This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Confession time.  Just don't anybody ask me how many hens I've got in my back garden now.  I haven't dared to admit to the family that I've got more hens.

It was our wedding anniversary this week and since we did not manage to get away this week, we thought we would do something special so we went to Acton Scott museum where they filmed The Victorian Farm.  We had a lovely day and a lovely picnic in the grounds. We really enjoyed it.

Now my farmer friend wants some new hens and had been talking to us about joining forces and getting some delivered.  We'd been talking about going to Henley-in-Arden poultry auctions again as the hens we'd had from there last time were so good.  However we realised that Acton Scott is only about 7 miles from Craven Arms where Cyril Bason (big firm) sells hens so we volunteered to go there on the way home and buy some hens for both households.  Doing this meant we didn't have to pay the delivery costs as we were going that way anyway.

So I have some new hens - teenagers that won't lay for a few weeks yet.  That means that I have the following:
  • my old silkie bantam who is pushing 10 years old
  • my old hens who still lay the occasional egg
  • my old 'new' hens who still lay reasonably right now but whose output will drop dramatically this winter and will go up for a bit next spring but then drop right back to where the old hens are now 
  • my new new hens
  • the three school chicks - I think one is female, one is male and I'm not sure about the third
Each lot is in a separate house and run.  I also need new names for each group.  My 'new' hens are no longer the new hens as there is now a younger group.  Middlies?  Maybe not.

I will be well egged this autumn while the older hens tail off and the new hens come into lay but when things settle down, I should be getting the same number of eggs as I've had all this year.  However the problem lies in rationalising henhouses.  I can't mix old and new hens in a run.  Henpecking is vicious.

Each summer we deepclean and disinfect the henhouses and treat the wood.  So that is what we are doing this week.  I and my clothes smell of the expensive perfume eau de Jeyes Fluid.  The small ark has been pressure washed, scrubbed with Jeyes, dried and the wood treated with bat friendly wood preservative.  The old hens, having lost 3 of their number this summer, moved from the large ark to the small ark this afternoon and have settled in as if they had always lived there.  There are four of them in the 5 hen ark with a 10 hen size extra run.  We have now pressure washed the large ark and scrubbed with Jeyes and it will be treated with wood preservative tomorrow afternoon if the rain permits.  Then the newest hens will move into that ark which also has a 10 hen extra run. Right now they are in a new henhouse and run which my lovely husband has built from an old rabbit hutch and scrap wood.  It looks a great deal smarter than it sounds and he is very pleased with it - especially as the cost was minimal to say the least.  The run is smaller than I would like for that number of hens but it will be fine as a temporary measure.The current main layers will then lodge in the new henhouse while their accomodation is washed, scrubbed etc etc and also a few repairs done. A spare henhouse is extremely useful at times like these.  Also useful for isolating a poorly hen. 

The bit that bothers me is that my old bantam is now on her own.  Also, I'm not sure of the number of females in the school chicks.  I don't want 2 lots of single hens.  For a start, they are sociable birds who tend to like to live in community but I am also thinking that I want to limit the number of henhouses to clean out at the weekend when we are back at school.  The hens are my pets and I can't bring myself to wring their necks when they get older just because it is convenient for me.  If they are poorly and not going to get better then that is a different matter.  My farmer friend tells me that I am far too soft and he is probably right.  I need a plan for the bantam and the female chick(s) however and fairly quickly too.


  • At 6:35 PM, Blogger lynda said…

    Can't you put the bantam and youngest together? I keep all of my old animals, too...sheep, horses, chickens. EVERYBODY stays and lives out their lives.
    Just found your blog. Will be in Worcester for 2 months in two weeks. Hopefully I can find you again!

  • At 1:31 PM, Blogger Jo said…

    Hi Lynda. Nice to meet you here and thank you for visiting. The bantam is a feisty thing and I'm not sure about putting the youngest in with her. We'll see. It rather depends on numbers. If two of the chicks are female then they will outnumber the bantam...

    Enjoy your visit to Worcester.


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