc was all my responsibility. Like I said above, my parents rarely came to see them and they live a ten minute drive and a 45 min walk away from us, so it was really my responsibility.
When I was younger, my hen keeping was usually overshadowed by older people who kept hens telling me old wives tales and whenever they were ill, they just said "they will just be old". I eventually joined some Facebook groups and got lots of help on them and have great knowledge now.
Harriet is smallest of the 3 old chickens but she rules the roost, or likes to think she does. They can be very protective of their buddy. Each one has it's own name, named after one of my daughters favourite senior citizen she may have grown up with.
Faulina is always getting in trouble. Either flying outside her pen or knocking treats out of your hand. Sometimes she gets on your back while you're cleaning her pen. These chickens actually belong to my daughter. But I'm there so much, I think they think now of me as their maid. Some jump up into your lap, while others patiently line up, waiting their turn for smuggle time. Some chatter while sitting there. We enjoy and love them so much. They, too, are part of the family.
Faulina knocks any thing down that you may have hanging for them. She likes to fly out of the pen. Sometimes she'll fly back. She been the brave one ever since she was 1 day old. Had her mind made up to be trouble.
My backyard has turned into the site of a major soap opera, with Milly turning into super-hero chicken. Clara has been pulling some shenanigans, and had to be moved away from the other Littles for their safety. So while Milly and Madeleine were out free-ranging yesterday (Harriet is still inside, recovering from a broken foot), I put Clara in THEIR yard to exercise. Milly and Madeleine came back toward the entrance of their yard, and Clara decided to STRUT toward them like a rooster. She eyed them both, and then decided to JUMP Madeleine (who is at the absolute TOP of the pecking order)! She knocked poor Madeleine on her butt, because she totally was not expecting one of the Littles to dare to do something like that. Milly saw it, got SUPER ANNOYED, and jumped on Clara, pulling her off of Madeleine. Milly then proceeded to whoop Clara's butt, until Clara got away, running across the yard with Milly hot on her tail. NOBODY messes with Milly's best friend.
Madeleine is queen. Thankfully, she is very fair-minded, and does not bully. She simply puts chickens in their place, and is done with it. Because of that, everyone seems to love her.
I named most of my chickens after old women I loved when I was growing up. I used to be a very shy child, but one who wanted to brighten the older women's day. So I would often sneak flowers (out of my Mom's garden) to older women's doors. They all remember me for that. So I began to name each chicken after a special older woman in my childhod.
Harriet was our first chicken, bought from a farm where her bum feathers, right down to the vertebrae, had been eaten by the other chicks. She is the smallest of our entire flock, despite her breed (splash blue laced red wyandotte). She is sweet with us, and her best friend is Madeleine. But she is a stinker. She likes to tease Madeleine, and she will put the LARGEST chicken, Milly, in her place. She has a jealous bone, is very talkative, and looks like a perfectly round, feathered basketball.
Most of my chickens will follow me around like dogs when they are loose in the yard. My mother can sit down and call them all by name, and each one will come up to her, ready to be picked up and baby-talked to. Sometimes they gather around her, vying for her attention. My mother had chickens in the 40s and 50s while growing up on the farm, but even her pet chicken Fluffy ended up on the dinner table. Now she has a chance to love without fear of that, because my chickens are our pets.
Milly once got out of the chicken yard, and flew INTO my dog's yard. My heart stopped when I walked out the door and saw her standing at the bottom of the steps, wit my dog Hattie sitting on the deck. Hattie is over-exuberant with the chickens, and I could not believe she had not accidentally hurt Milly. I could tell there had been SOME sort of incident, as a big water bucket was knocked over. My guess is that Milly did what she had done to Hattie at other times when Hattie got too close - pecked her HARD right between the eyes. Nobody really messes with Milly (except Harriet, the little round chicken, who is half her size and has 100X the attitude).
