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
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 chickens keep me sane and have helped me through really tough times.....
I never realised that these funny little creatures could have such a therapeutic affect on me.
After suffering a massive pulmanary embolism to both lungs which resulted in my heart failing last August I was, needless to say at the age of 34... gutted!! But after a long stint in hospital my chickens and ducks even kept the girls on the ward smiling!! I amused them with tales of my Drake that fancies my chihuahua and my Poland cockerel that looks like Rod Stewart! My tales kept all of them smiling and earned me the name chicken Mad Emm.
Once I was allowed home from hospital and reunited with my family I could not wait to waddle outside to see my girls, and was greeted by my seven large fowl running at top speed down the garden to greet me (my clumsy exchequer leghorn stumbling as usual).
My cup of tea in a comfy outside chair was the highlight of my day as i could see my poultry and tell them my worries without feeling guilty for alarming them. Even now the girls i've kept in touch with still ask me how my birds are.
Although i am unwell again now due to a relapse i know my girls are there as a release and escape if needed!! They bring joy and companionship to people who really need it so never discount poultry as a wonderful pet and hobby.
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 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.
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.
Julie and Andrew Snell
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!!
Roy Conyers, UK
My first real introduction to chickens was as an 8 year old kid in the back bedroom of an old Coronation Street type house in Hull in about 1949. My father, not being much of a handyman, (even I could see that at 8 years old ) put an old door horizontally across two trestles in the middle of the back bedroom. Knowing Dad , it could well have been the door to the room. All around the edges he secured a 9″ up stand with hardboard. I particularly remembering him cover the door with something called lino (linoleum). In the middle he placed a most peculiar sort of mini building. It looked like a pyramid on legs which were about 6″ high. It was about 2 ' 0″ square , and about two foot high and made of aluminium. I know that for sure because I always got my hands dirty when I touched it. Joining each of the legs was skirting which you could attach and detach. On one of the four sides of the pyramid was a huge sort of spyglass which you were supposed to look through. It seemed a bit stupid to me when all you had to do to see inside was to lift up the pyramid which was hinged on one of the four sides. Having done this it revealed a beautiful shiny brass, circular oil lamp on its own stand on three legs. Around the outside of the lamp was a circular piece of grey aluminium full of holes. It looked like a giant cheese grater and was about 9″ diameter and about 12″ high. He called this gadget a Hoover! The floor, or door, was then covered with sawdust, probably got from the butcher at the top of the street. No one else I knew about kept sawdust! We got the paraffin for the lamp also from the hardware store at the top of the street. In fact you could get anything you wanted from the top of the street including fish and chips. I know that for sure because my mum used to work there sometimes, and come home stinking of them.
Then the day arrived I had been waiting for: it seemed as if I had been waiting years. In those days most livestock and birds was transported on trains . (People were not allowed. Only livestock.) So we had to go to the main train station and pick up our special parcel. I was utterly disappointed. It was tiny. About 12″ * 12″ * 6″ high. I expected it to be massive. It was so light I thought there was nothing in it. There were lots of neat regular holes around the top about one half of an inch in diameter. I carried it home very carefully as if it was full of water which I was not able to spill. Before we went to collect it Dad lit the oil lamp and made sure all the 4 skirting's were secure to keep all the warmth in. I can still taste the smell of that shiny paraffin lamp today. I remember standing on a chair whilst we delicately cut the bright red waxed up string around the box . You did this with a candle to make sure all the knots would not slip and come undone. They had done it too well and I began to feel impatient because I could not get the string off fast enough. Then came the magic moment. Holding my breath I carefully and very slowly removed the box lid to reveal the most beautiful site I had ever experienced in my short life. Today , after 60+ years I can still visualise in my minds eye that most incredible site of 10 of the most beautiful tiny, yellow, fluffy day old cuddly chicks in the world. I was speechless and just overwhelmed. They were only a day old and were busy scurrying about searching for something to eat as if they were weeks old, and they were delighted to see the daylight. Some of them even tried to escape from the box to investigate this new world we had brought them into. We lifted them out of the box and put them next to the heater which by this time was lovely and warm. Dad had removed one of the skirting's thus allowing access both to the heater and to the open run. They were absolutely delighted and charged about all over the place chasing imaginary flies. I picked them up one at a time gave each one a kiss and a cuddle and put them back to play. What I found quite surprising was that they were not frightened of me or Dad. We were like giants to them and yet they showed no fear, just complete trust. We put in some water and chick crumbs but they just ignored them. Apparently they often go for a day or so without eating or drinking. After an exciting time in the sawdust they eventually settled down to sleep in their warm little den and we tucked them in, put back the skirting and left them for the night quietly churping away to each other. Just like kids do when they go to bed. My parents were not into cuddles and kind words and I suppose for the first time in my life I had found a bond of love and understanding that I had not been used to before between my self and these most special little bundles of joy.
For the next two weeks or so I spent all my spare time, looking after them. Cleaning them out. Washing their dirty feet and bums. Supplying clean water and food. I used to love feeding them by hand and they all used to try and perch on my fingers at the same time. They were so funny. It was a fascinating experience to have them walking all over my hands and arms. Of course the sad time came when one of them died, so without much ado my brother and sister and I had a serious funeral to organise, a coffin to make, and a hole to dig in the garden. And so we learned about life and death. I spent every minute I could with them . We talked to each other incessantly and I never got tired of watching them get up to all their funny antics. Another thing I learned was how quickly they grow up, and before three weeks were up they were jumping over the edge of their door onto the floor. So sadly they were discharged into the garden, which was much better for them and of course, much more fun. Even after all these years I still smile and reflect with such joy at my first introduction to chickens. I was a very lucky little boy.
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.
Milly and Eva especially were very tame, to the point where Milly would climb inside my jumper for a cuddle and both would come when I called their names!
I can't even begin to describe what an amazing girl Milly was. She was my shadow whenever I was in the garden and, often, in the house too! She passed away in 2010 and I still think about her every day.
This was my first cuddle when I got back from a few months at uni
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.
Allison Dean, Newcastle
My aunt used to rescue battery hens, her mother-in-law used to keep them as pets. They would live free-range with my Aunty. I used to remember them. They used to stay behind the garage.
Ann Boyd, 56, Co. Durham
A young girl I fostered was really keen on looking after the hens'. She called her favourite hen lightening because it was fast. She had learning difficulties and thought she was training it to sit on her head etc even though she kept tight hold of it. She even kept hold of it while she was feeding the other hens, and she couldn't understand why it struggled so much to be put down.
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.
Dolan Conway, 55, Elvan Lodge
My wife's friend Sue had a cockerel with a damaged leg and it was the left leg. So it used to walk strangely on the right leg. And Sue, when she saw it walking said I'll call the hen Ministry of Silly Walks. She lives in Hartburn in Morpeth.
They're lovely. When we decided to get the hens we got them in a hut outside. They let us handle them and we love them. We have two cages now. In Wood Green Gateshead. We have two or three men who clean up and they're great. They've all got a name the hens, Doreen, Pam and Jenny....
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