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 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
I started keeping chickens in June 2012, after a speaker at the local horticultural society talked of his experience and encouraged everyone to keep at least a couple of hens in their garden. I had 3 to start with, though as many chicken keepers will tell you, you soon become besotted with these endearing creatures and inevitably end up increasing your flock!
I like the fact I know my hens are happy and healthy and they provide us with many eggs. It is also a fantastic experience for my children.... from holding and feeding them to watching the change from egg to chick to maturity. They are not so keen on the cleaning out though!
I have 8 hens; 3 Light Sussex cross bantams (Elsie, Chatty, Harry), 2 Araucanas (Wendy and Henry), 2 RIR bantams (Sadie and Britt), 1 Star hybrid (Starla) All girls despite the 'boys' names! Elsie is top hen, a Light Sussex/Silkie cross. She is broody as regular as clockwork - 3 weeks on, 3 weeks off. She is a wonderfully feisty character in her 'bloomers' and has taught me so many things about keeping chickens. Wing clipping, breaking the egg-eating habit, incubating eggs under a broody and raising a chick. You soon get to recognise who's who, not just by their look but also by the different sounds each make and their personalities.
As I said, Elsie is a feisty girl and we have had occasional battle of wills! I'm sure she thinks she is also superior to me as she often ignores what I want her to do and does it her way - which usually turns out to be the right way! When I tried to keep her and the one chick (the other 11 eggs failed) safe by enclosing her in a run within the run, she kept finding ways to get them both out and I would find them at large in the garden! I gave up and took down the enclosure and everything was fine!
The newest girl to the flock, Starla, came to us by default! A neighbour came to the door to tell me one of my chickens was out in the road! I ran out to find it wasn't one of mine, but no way could I leave her to the mercy of the traffic, dogs or anything else! After an hour or trying to catch her and eventually enlisting the help of the local pet shop owner/chicken enthusiast, we managed to corner her and he took her back to his shop while the owner was traced. She laid a couple of beautiful large white eggs but then had a prolapse. We decided to let her rest for a week or so and though I put up many posters etc no-one came forward to claim her. I eventually brought her home and she settled in quickly with my girls. After a week she was laying again, and several egg laying weeks later, she hasn't prolapsed, though I will continue to monitor her.
Cons: Absolutely no cons - well apart from having to get up early in the morning to let them out and the sad duty of dealing with the demise of your hen.
Pros: Too many to mention! Mainly for me is the entertainment! Hen-watching is such a great pastime. A fantastic education for my children. Plus, of course, delicious eggs!
Advice: Try to visit someone who is already a hen keeper, to see their set up and get advice from. Also, do plenty of research into the most suitable coop for you - bear in mind you may soon get bitten by the chicken bug and get more! - and before your hens arrive, make sure you are as fox/predator proof as possible. Research chickens! Try to find the best for your requirements - I have a friend whose hens quickly grew too large for his set up as he hadn't realised how big they would get! Also, one of my first girls is constantly broody which wasn't something I checked when I was looking for hens. And try to get your chickens from a good source - my first 3 came with a dubious age and 2 with scaly leg mite. However, they were soon fine after treatment and still with me after nearly 3 years. Ideally, a first timer shouldn't have to face problems from the outset.
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!
Frances Corlett, UK
I grew up in the 70's. Our family home was an old farmhouse on the edge of the moor in the Yorkshire Dales. My parents were really into self sufficiency. With my father having the most amazing vegetable garden. We had lots of chickens, ducks, geese, bantams and guinea fowl. We were forever finding broody hens sitting on nests. Sometimes if the hen had left the nest, my Dad would put the eggs in the kitchen draw next to the Aga. I remember on one occasion, whilst Sunday lunch was being prepared. When we opened the draw to get the big serving spoon out (for the Apple Crumble) a chick jumped out and ran over the top of the crumble ! Mum and Dad had forgotten all about the eggs they had put in the draw a few days earlier !
They were very much a part of our family. We were always having 'sick' chickens or young chicks that had been abandoned kept in a box by the side of the Aga, with the hope that they would get better. Some did some didn't ! We loved having them, such friendly pets.
My sister and I had to put them to bed every night whatever the weather. But we didn't have to let them out in the morning, as we had to leave the house at 7.45 to catch the school bus.
Mr and Mrs Haigh
We had a children's petting farm pre foot and mouth and during that time we used to have a lot of young children and school children to view the animals. One of the things that we did was to collect the eggs and I have to say, if there were lots and lots of children there we cheated because one lot would collect the eggs and then we'd have to put them all back. Then the next lot would collect them so some of these eggs went round and round for days.
