Below you can find stories that the HenPower Hensioners have compiled about hen keeping from the war years until now. Use the category filters to look at specific stories.
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My fist encounter with chickens was when I was a child. I used to stay on my granny's farm, and being the only child there, hadn't any one to play with. When the dog got tired of me dressing him up, I used to go into the hen house and play 'school' with the hens. I was the teacher and they were my students. They'd be sitting up on the nest boxes and I'd sit across from them with some books and a pen and teach them. Then if one of them moved, I'd put it in the corner because they never asked permission to leave their seat. Lol....
So fast forward 18 years, my boyfriend and I moved into a house in the country. The previous tenants kept chickens and intentionality left one behind because they 'couldn't catch her' apparently. 'Don't worry about her, the fox will get her' is what I was told when I questioned what to do with her. I'm a huge animal lover so that was out of the question. Susie as I named her lived free range in the garden for a few weeks and slept in the bushes. She would come running down the garden like a lion was chasing her in the mornings, fly up on the window sill and tap on it to get her breakfast. Then a close encounter with a neighbours dog, made me build her a secure run and convert a disused rabbit hutch into a house for her. She was quite happy, started laying and was officially my newest pet. Over Xmas, I built her a big new house and extended her run bit. A few weeks later I got her a friend, Doris, the white Sussex. Despite following the recommended introductory procedure, day 1 was bad, day 2 was good and day 3 was like a blood bath. My little innocent Susie had turned into a raging, blood thirsty lunatic. So now, currently one and half weeks of them being separated (although living beside each other so they will more used to eachother) Susie has escaped twice to sleep in the bushes and tries to eat me if she sees me taking her eggs, Doris feathers has started growing back but she has decided it would be safer to act like she's a Duck! But over all I love having my girls, even though I never would have chickens if it wasn't for them leaving Susie behind. Now I'm just hoping and praying the next introduction will go well and they will be friends.
My love of chickens-- especially bantams started when I was about 8 years old. As a child I used to stay with my Uncle on a farm in Shropshire. His son kept bantams and although he was the same age as me there wasn't anything he didn't know about looking after animals --- I adored him and was absolutely convinced I was going to marry him and be a farmers wife when I grew up! Well that didn't happen but my love of animals stayed with me and when I acquired 2 allotments 4 years ago-- guess what I did. Yip -- got my bantams!!!! Best thing ever -- they have taught me so much and never fail to make me smile.
It all started when I went round my friends house, he blurted out that he had chickens with Afros (silkies) and we had to have a look. Sure enough they did, and that's where I caught the chicken madness...
Over time I hassled my mum enough for her to buy me some barbu duccles. They were the best chickens I ever had. Then I rescued some ex batteries and sizzles, they had the biggest personalities. Summer went by and I ended up hatching (both naturally and artificially), rearing chicks inside and outside, selling the eggs and POL chickens. I'm glad I went round my friends house to see the chooks or I wouldn't have my chickens now
Always liked helping my Dad with his gals when I was a little girl, he had a 70ft shed he built and kept them in, still have the shed(pic follows)you'll all laugh at it now. When Dad finally got so he couldn't get up an down the field any more I started to look after the gals, found a peace I'd forgotten in life. He is gone now. Still have one of his left, she must be 15 now. True. Now all in a safe outdoor enclosure, mostly rescues, my best friends!
They live in the large shed, some in cages, Dad had a small veg an egg round. He delivered in his van, completely small time. I used to be allowed to help sometimes, guess I was only 8/9 which would have made about 1969/70. I adored his gals. Recall wanting them to be outside though......
When they didn't lay they would be for the pot, horrid memories of them hanging upside down plucked but head on and a little burner, kerosine i think to burn off stubble. Probably because they were old hens.
My gals enjoy retirement peacefully, some are ripe old ages.
Dan Hardwick, 32, The Poultry Pages
I was 14yrs old and was in need of some pocket money to buy things I wanted, I had a paper round but this didn't suit me... so off i went looking for a weekend job, I came across a farm that a school friend worked at on a weekend again for pocket money and asked my friend to get me a job. Then it all started from there really!
