Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Chicktastic

What feels like way back in June, I mentioned in this post that we had plans for the meadow at the back of our house and I am pleased to say that, a little late, I'm back to tell you what we've been up to.

Mr HenHouse has been working incredibly hard behind the scenes since the real henhouse arrived here at The Old Vicarage.   He's cleared an area of the meadow, trimmed away the tufty grass around the perimeter so he could install the electric fence, treated and built the henhouse, built a shelter and since cleared the entire bank so we have an uninterrupted view out over the meadow from the house.  Reader, if you hadn't guessed already, he's a keeper.




I'v been reading away any book and magazine about chickens I could get my hands on.  I like to throughly research whatever I am doing.  Since breaking up for the school holidays, the Master has been asking every day "Are we getting the chickens today?" but we wanted to be absolutely ready so the answer was generally no until one day, there were no more reasons to say no and the answer finally turned to yes!  In the end, we went to the outskirts of Bristol for our girls as our local breeder did not have any pullets available (young chickens) and I knew that Annie Hall had many of the breeds I was looking for.

We have a house for a dozen hens but had decided we would get maybe five or so, being the novice chicken keepers we are.  Of course, when we saw all the lovely chickens at Annie's, it was hard not to extend our list!  She assured us that it would be no harder looking after a few more and she also suggested we did not introduce any more chickens within a short space of time as this would stress our existing flock (which is something we had been thinking of doing) so in the end, home came eight hens.  We chose six hybrid hens, these are the modern chicken.  Hardy, easy to care for, vaccinated and with the added bonus of laying just about all year round.  They are still available in a lovely array of colours, shapes and sizes.  We have a Bluebell, a Rhode Rock, a CouCou Maran, a Silver Link and a Brown Speckledy.  We affectionately have termed these girls the fatties and they are lovely big fluffy bundles, who charge around ruling the roost!  We also have a hybrid White Leghorn who lays pure white eggs and is a funny little "upright" chicken.



Although we hadn't intended to, we also brought home two younger pure breed hens, being a Cream Legbar and a Welsummer because these girls, when they come into lay, will give us blue/green and dark brown eggs.  Being younger, they are still at the prehistoric dinosaur look stage!



So, here we are, finally there are hens in the henhouse!  Hello Henny Penny.


They seem very happy with their lot.  They spend all day outside in their run and then put themselves to bed at night as dusk falls.  We have an automatic device on the pophole so that it shuts at dusk and opens again at dawn, just in case we are ever not around to close the pop hole ourselves.  The girls are very clever and after a few nights, started to put themselves to bed in their house as dusk fell.  We have kept an eye on them and have had a few caught out by the automatic closing door so we've popped them in the back way but they soon learn!  They love going to bed.



They are a delight to sit and watch, their antics endlessly amusing and they are very sociable.  They come running as you approach the run and of course, they know when it is treat and corn o'clock.  Their favourite treats are watermelon and corn on the cob.  I think we can safely say they are very spoilt chooks.



We have a 50 metre electric fence in place as with so much space available to us, we wanted the girls to have as much room to roam as they could whilst staying safe.  One can never be too careful with Mr Fox about.  It is a complete joy to wake up of a morning and see the girls pecking about happily.


Their house came from Flyte So Fancy who, luckily for us, are based just over the border in Dorset.  The little box at the base of the ladder is now filled with gravel to help keep their feet clean in wetter weather.


Mr HenHouse has also built the girls a shelter as there are chickens on the allotments in our village and we spent some time observing them and noted how much they liked the cover of their shelter during the day.  He cut down some sycamore branches from our trees and then boarded the sides.  Of course, it had to have a little HenHouse-style makeover with some aqua-coloured wood treatment and "outdoor" bunting made from double-sided oilcloth and polyester webbing.  They love it and have gradually been turning the base into their dust bath but it has come into its own in the recent wet weather we've been having.


It's fair to say we have spent a fair amount of time outside with the girls whenever we can.  Of an early morning, when we had nice weather earlier in the Summer, I would wake early and take my quilts down and sit hand sewing the binding whilst watching them peck about.  We have also enjoyed the odd glass of something chilled out there of an evening and watched the sun set over the fields behind the girls' run.




