First - lets get one thing straight - you eat chickens, you keep hens. So I haven't got chickens, I've got hens. Is that OK with everyone?
We kept hens years ago in the shed my Dad made for us and so when I decided it was time to have them again there was some renovation work needed. The reason I stopped keeping hens was because of the rats. I can't bear them - it verges on a phobia. So I have had to take measures to ensure rat exclusion from all hen areas.
First was the rat-proofing of the shed. I decided against my Dad's suggestion of covering the outside with metal and hooking it up to a battery ... I could see me forgetting one day and getting zapped instead. No - I lined the bottom half of the shed and the nestboxes with wire netting and Geoff edged the door and pophole with metal. Then we thought we should put up a sign to the nearest Rat Dentist - out of compassion for the rats.
Next, I had to make the shed ready to receive hens. Not just a matter of chucking a bit of straw in - oh no - Hen Heaven it had to be. More Rat Deterrent included the Eye of Protection
painted on the wall to repel rodents.
Then I thought some Hen Comforts were in order.
some nice decorations
curtains for the nestboxes and a bit of motivation for the girls
I got into trouble with Lara over this one - she is worried about the hens personal development and thinks this might make them feel exploited. I'm afraid I had to point out that they can't actually read (shock!)
A picture of Jamie Oliver (the hens champion) some windchimes and dreamcatchers and I was all set.
We got the hens from a poultry suppliers near my Dad. How many men does it take to assemble a poultry feeder?
Then we had to decide how many. Geoff said - Lets get 16, so when one dies, we'll have 15. I couldn't find anything wrong with that - so we got 16. (we've still got 16)
We got hybrids - the ones bred for The Industry - all those batteries and barns you've seen on the telly lately. The white ones are Ambers and the brown ones are Warrens. They haven't got names - except for one which John named Partario and I didn't bother to ask why.
THEY ARE WONDERFUL!
Not much room for a brain in there is there? Plenty of instinct though and they will peck at anything that might be food. I have never known hens like these for standing and pecking your feet. I can hardly walk a step without tripping over them
Thea likes them too
Kayleigh likes to put one in the nest box and shut the curtains - why not? I like to sit and listen to them and watch their small brain antics with a cup of tea - so I have a seat in the shed and a bench outside. So, while it is all about eggs, it is also all about fun and supreme enjoyment.
Only Poppy is cross as she is desperate to get hold of them! She is helpful in rat control though as she bounces round the compost heaps - where I suspect rats might be - and gives them a good old fright. So Gill - that's all the rat advice I can give you.
Free range, organic, happy. If you eat any cakes at the Garden Station you will be eating my eggs. Zero food miles too.
Does it get any better?