I was 14yrs old and was working at a battery hen farming where we collected and packed eggs from chickens and on this farm there was approx 20,000+ hens at anyone time kept in cages. I worked there for a few years and turned 16yrs old and then the farmer asked, 'do you want to run the farm on a weekend?'. Through the experience I had gained I jumped at the chance and was responsible for running the farm on a weekend and looking after all these hens, then came the hen keeping, I lived with my mum and asked if I could keep a few in the back garden in which she agreed to which soon turned into more and more and before I knew it I was buying in day old chicks and rearing to point of lay and selling them all of course sourced from the farm I worked at. Unfortunately this didn't last long as the farmer contracted an illness and sadly passed away and then the farm folded as a result.
Now being 32 yrs old I got back into hens approx 4 yrs ago and again just keep a few in our garden now for pets and eggs and still love it to this day. Sadly family life and worries do get in the way. I now also own, run and administrate one of the largest poultry groups and communities on Facebook called (The Poultry Pages) and help other people with their day to day worries and concerns about hen keeping and provide a community where people can come together to discuss ALL things poultry. Again this was set up on the back of keeping poultry and working with poultry and feel very humbled to be in this position to be able to provide a platform for over 20,000 people worldwide and share my knowledge with others on a daily basis :-)
Mr and Mrs Ritson
My story begins with my granddaughter giving me 4 hens several years ago. I had told my granddaughter about having chickens as a child and loved going down to the chicken coop to feed/water and gather eggs. I had a small coop built and then "chicken math began". I then closed in an area under my garage to accommodate more hens. At the time I lived in a neighborhood, in town and was getting concerned about talk of the town council putting rules on having backyard chickens. So I sold my home of 25 years and me and my 38 "girls" and 2 roos moved to the country....best thing I ever did!
When I was young I used to come home from a dance at 2 o'clock in the morning. I'd have to not wake any cockerels up otherwise they all crowed until getting up time. And I used to be in very serious trouble! My dad was a farmer... if you woke one up it set the whole lot off and they crowed until getting up time... so you can imagine...
I used to sneak down the lane on tip-toe trying not to wake them up. I was about 16 - 20... I'd been to a dance. You know.. it was just one of those things when you live on a farm!
We sold the eggs and the eggs for hatching - that's why there were a lot of cockerels because we needed them all fertile. I used to help feed them... just the things you do on a farm, you do a bit of everything when you live on a farm. I married into a farming family so there was no let-up from the cockerels!
Jacob, Luke & Harvey
We got into hen keeping because they looked good and it's a good hobby - it's nice to look at them and that. We thought we'd have a go at showing them... we thought it'd be good to take part, that's the main thing. Today we're showing old English game bantams. The judges are looking for a bird that's shaped like a heart, and I think that's about it
We've been doing it for a couple of years - my dad used to always keep them. They just make you happy. It makes you proud of keeping them. We aim to get some of the best, and have some of the best in the game and win everything.
When I was little, my Mom used to send me to gather the eggs. I used to love that job and would run out as soon as I heard the 'laying song'. There is nothing nicer than holding a warm egg that the hen has just layed, against your cheek.
I gathered the eggs and helped my Mom clean the coop as it helped to feed us. I loved the hens and miss having them very much!
Well before I actually got hens, I used to go to my mams friend's farm when she went there and I used to go around looking at all the animals, but I always found myself looking at the chickens the most. I used to sneakily give them food and look for their secret nests etc. Their hens all died and I was quite sad about it and they said we could get more and they could be mine too, but it never happened. I pestered my mam for ages asking for some but we had nowhere to put them. After a while of pestering her she eventually gave in and asked my uncle if we could put some in his field and he said yes! I was nine years old at the time.
We went to a battery farm for the hens. I was complaining to mam that we needed to go sooner for them incase someone bought them all, but she said theres thousands so there will be loads. I didn't know what a battery farm was at the time, so I was excited and thought I would love it. On the 17th of May, we went to pick them up, I was shocked when I walked into that battery farm, I stopped eating chicken and have never touched it since and I'm 17 now. The hens were my responsibility and at the time were my only pets apart from two goldfish. My parents have only seen the hens about 10 times since I got them 8 years ago, so they trusted me to look after them.
I love my hens and really wouldn't be without them now. They each have a different personality and a few of them actually make me laugh because they are that crazy. All my friends ask "why do you like them so much? They are just chickens!" But I say that they wouldn't know until they kept them.
I did everything. The cleaning, feeding and watering etc was all my responsibility. Like I said above, my parents rarely came to see them and they live a ten minute drive and a 45 min walk away from us, so it was really my responsibility.