Rachael Harris, London
On honeymoon in South Africa there were some feather footed chickens (?cochins) in one of the places we were staying. They were so much fun and came to visit us every morning! When we got home I said to my husband that I wanted to keep chickens but my husband didn't agree. It took me about 18 months before he agreed and now we both love them. It hasn't all been straight forward but it is a huge learning curve which is just ongoing! We have now had chickens for about 2 years
I would like to keep more animals and become more self sufficient but our hectic London life style doesn't let us (we both work full time). I was always nervous about supermarket eggs, not knowing how the hens are treated :-( Plus, how great is collecting fresh eggs everyday?! We also find that it is very relaxing watching the flock free range in summer... But we also go through very stressful points when things go wrong... Foxes, illness, pecking order etc
We started with one second hand Eglu with 3 hybrids, last summer we expanded to a cube with 6 bantams, about 4 months later we rescued a bantam rooster. We then got 2 Polands, they were not happy in the cube so we had an emergency purchase of a second eglu.
3 hybrids have died in 2 years, 2 from fox attacks and one from a mystery illness. The 1 orginal hybrid is alive, she is top of the pecking order, she pecks the lowest chicken and that one always has a bare bottom! Names are Mrs Pilkington (named after my great Grandma, 2 that died were Dorothy and Clara after my grandparents) The rescue rooster is a Pekin bantam called Rocky (previously named!)
The 6 bantams are the 3M's (after were my husband's dad worked!) Margo Maude and Mathilda. And the other 3 were named after Owd Lancashire sayings, Purrt'n Kettle On (Kettle) Is It Heckes Like (Issy) and Ecky Thump (Thumper). Our Polands are Onyx and Amber (they are our most recent addition in September
Characters... Too many to mention... The pecking order is rife... They all chase the ones below... When we add new ones my husband calls it carnage! The Polands are the sweetest the sweetest things.
We have one bantam who is the lowest in the pecking order and she has started spending some time inside with us!
It's relaxing but not so great in winter when it's dark and the are asleep when we go to home and asleep when we come home...! I worry that I won't know if one is sick. In the summer I love it... Just pottering in the garden with them... Seeing their personalities
Hopefully going to have chicks this spring which will be another huge learning curve!
If I were to give advice i'd say research research research, join poultry groups and ask lots of questions and get lots of support!
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
Everything changed for the better when we rescued our rooster! The whole dynamics of the group changed and I love the way he cares for his girls and they think he is a chicken God and act like groupies around him! I love watching him getting horny and getting some (is that too much information!?)
I started to keep chickens for fresh eggs and a way to start being more self sufficient and knowing where my food comes from. I grow veg too and some fruits and we sell enough eggs to pay for layers pellets so they pay for themselves. We have two hen houses and an enclosed run with 9 hens in our flock. We want to keep them safe from foxes and escaping when i'm out.
One of mine once protected one of cats who was being attacked by another cat. 3 ganged up on it and chased it out of the garden. Seeing was believing!
Pros: Fresh eggs, always clucking when your around.
Cons: Bit smelly but their pooh makes good compost when mulched down.
Last July, I had read about hatching and thought that sounded fun to do with my son who loves science so we built an incubator and hatched a few ducks and chickens over his birthday. We like animals and fresh produce so it seemed like a nice ecological project. We raised them until a fox got them at Xmas, now we are awaiting the hatching of our new flock.
It would be lovely, but unrealistic for us to be self sufficient, but it is practical and economic for us to keep chickens, ducks and grow vegetables. It is good for the children to recognise that cockerels are butchered for every hen (in our case fed to the dog) and to recognise a little more about how the food they eat came about, not to mention interesting to see the eggs development.
Set up consists of an outside hen coup for ten birds in an 3.5mx3.5m enclosed pen. In the summer they are often let out to free range while supervised.
Currently there is only the three survivors, two road island reds and a partridge silkie, there was prior to xmas also a light Sussex, a hybrid large fowl like a bluebell, a white silkie, a cuckoo maran and a ginger hybrid hen. Ducks there were two runners and an Aylesbury drake. One of the runners was very imprinted so she would sit on laps and have cuddles, all would eat from your hand and come running and shouting if you came near them. The kids used to catch big garden spiders in fishing nets and the chickens would go nuts squabbling over them. Names Bean the imprinted runner duck (runner bean, cocobean as she was chocolate and jumping bean as she was a very very bouncy duckling), jasmine the drake, scamp the other runner, flutter the bluebell type, buttercup the light Sussex rooster, maria the ginger hen.
