New birds on the block

In a bid to up the Smallholdings’ egg yield, James and I decided to buy in some standard brown hens last week. These no-nonsense birds should ensure that we can soon give away and sell the odd box – the lack of such a service over the past few months has proved rather a disappointment to our various egg enthusiast relatives and friends. And we’ve even found ourselves having to buy them, which really goes against the grain. Still, there’s nothing like a lack of freshly laid beauties and the watery whites and small, pale yolks of shop-bought imitations to highlight just how worthwhile it is to keep hens. Most of our girls are now either pure breeds (and therefore not laying until mid-February time) or past production age and enjoying a well-earned retirement. We’d intended to wind-down our flock until the girls and Jeffrey were installed in the Henmobile (a shepherd’s hut-style house on wheels that James began making out of a shed a while back), but that mini project has, naturally, taken a back seat while we focus on finishing our own house before our four-month-old baby Charlie becomes a toddler and discovers a variety of all-too-rustic bits of unfinished plaster and wooden surfaces around the place. So, we couldn’t wait any longer for some new layers – and nor could our recently-deprived band of customers.IMG_2896

An old boy we know who keeps just under 50 on his garden and allotment, supplying his entire neighbourhood with their offerings, recommended a farm in Pleshley, near Chelmsford, that sells reliable hens very cheaply. Intrigued by the bargains prices, we headed out to select our new recruits. The place was scrupulously clean and our five ladies were swiftly scooped into a large cardboard box and into the boot of our car – a very efficient business. After a night-time introduction, as is the ritual (to avoid the stress of meeting our established posse head-on in broad daylight), they’ve spent much of the week coyly tip-toeing around the older girls and keeping themselves very much to themselves. In fact, they barely venture out of the undercover run or the dustbath, which sits under a corrugated roof lean-to affair. It’s as if they fear the great outdoors. Perhaps this hybrid chicken has been bred to prefer indoor conditions…

The new brown hens are proving rather shy
The new brown hens are proving rather shy

Anyway, to our delight, three of the new layers laid an egg each yesterday – our first for what feels like weeks and weeks – so James and I celebrated last night with an all-day breakfast in which they were the centrepiece. A trio of beautifully poached numbers to delight the eye and the palate starred in the quite delicious teatime treat. What more could one want? Happy henkeeping all. IMG_2975

2 thoughts on “New birds on the block

  1. Ah Ruth, I completely understand!
    Every year, my husband Andy discovers a new breed of hen for us to hatch in Spring. Last year we both fell in love with the mixed Pekin Bantams at South Yeo Farm East, so Gillian posted us some fertile eggs and we now have three beautiful fluffy, flared legged, girls in wonderfully individual colours (one blue, one brown and one partridge). Then in February we discovered the crazy looking Polish Frizzle, of which we safely hatched another three…
    So, due to youngsters not laying yet and older girls slowing down or moulting, our 17 strong flock is producing around 1 egg a day!!!!

    Unfortunately, we haven’t got space for extra faithful hybrids…

    I daren’t say ‘Roll on Spring’ before Christmas 😉

    Sara x

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