When I was younger, my hen keeping was usually overshadowed by older people who kept hens telling me old wives tales and whenever they were ill, they just said "they will just be old". I eventually joined some Facebook groups and got lots of help on them and have great knowledge now.
My backyard has turned into the site of a major soap opera, with Milly turning into super-hero chicken. Clara has been pulling some shenanigans, and had to be moved away from the other Littles for their safety. So while Milly and Madeleine were out free-ranging yesterday (Harriet is still inside, recovering from a broken foot), I put Clara in THEIR yard to exercise. Milly and Madeleine came back toward the entrance of their yard, and Clara decided to STRUT toward them like a rooster. She eyed them both, and then decided to JUMP Madeleine (who is at the absolute TOP of the pecking order)! She knocked poor Madeleine on her butt, because she totally was not expecting one of the Littles to dare to do something like that. Milly saw it, got SUPER ANNOYED, and jumped on Clara, pulling her off of Madeleine. Milly then proceeded to whoop Clara's butt, until Clara got away, running across the yard with Milly hot on her tail. NOBODY messes with Milly's best friend.
Madeleine is queen. Thankfully, she is very fair-minded, and does not bully. She simply puts chickens in their place, and is done with it. Because of that, everyone seems to love her.
I named most of my chickens after old women I loved when I was growing up. I used to be a very shy child, but one who wanted to brighten the older women's day. So I would often sneak flowers (out of my Mom's garden) to older women's doors. They all remember me for that. So I began to name each chicken after a special older woman in my childhod.
Harriet was our first chicken, bought from a farm where her bum feathers, right down to the vertebrae, had been eaten by the other chicks. She is the smallest of our entire flock, despite her breed (splash blue laced red wyandotte). She is sweet with us, and her best friend is Madeleine. But she is a stinker. She likes to tease Madeleine, and she will put the LARGEST chicken, Milly, in her place. She has a jealous bone, is very talkative, and looks like a perfectly round, feathered basketball.
Most of my chickens will follow me around like dogs when they are loose in the yard. My mother can sit down and call them all by name, and each one will come up to her, ready to be picked up and baby-talked to. Sometimes they gather around her, vying for her attention. My mother had chickens in the 40s and 50s while growing up on the farm, but even her pet chicken Fluffy ended up on the dinner table. Now she has a chance to love without fear of that, because my chickens are our pets.
Milly once got out of the chicken yard, and flew INTO my dog's yard. My heart stopped when I walked out the door and saw her standing at the bottom of the steps, wit my dog Hattie sitting on the deck. Hattie is over-exuberant with the chickens, and I could not believe she had not accidentally hurt Milly. I could tell there had been SOME sort of incident, as a big water bucket was knocked over. My guess is that Milly did what she had done to Hattie at other times when Hattie got too close - pecked her HARD right between the eyes. Nobody really messes with Milly (except Harriet, the little round chicken, who is half her size and has 100X the attitude).
Linda Bradley, UK
My grandad kept hens; they were a huge part of his and my life. I practically lived with my grandparents so helped with the chickens daily. My grandad was poor so the eggs were a huge boost to the larder, eggs and rabbit odd roast chicken were a staple.
The hens were kept in a large shed with indoor nest boxes and perches - about 25 of them. They had a deep sawdust bedding which was only changed when absolutely necessary. The shed had lots of windows covered in thick cobwebs. The two doors were opened every morning usually by me. I loved the noise as they all piled out. A fond memory is my grandad digging his garden and calling the hens every time he found a worm or insect. Watching the hens run always made me laugh and we had to make sure each had their fair share which with over 20 hens was hard work
A memory I always think of is my grandad and I sat on his pen and he said what do chickens do first when they scratch, peck I said no; they step back and look, and they do he was so proud of his birds I could feel it. I collected the feathers loved the feel of them I liked to pick them up feel under their wings. We spent ages sitting just watching the birds.
The hens ate scraps mostly which was boiled up in a large pan by my nan. When cool I had to carry the pan over to the pen and mix it with layers mix by hand it had a warm yeasty smell and I found it comforting to mix it. The hens appeared to love it. Also a job i liked and disliked too was giving grain which was placed in special feeders. It would have earwigs in the kernels which hens loved but I hated collecting the eggs too it used to worried to take the eggs out from under the broodies they always looked like they were gonna peck. My nan liked me to sort sizes when the eggs were back in kitchen, we used to sort it into colour too which was more of a game really. Once a year the rats had to be sorted hens were locked in any holes blocked up feret dog brought in children were put on shed roofs on the pen and basic lying all he'll let loose as rats came running a out from under hen coop for the dogs to kill.