Pros: fresh eggs, company, fun, no slugs or snails, educational, quicker composting, nice being out with them.
Cons: mess of chicken duck poo everywhere, dig up the lawn, responsibility of early morning let out, hard work mucking out!
Kathy Spurgeon Poitevint, UK
Life for me started with feeding the chickens, gathering the eggs, cleaning the building where they lived. We did not have a roo as our chickens were for eating. Eggs were an extra treat. We did have geese that made my life hell! They would gang up on me and attack.
The hens were at my grandparents next door. I learned what to do to care for them, feed them, doctor them and cull them.
They were part of life, to be taken care of, protected, housed etc. We knew they would not be around long so we did not get attached to any certain hen. I fed, doctored, cleaned, gathered eggs. All the jobs of a farm.
They were a way to help us. So they were tended to before we ate or went to school or church. Their welfare came before ours.
Michelle Wilson, UK
I grew up on a farm with leghorns. My job was to clean out the hen house once a week, collect the eggs and look for anything weird. My birds did well. We had 2 roosters that fought occasionally, so my dad killed one, even though I thought they got on well enough most of the time. I think it was a rooster pecking order thing and limited. I didn't enjoy eating him. I was upset dad killed him as we had lots of hens. I don't think dad watched them like I did and jumped to conclusions after watching them spar. After that I moved out and decided I wanted to have Croad Langshans as my own chickens. They are awesome and I have up to 9 roosters over 30 hens. It works. Now I have turkey's too, and I have to be very regimented with my worming program, but it works well. I am 45 now, so I have had a good deal of exposure to chooks.
They were seen as an important staple of our diet (eggs). More valued as they seem to be now. Now farm people rely on trips to the supermarket more. Not me though.
Jan L'Argent, UK
When I retired I realised I could do something that my mother did in keeping hens. We always had chickens but the one I remember is the pet chicken that I called Penny and used to come to the back door for treats. It isn't just that they give us beautiful eggs but that they are great little characters, funny and so endearing in their ways. I've had hens for 2 years now, they are my pets, they all have names and I love them very much some even like a cuddle! I've lost a couple and it broke my heart but you never stop learning but one of the most important things is that I have made friends because of the hens.
I wanted to have really fresh eggs and on the side of economy I rarely have to buy eggs. My hens are well cared for and not in cages, they are kept clean and have room to fly, which they're usually too lazy to bother with. I can't bear the thought of hens kept in cages where they have no room to move, where they are pecked by their too close neighbours and are considered 'past it' by the age of 2 and sent for meat unless they are lucky enough to be rescued.
I have 2 runs, 7 share a 2 x 4 metre run, they have a converted garden shed for a coop because I find purpose built runs too difficult to clean (I have arthritis in my spine). It is well sealed against draughts, has nest boxes and a perch. Their kiln dried sand on the floor to which I occasionally add diatomaceous earth - they use it for dust bathing but it also really easy to keep clean. They have hemp bedding because it is so absorbent and easy to clean out as well. Their run has hard wood chip on the floor and is changed every 3 months or so and when someone is home we let them have the run of the garden, which upsets my other half as they decimate his veg beds! The other run has 3 girls but is similarly set up but smaller and they have an ark not a shed, I take the roof off to clean it out.
