Here’s a story about some chickens that came before the eggs…
Once upon a time
A couple of years ago when friends visiting from Ireland suggested that we get some hens for our small, urban back yard, I just laughed and thought they were mad. They sowed a seed though, and one year later Mr. Foody was driving a van to England to pick up our specially ordered hen house. (You don’t have to go to those lengths by the way, but anyone who knows us knows that we don’t usually do things by halves. If we were going to do this thing, we wanted to get a house that was going to stick the pace of the harsh winters here, wasn’t impregnated with all sorts of crap and, as it would be quite visible, we wanted it to look nice. Stephen at the Hen House Garden Company had just the thing.)
14 fluff balls
The next step was to get some occupants for the hen house. We proceeded to buy 14 chickens. They were only 1-2 weeks old and could all fit in a shoe box when we brought them home. We would not know for another 2 months what their gender was. Our reason for wanting to keep hens was for their eggs. We had been eating eggs every day for years, so to us it made sense to become self-sufficient on this front. The added bonus being that the hens would eat all the kitchen waste that wasn’t already going to our rabbits and the compost. So given this, and the fact that it is just not appropriate or allowed to have a rooster(s) living in an urban area such as ours, we knew that any lads among the bunch were destined for the pot.
Rooster death row
Come December it began to become apparent at day-break who the boys in the brood were. Mr. Foody received direction in how to humanely rid us of the poor beasts and we had to, one-by-one, wish Richard Allen, Darren Allen, Steel Wire (he wasn’t nice), Ken Hom and Anon, R.I.P. This left us with 8 lovely ladies – Gordon Ramsay, Delia Smith, Amanda Wong, Julia Child, Camilla Plum, Kirsten Hüttemeier, Myrtle Allen and Rachel Allen.
Then we just had to sit and wait. When would the first egg come? Finally, at the end of February, I open the hatch into the nesting boxes one morning and there it was – the first tiny little egg. I’d never seen such a small egg before. It soon became apparent that within a few weeks the eggs become larger. It’s like they just have to get into the swing of things. Some of the eggs we get now are huge and have double yolks.
Over the next couple of months, the hens, one-by-one began laying eggs. Now we get 8 eggs every single day without fail. And I can tell you, they are fabulous! You really CAN taste the difference. It means a lot to us that we know what our hens have been eating and we know they are happy. When I see how they love getting out to roam and flap around, bathe in the dust and in the sun, I can’t help but feel devastated for all those hens that are kept in very confined spaces – worst of all, battery or caged hens. How this is still allowed is beyond me.
Who needs the fairground
For us this has been a fantastic family project. Every day we have stories to tell each other about the funny or crazy things we have seen the hens doing. They have also become somewhat of a neighbourhood attraction. We live close to a lot of nurseries and kindergartens and many parents have told us that coming by our gate and looking in at the hens has become part of the routine as they pick up or drop off their child. I also overheard a lady say to her dog one day, as the dog was straining to walk down our street, “No, we’re not going to see the hens today.”