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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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 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
Annie Green, UK
My hen story is a word of caution. Please don't read this if you are easily upset by the death of a hen.
I had had my hens for about 6 months and had never had any problems from Mr Fox. All three of my girls free ranged in the garden and were 'secure' inside a 6ft high fence. My dog, Stanley, would never let anything in to the garden, not even a strange cat and we had/have cats of our own but he still wouldn't let other cats in.
I would stand and watch my girls digging about and pulling up the weeds and plants and often reminded myself that I really must get a run... one day soon.
On a rather warm sunday afternoon the girls were indeed free ranging and I was out with them pottering around in the garden. Eventually my daughter knocked on the door for a coffee, she lives 6 doors away, and it was nice just to sit and chat together without my beloved grandchildren stealing all the attention. I love them to bits but sometimes you just want a one to one girly chat. So I popped the kettle on and we soon settled down at the kitchen table for our much missed chinwag safe in the knowledge that my girls were being cared for by Stanley. After a few minutes we heard one of the chooks squawk then some kind of banging noise. Both myself and my daughter were out of our seats and into the garden in a flash, closely followed, then overtaken, by Stanley. The banging continued for what seemed like forever and it took us a few minutes for fathom out which direction the banging was coming from. My two other chooks were hiding behind me as quiet as mice.
Me and daughter raced to the bottom of the garden and into the bushes just in time to spot Mr Fox jump over the fence into next doors garden. I swear he had nothing in his mouth and he wasn't alone with my poor chicken long enough to do anything but kill her. We knew she was dead and searched for a very long time to find her body but she was gone. We never found her and we were both heart broken. It was my fault and I will never forgive myself for being so complacent. Now I have 9 chickens and all of them are housed in the biggest run I could fit into my garden. They still free range but only when I can stay out there too. If anyone knocks on my door I ignore them. My girls are far too precious to risk them again.
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 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 :)
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!
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.
Our chickens are pets although there is too many of them to know them all by name, theres always the odd few that stand out as they have so much character!
We have a a rather mischievous chicken named Vera who is an escape artist. She was recently missing for a long time, and could not be found. This was until one cold winter morning she was found on top of the hay bales with a bunch of chicks. This then lead to my elderly Grandma having to scale the hay bales to rescue mother and young. Luckily all are recovered and doing fine (my grandma included!)
My involvement in breeding and showing began when my wife gave me two hens as a present and it started from there. The world is competative but always friendly and you feel nervous but excited.
I used to have a call duck I bought in Acton and she won every single show I put her in.... I did not have a clue what I was looking for!
I'm involved in breeding and showing just for the sport of it. My family always had hens but I was the first one to show. Although my great-grandfather showed so i suppose it's in my blood and just came naturally. I just got it in my head one day and now I'm addicted.
The first one I hatched and reared was a cross-bred that won nothing! It was a silke cross. But you're going back a long way trying to remember that.... I've been keeping my own since I was 10 and i'm 23 now.
My first show was in the May when I was about 17. It was nerve wracking but I won every class I was in. I don't like being beaten so it became an obsession. You just have to have the best. Winning reserve champion was probably my highlight so far.
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.
When I was young I used to come home from a dance at 2 o'clock in the morning. I'd have to not wake any cockerels up otherwise they all crowed until getting up time. And I used to be in very serious trouble! My dad was a farmer... if you woke one up it set the whole lot off and they crowed until getting up time... so you can imagine...
I used to sneak down the lane on tip-toe trying not to wake them up. I was about 16 - 20... I'd been to a dance. You know.. it was just one of those things when you live on a farm!
We sold the eggs and the eggs for hatching - that's why there were a lot of cockerels because we needed them all fertile. I used to help feed them... just the things you do on a farm, you do a bit of everything when you live on a farm. I married into a farming family so there was no let-up from the cockerels!
I got my first bantems when I was 3, I'm 81 now. Over the years I've probably kept about 50 different varieties of breeds. I've been a poultry club panel judge for 46 years. My daughter used to show but now she's married with a family so doesn't have time, other than that it's just been me in the family. It's been a lifelong hobby.
My father and grandfather both kept poultry and waterfowl. My father bought me by first trio of banties when I was 3, so then I went on to other breeds and it just grew from there. There was a period where I couldn't keep them because we lived in a property without sufficient land and then when we moved house and hand land again, it started up again. It's just been a lifelong hobby.
I was secretary of the poultry club in kent and chairman of another. We used to get about 800 entries in the annual show, and we used to hold social get togethers and smaller shows. Other than that I've judged throughout the country... England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales... and I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Now I'm having to cut down because I had a serious illness so I'm having to ration my judging now. But in the summer you could be out every weekend at different shows because they come fast and furious at that time. All being well I'm due to judge at the Scottish National next year. But age has crept on so you have to be careful! I like the pleasure of being able to examine other peoples birds and compare them... and compare them to your own. I don't know what it is, judging just brings general enjoyment.