My view might be biased but our hens were liked if not loved they were a necessity a reasonably cheap way of producing food. Eaten when old and not laying but greatly cherished for what they provided.
Michelle Wilson, UK
I grew up on a farm with leghorns. My job was to clean out the hen house once a week, collect the eggs and look for anything weird. My birds did well. We had 2 roosters that fought occasionally, so my dad killed one, even though I thought they got on well enough most of the time. I think it was a rooster pecking order thing and limited. I didn't enjoy eating him. I was upset dad killed him as we had lots of hens. I don't think dad watched them like I did and jumped to conclusions after watching them spar. After that I moved out and decided I wanted to have Croad Langshans as my own chickens. They are awesome and I have up to 9 roosters over 30 hens. It works. Now I have turkey's too, and I have to be very regimented with my worming program, but it works well. I am 45 now, so I have had a good deal of exposure to chooks.
They were seen as an important staple of our diet (eggs). More valued as they seem to be now. Now farm people rely on trips to the supermarket more. Not me though.
Alex Henry, UK
As a child growing up in the 1980s we always visited our family on the Isle of Skye every summer. Our Auntie Norah and Uncle Iain had a farm and whenever we visited me and 2 sisters would always want to see if the chickens had laid any eggs. AMAZINGLY every time we went to check they had ALL laid eggs and we excitedly collected them up, thinking nothing of it. It wasn't until years later that the eggs had been planted there by out great aunt and uncle - oh!!! The deceit!!!
Angela Scott, UK
I used to visit my great grandparents, and grandparents who lived in the countryside on the edge of dartmoor every weekend with my parents as a young child 4-6 years old Which was a liberating experience as i was raised in a city.
They lived at the bottom of at large garden there was an orchard with an what appeared to be a very large metal Anderson shelter type building. I remember the brown chickens being everywhere inside, my grandparents would normally have to come and get me as I would be in there for so long watching the chickens going about their business. I loved it in that shed with the chickens, and I still carry those happy memories with me.
I always said when I grew up I would have a house with a garden and loads of hens. I currently have 12 rather pampered hens.
I would go and collect the eggs for the family, and would have to hunt high and low for them so it was no quick job. For my family keeping chickens was something that went back generations so it was normal especially in a rural environment. However when back in the city other children in my school did not share in my excitement with the chicken experiences that I had.
There were stoats or minks at the bottom of the orchard. One particular day my grandad shouted that the stoat/mink was chasing me up the path for the eggs. I ran as fast as I could and tripped fell over breaking nearly all the eggs I had collected in the wicker basket. I thought that in was going to be in so much trouble for breaking all those eggs. However when I walked in no the house the whole family burst out laughing. I was understandably very relieved.
Jan L'Argent, UK
When I retired I realised I could do something that my mother did in keeping hens. We always had chickens but the one I remember is the pet chicken that I called Penny and used to come to the back door for treats. It isn't just that they give us beautiful eggs but that they are great little characters, funny and so endearing in their ways. I've had hens for 2 years now, they are my pets, they all have names and I love them very much some even like a cuddle! I've lost a couple and it broke my heart but you never stop learning but one of the most important things is that I have made friends because of the hens.
I wanted to have really fresh eggs and on the side of economy I rarely have to buy eggs. My hens are well cared for and not in cages, they are kept clean and have room to fly, which they're usually too lazy to bother with. I can't bear the thought of hens kept in cages where they have no room to move, where they are pecked by their too close neighbours and are considered 'past it' by the age of 2 and sent for meat unless they are lucky enough to be rescued.
I have 2 runs, 7 share a 2 x 4 metre run, they have a converted garden shed for a coop because I find purpose built runs too difficult to clean (I have arthritis in my spine). It is well sealed against draughts, has nest boxes and a perch. Their kiln dried sand on the floor to which I occasionally add diatomaceous earth - they use it for dust bathing but it also really easy to keep clean. They have hemp bedding because it is so absorbent and easy to clean out as well. Their run has hard wood chip on the floor and is changed every 3 months or so and when someone is home we let them have the run of the garden, which upsets my other half as they decimate his veg beds! The other run has 3 girls but is similarly set up but smaller and they have an ark not a shed, I take the roof off to clean it out.