There are 10 in number, 2 Speckledy's, 1 Bluebelle the rest are hybrid crosses of Copper Black Maran, Cream Legbar and Skyline. They are all named after British Queens and Queen Consorts because one of my first hens was a lovely coppery red/brown with creamy feather mixed in around the neck which I thought looked like an Elizabethan ruff so she was called Elizabeth. Sadly she died from mycoplasmosis. I now have Eleanor, Caroline, Matilda (who strictly speaking called herself Empress), Margaret, known as Meggie, Guinevere, Isabelle, Anne, Katherine, Jane and Boudicca, clled Boo for short. Annie likes to cuddle as does Matilda. The 2 Speckledy's are just gannets and very noisy especially when it comes to telling the whole village that an egg has been laid! All the little cross breeds are less biddable and prefer not to be handled but once they have been picked up they tolerate it except for Meggie whole give you a nasty bruise with her beak! Oddly she is bottom of the pecking order but is not bullied. Katherine is also bottom of the pecking order in her run.
Pros are fresh eggs, friends (both hens and people) and always having a talking point.
Cons are it's expensive to get your set up, keeping it clean is less so but is time consuming, feed is relatively cheap but good quality food is worth it. If you live in an urban area getting a good poultry vet is difficult. Losing a hen is very hard, it's as bad as your dog/cat dying. Going on holiday is difficult unless there is someone you trust to care as much as you do.
You may have to deal with the horrific result of fox invasion or even buzzard and sparrowhawk. You have to be prepared to deal with mice/rats if they crop up.
Advice? It is not cheap or easy so think hard before you jump in. Do a backyard chicken course. Research breeds, some lay better, some are noisy others less so. some may be more prone to disease. Consider taking ex-batts they will lay for several more years, are well domesticated and will give the pleasure of knowing that you gave them freedom from cages and a longer life.
There are so many little things but I'll never forget the day I met Matilda walking down the road when returning with the dog from a walk. Thankfully, we live in a village and a cul-de-sac but we do get traffic. I was horrified that I could have lost her but it was hilarious watching my blue/grey hen happily strolling along and picking up tidbits from the neighbours hedges! She'd flown over 2 garden gates to get out so I've never let them free range unattended again!
Ruth Downs, UK
Started keeping them 10 years ago with small children moved to a bigger house/garden... thought it would be fun..
I still buy eggs... have re-homed battery chickens but wouldn't do that again...not good layers.. they're pets rather than food
Our set up is a back garden rnn but can roam back garden. Slope hill plum trees..
Flock consists of red shavers 6 and one blonde bantam... (council states I should only have 3 but I have aquired from neighbours etc) one will jump the gats and make a noise the back door to be fed. Others will peck my toes when hanging out the washing
Pros: Fresh eggs when they lay..
Cons: Scratch up garden... have my vegys fenced off..
Read lots and have someone who can euthanize if you can't!
I've always wanted to live in the country with chickens and when we moved to the country we bought some from a breeder, and like most things in our life we did some basic research and winged the rest. They do what they want and teach everyone else, child, dogs, cats, ducks. They are in charge of this household. I love them silly and of course my top dog (or hen) is like a little puppy who follows me everywhere. Tracey likes cuddles and falls asleep in my arms.
They're fantastic for fresh eggs, my girls lay all year round and their house waste I use for fertiliser.
We have four girls:
Tracey. Copper Moran, she's top dog and my favourite, very cheeky, always wants to see me and come into the house bringing Courtney with her. We have regular intellectual conversations about life and things. Crazy out of control free ranging serial stealers of hearts and givers of laughs!
Courtney. Copper Moran who's very tame, quiet, doesn't cause any dramas.
Babs. Purple Haze, she's a lot like Courtney, just bocks around minding her own business.
Carmen. A Black crow looking thing who comes out daily for food then straight back to bed to pretend she's hatching chicks! She's the moody broody pecker!
They make me happy. Every morning when I open the door they come running up the garden to see me! Chickens running is hillarious! Relax, they're easy to keep and easy to train.
