Domestic Hen-keeping

– a clucking good idea! 5th January marked our return to egg self-sufficiency with one Bantam-sized egg (!) from Rosemary; her sister Lavender is not yet mature.

I am no chicken expert but have successfully kept a few in our suburban garden since taking three rescue, ex-battery hens last May.

They arrived via a smallholder friend, half-bald with bloody scabs where they had been pecked in their appalling chicken concentration camp. A month later, with fresh air and a 20 by 20 ft. moveable grass pen, they had recovered most of their plumage and were giving a regular 3 organic eggs per day for us and our neighbours. They ate kitchen scraps, garden forage and a neighbour’s children brought daily supplies of slugs and snails – yummy! Feeding costs were minimal.

In a smallish suburban garden however, the “Scrufflers” did what comes naturally, digging dust baths everywhere, practising their escapology skills and pecking anything green to a stump. Hence our move to Pekin Bantams which, although laying only half-size eggs, are far less destructive to the garden and can be free-ranged for most of the year.

Yes this is a totally miniscule effort at local self-reliance, but as more and more people are realising how enjoyable it can be, another small piece of our lost heritage is slotted into place.

For anyone new to domestic poultry, I would recommend reading “Henkeeping” by Jane Eastoe (Collins and Brown 2007).

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