I coud not fail to mention of course, that as well as being rather adorable pets, the girls are also very productive.  When you buy chickens as pullets, they are usually around 16-20 weeks old.  They come into lay usually at about 20-21 weeks old.  We were lucky in that the five chubby hybrids we bought from Annie were already around this age and so we hopefully would not have to wait long for eggs.  Well blow me if the first morning we came down to find there were two eggs in the nesting box.  Oh my, it was so egg-citing.  Sorry!


Since then, about a month ago, we have had eggs every day.  From the second day, we always had three or four, then one day we had five and now we regularly have five or six.  You really cannot beat the excitement of opening up the nesting boxes each day and looking for eggs.  We are continually amazed by the egg laying.  What a clever clever thing to do.  The girls get very excited when they have laid and come to the pophole of their house and loudly begin to cluck to let you know just what they've achieved!


Our latest big thrill has been that our White Leghorn, Snowdrop, who is a few weeks younger than the others, has now come into lay.  She gets very excited when she has laid an egg and makes a lot of noise for such a delicate girl.  Her eggs are a beautiful pure white and are quite small at the moment but will get bigger with time.  We have a huge variety of eggs and have had quite a few whoppers laid, many with double yolks, which is always super exciting.  Our record so far is an egg weighing 79 grams with a double yolk inside.  


As you may imagine, eggs now feature widely on the menu here in the HenHouse kitchen.  From my own Scotch eggs...


...to crustless healthy mini quiches...


...to a lunchtime frittata whilst watching the girls from our newly installed picnic bench for that very purpose.


I whipped up my first cake with their eggs to take to a friend's knit club group at her home recently.  There is something very satisfying about collecting your girls' eggs then using them in your own kitchen.


Getting the girls has been the most brilliant experience, we love every minute, they are great company and easy to look after and we also get delicious eggs.  Winner!


If you've ever been thinking about giving it a go, we couldn't give chicken keeping a bigger thumbs up and we are very happy to pass on our experiences to date. Xxx

28 comments:

  1. Hen, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You are so kind to share your new hen and egg experiences with the rest of us. Looks like heaven around your place to my eye. Bravo once again to Mr Henhouse. The final photo portrait is a gem...that lad is truly handsome.

    I idea of keeping chickens is a sort of dream to me...definitely would require moving far away from my tiny city apartment! xo

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  2. Welcome to the world of chickens. I have had them for almost 60 years...next thing, you will be getting a dog or two, a donkey or two and several sheep! Enjoy!

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  3. I am so tickled at your excitement. I had 30 baby chicks (two roosters) given to me when I was 10 and my family had just moved to a farm. Prior to that I was terrified of chickens (they might peck me!), but raising them was the most delightful experience of my young life. Like you I watched them and learned their funny ways, their hilarious sounds, and loved them like family. I sold eggs for $1.00/dozen and saved money for Nancy Drew books. It was idyllic. As an adult I've wished many times that I could raise chickens again. I will enjoy reading your updates about your girls. How fun that you have your lounge chairs parked to watch them! ;)

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  4. It looks like you have all found paradise in the country! Good luck with your hens: don't you just love their names?
    Jenn

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  5. Your blog today was an "eggcellent" read today! Enjoyed it all. Reminds me of spending summer vacations at my Aunt's small holding in the summer. Pass a scotch egg please - they look delicious.

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  6. What an enjoyable post. You are certainly having fun with your chickens. Thanks for sharing and have a blessed day.

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  7. Lovely to see your hens in their very nice surroundings. You can't beat fresh eggs they taste so much nicer. Hasn't the munchkin grown? How old is he now? Very handsome looking young man and obviously good with chickens.

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  8. *C*O*N*G*R*A*T*U*L*A*T*I*O*N*S*!* on getting your hens for HenHouse blog! Perfection! You are doing a wonderful job of keeping them. I do hope you don't have a hawk take one from above! We covered even the top of our run as we have many different predators drooling over our chickens. We lost some to raccoons, coyotes and skunks before we wired ours up like Fort Knox. Good luck! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  9. We kept chickens for 10 years, very rewarding in so many ways. Mr Fox got the better of us on a few occasions. We witnessed him easily clear our 5' high 2' wide hedge with no trouble. Really upsetting because we felt so responsible. We too ended up putting a wire roof on our run. Loved the variety of egg colours too and sharing with friends and family. Enjoy your new family members - each with their own personalities.

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  10. Ooh I was so pleased to pop in and find 2 posts. Got my self a coffee and chocci bar and had a good read. Thoroughly enjoyed both, thank you. My daughter's teacher always refers to her chickens as the girls, very endearing. I know several people who have chickens but none have bunting. I just love that!

