Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Seven Happy Hens

We have seven beautiful hens living on our allotment.  Two of them are definitely well past their sell by date, but all will live out their days picking through the endless supply of veg and greens we are able to give them.  My daughter and I make a habit of naming them on arrival so my husband has no illusion that they are pets and not dinner!  They don’t have freedom over the whole allotment as we’d end up with little to reward our growing efforts.  But they have a large run and we select one or two in turn to come out with us whilst we are digging to collect all the bugs and generally have a good scratch about.

We were lucky enough to be given the frame to a large greenhouse that had been lost in the gales.  After deciding that a small mortgage would be needed to re-glaze it, we thought it would make a fantastic run once covered with chicken wire.  With the hen house on stilts and perches all around, they reward us with fabulous eggs and the best manure for our plot. 

I’d recommend having chickens to anyone that has enough time to look after them.  Like all creatures, they do require looking after, but are in no way difficult.  Clean water, enough pellets, corn and some fresh vegetation to pick through and cleaning out the coop.  Plus a regular once over just to check all are healthy.

Probably the one health warning I’d give to owning chickens is that they are a fantastic time waster – they are so funny to watch and each have their own character which means you end up leaning on your fork and just watching.  My favourite is when three or four end up dust bathing together – you can just see the delight as they dig themselves deeper into the dust bowl – ours have excavated under their coop as this remains dry all year round.

We cover half our run with a tarpaulin to keep the worst of the rain off and to prevent the whole thing turning into a quagmire and a small covered area round one corner just to give some protection from the wind on particularly blustery days  - you can easily see their knickerbockers on windy days which always makes them look like they’re in a hurry.  A little protection seems to be gratefully received.  Although I need it to be a less wet day tomorrow as the wind caught our tarpaulin the other day and quickly shredded it, so tomorrow we’re putting up a sturdier tarp and tying it down for the winter.
And just to finally introduce you, we have Florence and Henrietta (the two old dames), Alice, Aggy (minus a toe which she lost before we got her), Violet, Milly and Queenie.  All our happy Hens!

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