We used to have a selection of eggs in a tray and ask the children if they could identify them and guess which birds they came from... we'd have trick questions like 'who do you think laid this?' 'oh it was the peacock' 'no no definitely not because peacocks are all male, and peahens are girls'.
We'd explain how incubators work and how to bring them up to the right temperature and about automatic incubators that turn them, or manual ones that you turn yourself and have to mark noughts and crosses on the shells - every day you turn them over. Anyway, one lady was there and I explained that one of the reasons we turn them is so that the developing hen moves in the shell, so you don't get one arm big, one leg growing behind it's back, that sort of thing. And this woman said 'do you know love, I've been turning eggs for 50 years and I never knew why!' She was told to go and do it and she went and did it, no question!
I'm not sure how I got into judging eggs... someone just asked me and I said yes! There's different classes and different things that make a good egg. Shape, colours; tinted, brown and white and numbers; threes, fours, sixes and single eggs. The groups on a plate all have to match, so the colour and the shape... it's a lot harder than you think to get 3 or 4 eggs exactly the same. Just because they lay one, one colour and shape one day, doesn't mean they will the next day!
And then there's contents, where you break them and judge the inside. The yolk has to stand up nicely and be a nice colour and that sort of thing. You don't get a lot if you win... probably a rosette! It's just interesting and keeps things going. My favorite are probably the greeny colour eggs, or a nice dark brown.
When I was little, my Mom used to send me to gather the eggs. I used to love that job and would run out as soon as I heard the 'laying song'. There is nothing nicer than holding a warm egg that the hen has just layed, against your cheek.
I gathered the eggs and helped my Mom clean the coop as it helped to feed us. I loved the hens and miss having them very much!
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.
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.
Alex Henry, UK
As a child growing up in the 1980s we always visited our family on the Isle of Skye every summer. Our Auntie Norah and Uncle Iain had a farm and whenever we visited me and 2 sisters would always want to see if the chickens had laid any eggs. AMAZINGLY every time we went to check they had ALL laid eggs and we excitedly collected them up, thinking nothing of it. It wasn't until years later that the eggs had been planted there by out great aunt and uncle - oh!!! The deceit!!!
Angela Scott, UK
I used to visit my great grandparents, and grandparents who lived in the countryside on the edge of dartmoor every weekend with my parents as a young child 4-6 years old Which was a liberating experience as i was raised in a city.
They lived at the bottom of at large garden there was an orchard with an what appeared to be a very large metal Anderson shelter type building. I remember the brown chickens being everywhere inside, my grandparents would normally have to come and get me as I would be in there for so long watching the chickens going about their business. I loved it in that shed with the chickens, and I still carry those happy memories with me.
I always said when I grew up I would have a house with a garden and loads of hens. I currently have 12 rather pampered hens.
I would go and collect the eggs for the family, and would have to hunt high and low for them so it was no quick job. For my family keeping chickens was something that went back generations so it was normal especially in a rural environment. However when back in the city other children in my school did not share in my excitement with the chicken experiences that I had.
There were stoats or minks at the bottom of the orchard. One particular day my grandad shouted that the stoat/mink was chasing me up the path for the eggs. I ran as fast as I could and tripped fell over breaking nearly all the eggs I had collected in the wicker basket. I thought that in was going to be in so much trouble for breaking all those eggs. However when I walked in no the house the whole family burst out laughing. I was understandably very relieved.
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
Paul Forsaw, Lancashire
When I was about 12 I worked on Drakes Farm, one of my jobs was collecting eggs from the battery sheds; I had a round selling eggs on my street and about 15 people bought eggs off me. One day in a hedge on the farm I found a hen sitting on about 15 eggs I sold them to Mrs Morris, Cheryl's Mum one of my best customers. A couple of days later she shouted me in the street and sacked me with the words "I don't know where you got those eggs you little sod, but you nearly killed us all".
Also, an old man used to sell chickens from his allotment to people on our street. I was at my mate Robert Quinns house one day when he turned up with half a dozen plucked wrung Hens. When Mrs Quinn started squealing after he had gone "Robert, Robert it's alive!!" (the poor bird was it was blinking) Robert took it in the back Garden and chopped it's head off with a Machete. It jumped up ran around then ran into the Kitchen with no head... it was horrible. And I've never heard a woman scream as long and as loud as his Mum when it ran into the kitchen with her.
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.
Dorothy, 82, Gateshead
A lot of people had them during the war - mainly for the eggs I think because they were hard times. But you could nearly always get chicken or eggs. You always had chicken.