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  11. We have been raising chickens for a few years and I never get over the delight in finding eggs in their nests. We have eight hens and we get plenty of eggs for us and some to give away to friends and family. With the price of eggs going up here in the states, it truly is a blessing to be able to gather fresh eggs every day. Have fun with your chicks. Are you going to get a rooster so you can have baby chicks?

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  12. hi i love reading your posts,i don't know if you are on facebook there is a group called down the lane it's frugal living,recycling,upcycling etc and there are lots of chicken keepers on there and they are a world wide group so no matter what time of day if you ask a question you usually get an answer fairly soon,they are very supportive and encoraging,they also make cakes etc too :)

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  13. I wish you many lovely fresh eggs and no predators!

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  14. How great that they have all settled in so well and are in lay already!!! You must be thrilled about that!!! I hope that you have great fun being chicken keepers and that you enjoy all the eggcitment of it! Sorry, couldn't resist! xx

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  15. I have been raising hens for about 7 years now, and I just adore it. I get such amusement from watching their antics.
    Great hobby, that is for sure!!!!!
    xo Kris

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  16. Lucky you!!! Would love to have chickens, but even though we're on an acre of land and certainly have room for them it's not allowed in our area.

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  17. You're officially a HenHouse now!!! I love chickens. My parents used to have them and I always had a great supply of fresh eggs! I love the pretty banner decoration on their new home!
    Your Hubby is a real keeper...lucky you!

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  18. Loved, loved loved reading about your chickens. We have recently moved to "the country" and chickens are on the agenda for next year. I have ordered a couple of books off Amazon but would be keen to hear your suggestions. I plan to read all Winter in readiness for chickens next Spring! Thank you so much for sharing the process and enjoy your eggs!

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  19. What a lovely post! I'd really love some chickens, but will satisfy myself with sharing yours for a while - hope you don't mind. Love their bunting, too. xx

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  20. Ya! I am so glad you have your chickens and are enjoying them. It is very satisfying to produce your own food. I expanded my flock this spring and my new girls are just starting to lay.

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  21. We have our own chickens too - all pure bred. We've been keeping them for a few years now and I never tire of how much fun they are. The eggs are great too. Can you share the recipe for the mini quiches, please?

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  22. now you have a very special man there young lady. What a fabulous job he has done for your new brood. I love the viewing chairs and what better way to spend the beginning and end of the day. You really have settle into your new life Hen and I wish you many years of happiness. Who is that handsome young man in the post - he is so grown up. I have now learned to crochet and absolutely love it - all due to you and Attic24 I have found my nirvana, perhaps I need some chickens now to complete the circle. We made an area in the garden for chickens a couple of years ago then bought a caravan! however we have sold that now so we need to revisit the hen situation!

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  23. Will a hansome chap be joining your girls, chicks are so sweet and hens are usually good mums. When I was a child I found a very young chick at the side of the road, we think it fell off a lorry delivering chicks to a local growing unit. So I took her home and kept her as a pet. She used to travel in my pocket when I went out to play until she was too big to fit in. When she was a grown up hen, she went to live with our other hens. She sat on eggs every year and raised lots of chicks. Regards Sharon

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  24. Hey glad you are getting on well with your new hens in the Henhouse. You are lucky having an automatic door , what a great idea . Ours used to love pasta, roast potatoes and rice so I always cooked extra when we were having that for dinner ! Loved meal worms too, they come dried in a bag so not yucky.
    I look foward to hearing your adventures . We have a Cocker Spaniel puppy so busy here ! X

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  25. I have kept hens for about 31 years but sadly we have moved house and there is no room for hens here. I do miss them but I can still enjoy yours. What fun you will have with them. Friends would fight over who got to buy my surplus eggs!

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  26. My goodness! What happened to that little boy!! He's turned into a very handsome young man!!!!!! I love your chicken adventures as my daughter and her family have chickens and my granddaughter holds these fully grown chickens like a baby and the chickens love it.

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  27. Welcome to the chicken club! I think I'm going to start calling my girls Chooks...I just love that, no one says it here in the US.

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  28. Great blog I have kept hens for about 31 years but sadly we have moved house and there is no room for hens here. I do miss them but I can still enjoy yours. What fun you will have with them. Friends would fight over who got to buy my surplus eggs.Thanks for sharing......

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