Pauline Watton, UK
I got my 1st 3 girls in 2011 , I had always liked the idea & then when I turned 40 I took the plunge, I think a few of my friends & family thought it was a mid life crisis! My chickens are pets so it's a hobby for me
I live in a terraced house with a huge back garden, my 1st two coops were both made of wood but after 3 years I invested in an Eglu Cube which is all plastic & so much easier to maintain, attached to the cube is a self made run half of which is covered for shelter , I'm fortunate that I have a secure garden which means my girls free range 75%
I started off with 3 brown hens , Amy, Imelda & Florence. Amy was head girl 2nd in command was Florence & poor Imelda came last , Imelda died after a year she had always been poorly , I waited a few months & decided to get 2 more (brown) I named them Dolly & Madge (I decided from start they would be named after some of my favourite singers!) the 1st 2 weeks was hard trying to introduce them to the older girls but finally peace reigned & Amy was still head girl & she was also the most tame she loved a cuddle the other girls are friendly to me but Amy & I had a bond sadly she died in 2014 followed 2 weeks later by Florence who I think just missed her friend too much, I was heartbroken. I decided weeks later to get 4 more girls as I felt sorry for Dolly & Madge rattling around a big coop on their own. I got Paloma (black rock) Olivia (Amber star ), Loretta (lavender) & Azealia (barred rock ) they are all one happy family , Dolly is now head girl with Madge as her sidekick & Paloma & I have bonded same as with Amy she loves a cuddle & given half the chance she would sit on my shoulder all the time like a parrot! They all have their own personalities & I adore each of them
Pros - Fresh eggs of course but it also keeps you active, they have great personalities & make great pets , nothing beats sitting in the garden on a summer's day listening to the girls chatter of contentment
Cons - Cleaning out days in the winter can be grim if it's wet and windy, if they get ill it can be difficult trying to figure out what's going on sometimes as chickens health issues can be complex & they are good at hiding symptoms until too late, you need great family & friends who don't mind looking after them if you want to go away for any longer than a day chickens like most other animals are a commitment
If you decide to free range your chickens in your garden fence off any area you value, they will destroy your plants & grass in no time they are garden assassins!!
Elisabeth Jackson, UK
I've always loved the idea of a small flock of chickens pecking around the back garden, but it wasn't until last year at the age of 26 I got my wish. We moved to a farm last summer, with a huge enclosed back garden just sitting there, and the first thing I thought was every farm needs some chickens! However the neighbour had a cock and 2 hens, and they used to sunbathe with me in my garden, so I decided to wait as i didn't want to ruffle any feathers (literally!) Sadly one day at the end of summer I was told that a fox had killed the 2 hens, and the cock had ran down to defend them and also been killed. I missed them terribly, especially the cock who I nicknamed "the captain" he was a regal old thing, and his death left a chicken shaped whole in my heart. We decided that a small set of backyard chickens was the way to go, and then came the important choice "point of lay pullets or day old chicks" We went for day old chicks in the end, as it was now late autumn and we decided it would be nice to raise the babies inside our house, moving them out to the coop in spring. We came home with 3 little day old Wyandotte bantam chicks, and it was the start of chicken obsession!
I had always loved the idea of eating eggs from my own hens. I've been a follower of BHWT for years, and saddened by the plight of the battery hen. Ive also long been concerned about the drugs and chemicals added to commercial livestock feeds and their safety once consumed by people. Theres something very peaceful about growing your own food, and knowing exactly what goes in and comes out of them (even down to the grizzly details). Another major ethical issue for me was the way commercial birds are slaughtered, as I don't consider the process humane. I would much rather keep my own birds and slaughter them myself in a humane and dignified way.
My main flock live in a fairly standard wooden coop run set up. The coop is raised off the ground with a standard pull out tray, perches and nest boxes, the pop hole opens to a ramp with a 3m x 1m run. This door is always open into the garden the only time the chooks are locked into their run is if we have workmen here or perhaps a visiting dog. The floor of the run is lined with woodchip, and the idea is if there ever was a local biosecurity threat to chickens they would do very well inside this secure environment, but so far it hasnt been needed. The garden is about 10x20mtrs filled with lawn, rocks, and surrounded by mature conifers and shrubs, the girls love to scratch around under these. The whole thing is chicken proof, we invested in heavy duty mesh to attach to all the fences as early on we had some issues with escapees. I cannot live without products have to be megazorb for bedding, DE powder, biodry which sprinkles both inside and outside the coop, and garvo food. Theres no denying a good food really repays for itself in the worlds tastiest yummiest eggs and the healthiest birds.