There are 10 in number, 2 Speckledy's, 1 Bluebelle the rest are hybrid crosses of Copper Black Maran, Cream Legbar and Skyline. They are all named after British Queens and Queen Consorts because one of my first hens was a lovely coppery red/brown with creamy feather mixed in around the neck which I thought looked like an Elizabethan ruff so she was called Elizabeth. Sadly she died from mycoplasmosis. I now have Eleanor, Caroline, Matilda (who strictly speaking called herself Empress), Margaret, known as Meggie, Guinevere, Isabelle, Anne, Katherine, Jane and Boudicca, clled Boo for short. Annie likes to cuddle as does Matilda. The 2 Speckledy's are just gannets and very noisy especially when it comes to telling the whole village that an egg has been laid! All the little cross breeds are less biddable and prefer not to be handled but once they have been picked up they tolerate it except for Meggie whole give you a nasty bruise with her beak! Oddly she is bottom of the pecking order but is not bullied. Katherine is also bottom of the pecking order in her run.
Pros are fresh eggs, friends (both hens and people) and always having a talking point.
Cons are it's expensive to get your set up, keeping it clean is less so but is time consuming, feed is relatively cheap but good quality food is worth it. If you live in an urban area getting a good poultry vet is difficult. Losing a hen is very hard, it's as bad as your dog/cat dying. Going on holiday is difficult unless there is someone you trust to care as much as you do.
You may have to deal with the horrific result of fox invasion or even buzzard and sparrowhawk. You have to be prepared to deal with mice/rats if they crop up.
Advice? It is not cheap or easy so think hard before you jump in. Do a backyard chicken course. Research breeds, some lay better, some are noisy others less so. some may be more prone to disease. Consider taking ex-batts they will lay for several more years, are well domesticated and will give the pleasure of knowing that you gave them freedom from cages and a longer life.
There are so many little things but I'll never forget the day I met Matilda walking down the road when returning with the dog from a walk. Thankfully, we live in a village and a cul-de-sac but we do get traffic. I was horrified that I could have lost her but it was hilarious watching my blue/grey hen happily strolling along and picking up tidbits from the neighbours hedges! She'd flown over 2 garden gates to get out so I've never let them free range unattended again!
Roy Conyers, UK
My first real introduction to chickens was as an 8 year old kid in the back bedroom of an old Coronation Street type house in Hull in about 1949. My father, not being much of a handyman, (even I could see that at 8 years old ) put an old door horizontally across two trestles in the middle of the back bedroom. Knowing Dad , it could well have been the door to the room. All around the edges he secured a 9″ up stand with hardboard. I particularly remembering him cover the door with something called lino (linoleum). In the middle he placed a most peculiar sort of mini building. It looked like a pyramid on legs which were about 6″ high. It was about 2 ' 0″ square , and about two foot high and made of aluminium. I know that for sure because I always got my hands dirty when I touched it. Joining each of the legs was skirting which you could attach and detach. On one of the four sides of the pyramid was a huge sort of spyglass which you were supposed to look through. It seemed a bit stupid to me when all you had to do to see inside was to lift up the pyramid which was hinged on one of the four sides. Having done this it revealed a beautiful shiny brass, circular oil lamp on its own stand on three legs. Around the outside of the lamp was a circular piece of grey aluminium full of holes. It looked like a giant cheese grater and was about 9″ diameter and about 12″ high. He called this gadget a Hoover! The floor, or door, was then covered with sawdust, probably got from the butcher at the top of the street. No one else I knew about kept sawdust! We got the paraffin for the lamp also from the hardware store at the top of the street. In fact you could get anything you wanted from the top of the street including fish and chips. I know that for sure because my mum used to work there sometimes, and come home stinking of them.