I used to stay at my aunty's in Embleton when I was a child. From about the age of 9 me Mam would put me on the bus at Haymarket and my aunty would get me off at Embleton, up the coast. I used to go up there for holidays in the summer - I loved the sea. Anyway, there were chickens all over the bloody place up there. They'd just wander in the middle of the road. They knew who you were and they'd follow you all over, I've even seen a chicken trying to get into the bloody sea man!
I used to like to take the eggs out - they were my dads. We used to like it when they laid the eggs because we had something to eat! My dad was very keen so we had lots. We used to like the eggs. We didn't play with them, but we liked them. We certainly liked the eggs.
When I was a little girl I went with dad who kept bantems. We ate them because we had lots - we would replace the ones me Mam had killed for the Sunday dinner. We went to the allotment every day from the age of 2 until school and we played with them, they were very friendly.
My Mam was very interested in the hens - she used to gather the crusts off the neighbours and she'd mix that with their food. Look after them was hard work. Getting them back into the garden after they escaped was especially hard work!
They kept them in wooden cages called crees - cobbled together from whatever wood they could find. My dad put them into shows - they'd judge them on their feathers, if the nails were properly cut - allsorts. He used to win and that kept him going. We went all over. You didn't have a lot of money to spend in those days but we went as far as we could - we went on some hilarious hikes.
On the morning they knew who you were - they definitely knew they were getting fed!
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!
It's funny - a lot of people kept hens when I was young. I don't know why but it's gone out of fashion a bit now. Nearly everybody had hens - because allotments and that were big things. People had big gardens... a vegetable garden and kept hens. It was amazing how many people kept hens in those days - I suppose it was just for the eggs in those days. It was during the war and pre-war. The eggs were important to local people, but they don't seem to be as important now. My father in law was a great hen man. I just fed them sometimes, there wasn't much to do.
I kept hens yes. I had a hundred ducks and geese and chickens. I was a breeder and would sell the eggs. About 6 years ago - it was a hobby, I loved it. I'd sell the eggs to pay for my food and that, you know. I had Black Minorcas, White Leghornes, Rhode Island Reds. Id let them run around by themselves, and loved collecting the eggs. They were great - I loved them.
I also kept them as a young man. I had to sell the eggs to pay for the coal - to keep warm. We'd feed them cabbage leaves and vegetable peelings.
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.
I kept hens when I worked on a farm when I was about 15. I liked farm work and I needed a job. There were hundreds! I helped clean them our, helped to feed them, lock them up, and put them away at night. The farm was in Halls during the war. Eggs were rationed so they were useful. I enjoyed it very much.'
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!
Fiona MacLeod, UK
I do remember aged 12 going to work one summer on a hen farm, collecting the eggs every morning. Some of the hens would peck me, so the young lads on the farm found me a pair of thick gloves so that I wouldn't be afraid of getting pecked!!! And one day I dropped the egg basket and was so horrified... my Dad offered to pay the farm owners but they laughed and said they enjoyed eating omlettes for breakfast! I earned £2 per week, and with the money bought myself a good Winter coat (my parents' idea), plus one goat (my idea... And that was the beginning of my goat breeding!!
Eggs were certainly a staple part of our diet... we were fairly poor and a large family. Meat was shepherd's pie once a week and bought cold ham, and roast chicken was really for special occasions like Christmas. My brother kept two hens, which he called Higgeldy and Piggeldy and which were NEVER killed and eaten: they were definitely pets.
We only had chicken meat on special occasions, particularly at Christmas. I remember one time, in Northern Ireland, around 1969, I would have been about 14 then, and my Mum asked me if I would help her kill a couple of chickens for Christmas. She said it was easier to kill them by putting their head under a broom handle, putting my feet either side of the chicken head (on the floor), then just giving a sharp pull up on the chicken body (I don't remember having to rush about to catch the hens... they were in a shed at back of house: I think they must have been bought in order to be killed and cooked). Anyway, I did as instructed! When I pulled up, using all the strength of my young years, to my horror, the chicken head came right off (poor beast!!) and her wings started to flap. I was so shocked I dropped the broom and the now headless chicken which immediately proceeded to walk and wing flap around the shed for quite a few minutes. I was appalled, and have NEVER killed a hen ever again. However I have to say I can't remember refusing to eat the delicious chicken meat that Christmas!
As children we loved being the one getting the wishbone and being able to make a wish...crocking our pinky fingers (little fingers) round the bone, silently making a wish and then pulling hard.. however got the bone with the sternum attached would have their wish come true!
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