Outside in the main coop I currently have 3 ladies. We have had a lot of changes to the flock due to an issue with Mareks despite buying vaccinated stock, there seems to be a contaminant in the soil on this property, and about 50% of growers I raise get it and have to be culled. We have also had some cockerels at various times but the last one had to be culled as he turned extremely aggressive towards me and was ruining my enjoyment of my chickens. The current girls are one of my original wyandotte bantam hens that i raised from day old.. she is a buff pencil coloured bird, shaped like a little ball and her name is Bambi. She is the queen of broodiness, and keeps us laughing for hours with her mental habits. In her first egg laying year she only produced us 40 eggs as she goes broody alllll the time. She would be a great mummy, perhaps something we might consider next summer depending on flock numbers. When she is not brooding (or chasing the dogs, or harassing mailmen) she likes to beg for food by walking up and making crooning noises at you. She also shouts the loudest when she lays an egg (not very surprising its such a rare event she must be shocked by its arrival?). The other 2 girls are hybrid pullets i bought this spring. I got these 2 as POL as I was getting sick of my then pure wyandotte flock producing next to nothing from all the broodiness. These 2 have really increased the egg numbers they lay almost every day, and are no trouble whatsoever a real beginner chicken. One is Esme, she is a copper black hybrid, she is beetle black with a red chest and head. She is the shy one in the group, when she first arrived she reminded me of a jungle fowl, that tall slim upright appearance. She is my best layer. She has always laid in the nest box from day one, never throws her eggs around, and they are always the same consistent good size. She's a little bit introverted so its hard to describe her but she seems very happy and healthy. The last chicken, my other hybrid, is Cece. She rivals bambi for flock favourite. Queen Cece.. leader of the flock. She is an amber star hybrid, chosen for the amount of buff lacing on her almost white feathers, and beautiful blue eyes. She is the boldest chicken I've owned, runs into the house and would stay there if you let her. She sits on my knee and talks to you, and she will do anything for a cheesy worm or a shrimp. She is also a good layer, although it took her a while to figure out the nest box, all summer she laid in a nest she made in a bush, but as the weather got bad she learned the nest box and now lays perfectly. She is famous in my family for her "cece wopper eggs" huge elongated double yolkers.
Apart from this flock I currently have some 2 week old babies in the brooder in my living room. Time will tell whether they make it but so far there are 4 of them. One is a black bantam silkie called Cat (short for Cation). I have a gut feeling this might be a cock, but if he is nice he can stay. Then there is a female cream legbar called Skylar, she is the boldest of the bunch and I really hope to add her to the flock next year. Another female chick is called Oregon, she is a Welsummer and is a little wallflower, well a big wall flower she is going to be a large bird I think. The last is an unnamed Vorwerk. Too early to tell sex yet, I am reluctant to name until I know because if he is a boy he will turn into a roast, with the Vorwerk being a utility breed I plan to raise him on and then slaughter him myself. I already take care of all culling on the property but I want to try my hand at dressing a bird, in the hope of expanding into meat birds next year if it goes well.
Pros: Eggs :D Lovely pets, very easy to keep, no guilt as they can free range unlike say a rabbit stuck in a cage. Low maintenance and cheap to keep. Generally docile much less scary than my hamster or my horses.
Cons: Chickens are currently in a weird position on the market, are they pets or are they livestock. This seems to make a big divide when it comes to treating illness and culling. Personally I home nurse where possible but I do cull when hope is lost or otherwise necessary. I don't take them to a vet, as the bills would end up sky high and to me, while i love them very much, they are a farm animal. Ive seen a lot of issues with this culling recently, cocks being dumped because people cannot bring themselves to cull etc. The world is a sad place for a cockerel, which is why any of mine which are un-needed get a dignified death, much nicer than an uncertain future thrown on allotments or used for cock fighting. I think this issue with killing chickens is the biggest con to pet keeping.