I'd say experience makes a good, winning hen. If you've kept a breed, you're better at judging that breed because there isn't a living person that could tell you every detail of every breed. You've got a wide view of the breeds but you have thorough view is something else. At the shows we have specialists for different breeds. In my case its sebright bantams that I've had for about 40 odd years; I've judged and showed those at championship level at the national shows.
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!
For me it's just following in my fathers footsteps. My father was a keen exhibitor and breeder and I followed on from him. I realized it was an interest you could work on and it started from there. I started taking him round the shows when he was too old to drive, because you don't retire. You get into the team of people that you meet and its social as well as the exhibition side.
The showing world is hard to describe. But you meet people and get to places just with a box of hens that you would never have gone to. You drive through or past somewhere and know nothing about it... but if there's a show on you put some birds in a box and go. The people that are here today aren't from around here. It's a social thing - you compare notes and exchange birds. It works.
The skill is to not keep very many but breed good ones. Every year you think I'll do it better next year - I'll improve and improve. That's what keeps you going. You keep trying, you have your favourites... but then you move on to a new one. Always trying to improve your standard along the way. Some people keep a specialized breed, some have a few. Every one is different. My focus is the game birds.
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.
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!
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!?)
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!
Linda Bradley, UK
My grandad kept hens; they were a huge part of his and my life. I practically lived with my grandparents so helped with the chickens daily. My grandad was poor so the eggs were a huge boost to the larder, eggs and rabbit odd roast chicken were a staple.
The hens were kept in a large shed with indoor nest boxes and perches - about 25 of them. They had a deep sawdust bedding which was only changed when absolutely necessary. The shed had lots of windows covered in thick cobwebs. The two doors were opened every morning usually by me. I loved the noise as they all piled out. A fond memory is my grandad digging his garden and calling the hens every time he found a worm or insect. Watching the hens run always made me laugh and we had to make sure each had their fair share which with over 20 hens was hard work
A memory I always think of is my grandad and I sat on his pen and he said what do chickens do first when they scratch, peck I said no; they step back and look, and they do he was so proud of his birds I could feel it. I collected the feathers loved the feel of them I liked to pick them up feel under their wings. We spent ages sitting just watching the birds.
The hens ate scraps mostly which was boiled up in a large pan by my nan. When cool I had to carry the pan over to the pen and mix it with layers mix by hand it had a warm yeasty smell and I found it comforting to mix it. The hens appeared to love it. Also a job i liked and disliked too was giving grain which was placed in special feeders. It would have earwigs in the kernels which hens loved but I hated collecting the eggs too it used to worried to take the eggs out from under the broodies they always looked like they were gonna peck. My nan liked me to sort sizes when the eggs were back in kitchen, we used to sort it into colour too which was more of a game really. Once a year the rats had to be sorted hens were locked in any holes blocked up feret dog brought in children were put on shed roofs on the pen and basic lying all he'll let loose as rats came running a out from under hen coop for the dogs to kill.
My view might be biased but our hens were liked if not loved they were a necessity a reasonably cheap way of producing food. Eaten when old and not laying but greatly cherished for what they provided.
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.
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.
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!
The Hunters, UK
My daughter, who was about 3 at the time, used to get taken for a walk by her granny or grandpa every so often. She would hold their hand and happily wander up the country lane. On reaching the back lane she would ask to be lifted up and carried. Rounding the corner and being carried by her grandparent she would see the small flock of hens halfway up the lane and amongst them the small white cockerel. As they approached the hens would wander off but the cockerel would stand in the middle of the lane and puff out its chest, it was up for a fight and my daughter would hang on tight and begin to laugh. She thought it was hilarious that granny or grandpa was being attacked by the miniature cockerel and the fuss that ensued. Unfortunately the cockerel picked a fight with a 4 wheel drive and came off second best!
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.
Mandy Roberts, 50, Nothumberland
My family kept hens when I was a teenager - part of the self sufficiency 'craze' of the 70's I guess.
We had a Rhode Island Red cockerel called Eric The Red who we were very scared of but needed to lock up at night. We had to use a bamboo stick to get him into the greenhouse - a bigger target than the chicken hut.
We also had bantams who would roost in the bushes at dusk - we had to lift them down and pop them away as they roosted so low that a fox could have easily got them.
Gordon, 78, Gateshead
We had a stray chicken. We never kept any ourselves but we had a stray that would come up the stairs and sit in front of the hearth. You know, like one of them big open fires. It would just sit there in front of the fire it until it decided where it wanted to go next. It didn't belong to us like, but it definitely took a fancy to us. When me father went out for a drink, the chicken would follow him home from the club and into the house. He was its guardian.
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!
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!
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!
We were kids. Times were hard up - we could afford toys so we had hens instead. We had a budgie too so they would natter at each other.
My son used to keep hens and ducks: Daffy, Donald and Micky. And then he had the hens but the fox got the whole lot. They used to come in the house - they used to come in and walk around. But the fox got them all - he got some more but it happened again, so that's when he gave up. He shot a fox once. He went to the police and asked if he was allowed and after that they said he was, so he got a gun and shot the fox. I couldn't do it but he did. He had a big garden and he just liked them, and the kids liked them. They used to pick them up and play with them - they were very tame.
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.
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!!!
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