Then the day arrived I had been waiting for: it seemed as if I had been waiting years. In those days most livestock and birds was transported on trains . (People were not allowed. Only livestock.) So we had to go to the main train station and pick up our special parcel. I was utterly disappointed. It was tiny. About 12″ * 12″ * 6″ high. I expected it to be massive. It was so light I thought there was nothing in it. There were lots of neat regular holes around the top about one half of an inch in diameter. I carried it home very carefully as if it was full of water which I was not able to spill. Before we went to collect it Dad lit the oil lamp and made sure all the 4 skirting's were secure to keep all the warmth in. I can still taste the smell of that shiny paraffin lamp today. I remember standing on a chair whilst we delicately cut the bright red waxed up string around the box . You did this with a candle to make sure all the knots would not slip and come undone. They had done it too well and I began to feel impatient because I could not get the string off fast enough. Then came the magic moment. Holding my breath I carefully and very slowly removed the box lid to reveal the most beautiful site I had ever experienced in my short life. Today , after 60+ years I can still visualise in my minds eye that most incredible site of 10 of the most beautiful tiny, yellow, fluffy day old cuddly chicks in the world. I was speechless and just overwhelmed. They were only a day old and were busy scurrying about searching for something to eat as if they were weeks old, and they were delighted to see the daylight. Some of them even tried to escape from the box to investigate this new world we had brought them into. We lifted them out of the box and put them next to the heater which by this time was lovely and warm. Dad had removed one of the skirting's thus allowing access both to the heater and to the open run. They were absolutely delighted and charged about all over the place chasing imaginary flies. I picked them up one at a time gave each one a kiss and a cuddle and put them back to play. What I found quite surprising was that they were not frightened of me or Dad. We were like giants to them and yet they showed no fear, just complete trust. We put in some water and chick crumbs but they just ignored them. Apparently they often go for a day or so without eating or drinking. After an exciting time in the sawdust they eventually settled down to sleep in their warm little den and we tucked them in, put back the skirting and left them for the night quietly churping away to each other. Just like kids do when they go to bed. My parents were not into cuddles and kind words and I suppose for the first time in my life I had found a bond of love and understanding that I had not been used to before between my self and these most special little bundles of joy.
For the next two weeks or so I spent all my spare time, looking after them. Cleaning them out. Washing their dirty feet and bums. Supplying clean water and food. I used to love feeding them by hand and they all used to try and perch on my fingers at the same time. They were so funny. It was a fascinating experience to have them walking all over my hands and arms. Of course the sad time came when one of them died, so without much ado my brother and sister and I had a serious funeral to organise, a coffin to make, and a hole to dig in the garden. And so we learned about life and death. I spent every minute I could with them . We talked to each other incessantly and I never got tired of watching them get up to all their funny antics. Another thing I learned was how quickly they grow up, and before three weeks were up they were jumping over the edge of their door onto the floor. So sadly they were discharged into the garden, which was much better for them and of course, much more fun. Even after all these years I still smile and reflect with such joy at my first introduction to chickens. I was a very lucky little boy.
Anne Rolland, Todmorden
We used to take the girls for picnics and to see the chickens at Mythmroyd. One time they started feeding their sandwiches to the chickens in a nearby pen. I had to stop them as they were chicken paste sandwiches... didn't want to make cannibal chickens.
Paul Forsaw, Lancashire
When I was about 12 I worked on Drakes Farm, one of my jobs was collecting eggs from the battery sheds; I had a round selling eggs on my street and about 15 people bought eggs off me. One day in a hedge on the farm I found a hen sitting on about 15 eggs I sold them to Mrs Morris, Cheryl's Mum one of my best customers. A couple of days later she shouted me in the street and sacked me with the words "I don't know where you got those eggs you little sod, but you nearly killed us all".
Also, an old man used to sell chickens from his allotment to people on our street. I was at my mate Robert Quinns house one day when he turned up with half a dozen plucked wrung Hens. When Mrs Quinn started squealing after he had gone "Robert, Robert it's alive!!" (the poor bird was it was blinking) Robert took it in the back Garden and chopped it's head off with a Machete. It jumped up ran around then ran into the Kitchen with no head... it was horrible. And I've never heard a woman scream as long and as loud as his Mum when it ran into the kitchen with her.
Gordon, 78, Gateshead
We had a stray chicken. We never kept any ourselves but we had a stray that would come up the stairs and sit in front of the hearth. You know, like one of them big open fires. It would just sit there in front of the fire it until it decided where it wanted to go next. It didn't belong to us like, but it definitely took a fancy to us. When me father went out for a drink, the chicken would follow him home from the club and into the house. He was its guardian.
Councillor Marilyn Charter, Newcastle
My 20 month old son would get up at 5 o'clock in the morning. Running around the house we didn't want him to wake the old men in the house up. Me Mam says we'll lift him over the fence and put him in the field outside. He ran and didn't stop running. My mum got the binoculars. Saw him go into the farm yard. He went straight after the hens and went straight into the hen house. So me mam had to phone the farmer up and say 'can I get my grandson back, he's in your hen house?'.