Get chickens :) They are the BEST pets
Susan Ratliff, 58, Newcastle
My grandfather who I never met used to keep hens, and my mother used to look after them. And she told me that when the hens wouldn't lay my grandfather used to tell her to give the hens a Beecham's pill in a teaspoon of jam! When I was a child, and particularly during the 70s, chicken became very popular. However, because my Mam had loved the chickens she could never bring herself to buy, cook or eat chicken. We always had pork for Christmas dinner. My grandfather lived in South Moor, Stanley, Co Durham. During the war, he would give chickens to families in hardship, but my Mam got upset because she saw them as pets and gave them names.
Councillor Marilyn Charter, Newcastle
My 20 month old son would get up at 5 o'clock in the morning. Running around the house we didn't want him to wake the old men in the house up. Me Mam says we'll lift him over the fence and put him in the field outside. He ran and didn't stop running. My mum got the binoculars. Saw him go into the farm yard. He went straight after the hens and went straight into the hen house. So me mam had to phone the farmer up and say 'can I get my grandson back, he's in your hen house?'.
During WWII my Uncle Fred had a small piece of land, known as a "piece". There was a small area for vegetables but most of the land was for live stock. A few pigs, one more than the government knew about (that one was for the family). Goats for milk and later their meat. Hens were my favourites and I've had a soft spot for them ever since. I loved collecting those warm eggs!
Joan, Tyne and Wear
Someone in the street used to keep them so we had to help. We collected the eggs but it was so long ago I can't remember much. They used to come running to you - they knew it was feeding time. I think they still do!
I'm going back before the war. In the 30s. My granddad had them - they had a large back garden. We always had chicken for Christmas Dinner and I didn't realize they were one of my Grandma's chickens! He kept them to raise them and eat them - it was during the depression, the 30s - a lot of people were out of work. So they had the big garden and they built these big sheds - chickens in one and pigeons in the other because they used to race the pigeons. But the chickens were... I never knew when we had our Christmas dinner it was one of the chickens that was dead! I didn't help to look after them because I was just a little girl then - this was before the war years... I'm well past my sell by date pet!
My Dad kept 3 crees, so about 50 hens I think? There might not be that many but there seemed like there might have been. I didn't look after them - my father looked after them. He didn't sell the eggs - everything was for us. There were 10 of us in the house - 5 lads and 5 lasses. We never wanted for anything. That was life. Only two cockerels and the rest were hens... for the eggs.
My Dad kept hens, ducks and geese - he dug the pond they lived in himself. He had half a dozen at the beginning but they laid eggs and hatched so ended up with a couple of dozen - this was before the war. During the war, my mam looked after them while my dad was away in the navy. We used to give the folks around the area the eggs. People didn't sell things in them days. They just gave them away cos people needed things. We had more than we needed so we gave them away. We never went hungry like - we probably would have starved during the war if it weren't for the eggs.
My dad put them in the range to keep warm when they hatched during the winter.
Karen English, 49, Newcastle
My first experience of feeding hens from the hand was in Jo's back garden. I didn't care much for the sharp beak pecking at the palm of my hand but the experience being amongst them was great. The poo was fun. The eggs were so warm - Happiness was the name of the game... great to be a part of Henlife!
Meg, 54, Whitley Bay
My mother-in-law lives with us. She is 90 and talked lots about her memories with her grandma's hens. She loved the sounds and the smells and encouraged me to think about getting hens - so last March off we went to Durham Hens, my mother-in-law and a two year old!! We came home with 4 hens - "Angela" (named by the two year old), "Nessie" named for my mother-in-law's grandma, "Ethel" and "Goggins". My mother-in-law is now not so keen on the smells so I do the cleaning and she collects the eggs!!!
Edna Sibblid, Newcastle
I'm delighted with the hens, they're lovely. They come straight to you. I think it's a good idea. I think a lot of people will get the thrill that I've had with the hens.
Jodi, 30, Gateshead
My friend Mel has a Chicken called 'Wanda' that likes to wonder off from time to time.
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