For a good while I’ve wanted hens. Actually I want to live on the edge of woods that we own and have a 5 bedroomed house with a small holding and be completely off-grid and self-sufficient but, you know…hens is a step towards that!
I’ve asked Paul loads of times and he kept saying no…then I asked on Freegle to see if anyone had a hen house going begging and a lovely man got back to me to say, yes he had got a hen house, he’d bought it to house bunnies but it was unsuitable so it was pretty new and just waiting for me to pick it up!! Of course this whipped up a whole new campaign to convince Paul of the educational value of hen-keeping. Eventually he said yes and I paid a man and a van company £20 to go and collect it from Haslingden for me.
Meanwhile I found ‘Lucky Hen Rescue‘ in Wigan and contacted them to ask if we could re-home some of their ex-battery hens. Alison said yes and then we had to start in earnest with the building of the house and penning off an area of garden in time for yesterday’s pick-up.
The first thing we had to do was remove the slide from the embankment (more on this later, we’re moving it to the other side but it needs concreting in) and we had to move the plants that were in the bottom, shady part of the garden. I picked this bit of garden for the hens because it is quite boggy and the grass doesn’t grow there anyway and I felt that with lots of wood chippings down on the ground it would be a perfect area for them to scratch and roam about. I also moved the blackboard over to the other side (more on this later) so that the children wouldn’t have to stand in the hen’s pen to use it…and I didn’t want the hens eating bits of left over chalk!
Then Carl our wonderful gardener helped me re-build the hen house and put up a chicken wire fence to pen them in so that they can be contained. We’ve been able to offer the chicken just less than 5m square which is the minimum really…Alison at Lucky Hens said we needed aprox 1m square per hen.
He concreted the posts in and then we stapled the chicken wire to the fence posts.
The enclosure goes a little more to the left than shown in this picture. Being able to use patio doors is overrated!
This is the bit infront of the doors. I’ve put the feeder there and they are quite happy
Carl is going to make me a new gate so I can get in, at the moment I have to climb over but it isn’t a problem. As they get a bit more confident though, they will probably escape over the existing door so it will have to be done sooner rather than later. It isn’t a problem from the point of view of their safety, it will just mean they are in the kids’ bit of garden, so not ideal.
Leon came with me to get the chickens and Alison sells all the things needed, I picked up hay and chippings for the ground and I also bought some identification rings for their ankles on her advice. The chickens do look very similar and this makes it easy to identify them. We are already starting to see their personalities coming through though:
The one with the blue ring is Mako. She is a little bit pecky and scared at the moment so we have to keep our eye on her. She is Imogen’s hen. She flew up into Elizabeth’s face and scratched her accidentally. I had told the children not to go in the coop but Elizabeth didn’t listen. She likes small spaces and I think she wanted to get in with them. She doesn’t always think beyond her immediate impulse to do something so we had to have a chat about how the chickens might’ve felt threatened when she went in the coop so soon after them arriving. It’s a shame!
The one with the dark green ring has been adopted by the neighbour’s kids (but still lives here obviously) She is called Flappy and was the first to lay. She is quite flappy!!
The one with the orange ring is Clucky. She belongs to Elizabeth. She was the second one to lay and is quite vocal!
Miss yellow-ring belongs to Leon and he has yet to name his but she has quickly asserted herself as ‘Mother-hen’ and is the leader of the flock. She literally hen-pecks the others by gently pecking their beaks.
The one with the light green ring is Oona’s hen and we are waiting to see what she might call it. ‘Dat!’ at the moment! (She points and shouts ‘that’ at things she likes or wants!)
It was lovely, when we got home my three children and six of the neighbours’ children surrounded the car and they all helped take the heavy bin-bags full of chippings into the garden and tipped them into the pen. We then raked them into all the corners and put hay into the bedroom area of the coop. We filled up the food dispenser with food and drink (mash, grit and pellets) and then we gently got the chickens out of their boxes and put on their little ankle bracelets. After the chickens were settled Paul brought Oona out. She was utterly delighted with them and even Paul grudgingly said they were ‘alright’.
At the moment they won’t let me catch them or pick them up but I am hoping they will become much more tame over the next few days. I was a bit panicked last night because after I’d spent ten minutes with the kids in the rain rounding them up to put them to bed, I couldn’t get them to go into the bedroom area of the coop, I had to lock them in the coop and wait until dusk (about 9.30) and then I went back out in the rain to make sure they’d gone inside. Four had gone in but Oona’s little quiet hen remained all alone on the ground underneath. I gently picked her up and put her in with the others. As I opened the lid to put her in there was a gorgeous smell of hay and chickens. They all started cooing and clucking like little old ladies and I realised I am already a little bit in love with these creatures.