During WWII my Uncle Fred had a small piece of land, known as a "piece". There was a small area for vegetables but most of the land was for live stock. A few pigs, one more than the government knew about (that one was for the family). Goats for milk and later their meat. Hens were my favourites and I've had a soft spot for them ever since. I loved collecting those warm eggs!
I used to like to take the eggs out - they were my dads. We used to like it when they laid the eggs because we had something to eat! My dad was very keen so we had lots. We used to like the eggs. We didn't play with them, but we liked them. We certainly liked the eggs.
When I was a little girl I went with dad who kept bantems. We ate them because we had lots - we would replace the ones me Mam had killed for the Sunday dinner. We went to the allotment every day from the age of 2 until school and we played with them, they were very friendly.
My Mam was very interested in the hens - she used to gather the crusts off the neighbours and she'd mix that with their food. Look after them was hard work. Getting them back into the garden after they escaped was especially hard work!
They kept them in wooden cages called crees - cobbled together from whatever wood they could find. My dad put them into shows - they'd judge them on their feathers, if the nails were properly cut - allsorts. He used to win and that kept him going. We went all over. You didn't have a lot of money to spend in those days but we went as far as we could - we went on some hilarious hikes.
On the morning they knew who you were - they definitely knew they were getting fed!
Joan, Tyne and Wear
Someone in the street used to keep them so we had to help. We collected the eggs but it was so long ago I can't remember much. They used to come running to you - they knew it was feeding time. I think they still do!
It's funny - a lot of people kept hens when I was young. I don't know why but it's gone out of fashion a bit now. Nearly everybody had hens - because allotments and that were big things. People had big gardens... a vegetable garden and kept hens. It was amazing how many people kept hens in those days - I suppose it was just for the eggs in those days. It was during the war and pre-war. The eggs were important to local people, but they don't seem to be as important now. My father in law was a great hen man. I just fed them sometimes, there wasn't much to do.
I kept hens when I worked on a farm when I was about 15. I liked farm work and I needed a job. There were hundreds! I helped clean them our, helped to feed them, lock them up, and put them away at night. The farm was in Halls during the war. Eggs were rationed so they were useful. I enjoyed it very much.'
Mark Matthews, 51, Darlington
Remember having to feed the hens at my Grandma's house in Berwick. I was small enough to fit into the hen house so was always "elected" to go in with a bail of corn. I was petrified of the hens pecking at my legs which were bare due to only being 4/5/6 years old and wearing shorts all the time!!
Also called hens "Coochi Ha Ha's" (at that age!)
Fiona MacLeod, UK
I do remember aged 12 going to work one summer on a hen farm, collecting the eggs every morning. Some of the hens would peck me, so the young lads on the farm found me a pair of thick gloves so that I wouldn't be afraid of getting pecked!!! And one day I dropped the egg basket and was so horrified... my Dad offered to pay the farm owners but they laughed and said they enjoyed eating omlettes for breakfast! I earned £2 per week, and with the money bought myself a good Winter coat (my parents' idea), plus one goat (my idea... And that was the beginning of my goat breeding!!
Eggs were certainly a staple part of our diet... we were fairly poor and a large family. Meat was shepherd's pie once a week and bought cold ham, and roast chicken was really for special occasions like Christmas. My brother kept two hens, which he called Higgeldy and Piggeldy and which were NEVER killed and eaten: they were definitely pets.
We only had chicken meat on special occasions, particularly at Christmas. I remember one time, in Northern Ireland, around 1969, I would have been about 14 then, and my Mum asked me if I would help her kill a couple of chickens for Christmas. She said it was easier to kill them by putting their head under a broom handle, putting my feet either side of the chicken head (on the floor), then just giving a sharp pull up on the chicken body (I don't remember having to rush about to catch the hens... they were in a shed at back of house: I think they must have been bought in order to be killed and cooked). Anyway, I did as instructed! When I pulled up, using all the strength of my young years, to my horror, the chicken head came right off (poor beast!!) and her wings started to flap. I was so shocked I dropped the broom and the now headless chicken which immediately proceeded to walk and wing flap around the shed for quite a few minutes. I was appalled, and have NEVER killed a hen ever again. However I have to say I can't remember refusing to eat the delicious chicken meat that Christmas!
As children we loved being the one getting the wishbone and being able to make a wish...crocking our pinky fingers (little fingers) round the bone, silently making a wish and then pulling hard.. however got the bone with the sternum attached would have their wish come true!
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