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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Nicola and Steve
Felicity Anne Hayes
My chicken story started with my husband designing a chicken coup. He works in the timber industry and has always had access to cheaper timber as a result. My son was a carpenter, and together they decided that, after clearing our back garden, which was a mammoth task, they would build the chicken coup. Well, they did that beautifully and even had help with one of my son's friends, who, being in the roofing industry, was able to put a proper corrugated iron roof on it and attached gutters and a down pipe. Then came our first three rescue chickens, Rhonda, Darkie and Honey. We had all three for just over two years and I became very attached to them, although I was nervous about the responsibility at first, and knew absolutely nothing about looking after chickens. Rhonda and Darkie unfortunately and sadly passed away last winter, but Honey has stayed with us and she is a very, very strong chicken, and lays lovely eggs about three times a week. I was going to just keep her on her own, but my son said you have to get more chickens to keep her company. I resisted at first but then, upon returning from a vacation to help my sister move, my husband and I bought two pullets, Bec and Jo, off a breeder. Honey was really bossy at first and caused some grief as she was always picking on the pullets. Bec had a cold but she started to lay eggs every day and has been very resilient. Jo got sick early this year and I took her to the vets and he treated her for chicken bronchitis. Thankfully, she has now recovered fully and she laid her first eggs this week. I am absolutely delighted. Even Bec has stopped her sneezing, so I think all the chickens are now happy and content. I have always liked animals and I really enjoy my new lifestyle with my friendly chickens.
I lost my tiny little flock of four last year to a couple loose dogs, so I had to start over this spring. We raised 13 chicks for ourselves and a couple friends, and would you believe 10 of them turned out to be male? So we were down to one little pullet for us, and a couple for the friends. We found a woman advertising an easter egger on a local poultry group, so we arranged to meet her in a parking lot of a local business. She pulled up, grabs this little girl out of a cage, and hands her to me... I swear, she had exactly three tail feathers, bald spots, just a sad looking bird. My husband said... are you seriously going to take her? Look at her! I said... yes, absolutely... I have to get her away from them! So, for $15, I got the saddest little chicken in the world. She lays a beautiful blue egg nearly every day, and though she is still sort of a ragamuffin, she's feathered out quite nicely. We call her Lucy, the Junkyard Chicken! She has more personality in her little foot than most other birds! Love my little Lucy.
Francesca, 46, Trieste
I live in Trieste, I am not so old (nearly 46) but I lost relatives and friends as well, my best friends are my two ragdoll cat girls and the cat colony. I have loved chickens since my early childhood, when I wanted to have a pet hen, but was not allowed, so had fun in attending the house of my mum's aunt, where there were several hens that ran free. They were kept for eggs, but also as pets and members of the family.
But I meant to tell you about Olga. There is a hen here in the neighbourhood, she is an escapee like in "Chicken Run" the movie, flew away from her original home, and travelled hidden in a workers' bus; then she found an ideal home here - she is loved by the kids at school and all people who meet her, she eats with pigeons, crows and cats, roams around in the day and sleeps on tree tops at night. She is really a character, and makes the day of many people!
In May 2014 I saw a crash on the M62, where a truck driver spilled his load of ex battery hens onto the motorway. Over a thousand dead, and some 2000 left wandering. My Ladies were rescued from being slammed back onto the truck by a group of people who went down to help save the live hens. We got our Ladies the day after the crash, from the shed where the poorly hens were being kept before they left for rescues. We took home SJ, Amybird and Clara, the impossible chicken. Sadly, we lost Clara a few days afterwards as her pelvis was shattered. We then gained Donna and Martha from the same crash a few days later. Joining the flock was Gertie, an old ex batt who came to us to live out her days with us as she was a lone bird.
Sadly, we lost Gertie to old age and Donna to EYP, but Amy, SJ and Martha are still going strong. It was a struggle, watching them at first, to understand just why they were in this state. Parallel to the injuries from the crash, they were bald, and their poor beaks were dreadfully wonky. It has taken 10 months for the worst of the beaks to regrow/trim down to a point where Amy can now pick up food.
These Ladies are such funny little girls, and a huge entertainment to us all. The eggs are welcomed also, though if they decided to stop laying tomorrow, they'd all have homes till the end of their days. We are beginners, and boy were we thrown in at the deep end, but we wouldn't change it at all!
They even have their own Facebook page! www.facebook.com/cluckybunch
I started keeping chickens in June 2012, after a speaker at the local horticultural society talked of his experience and encouraged everyone to keep at least a couple of hens in their garden. I had 3 to start with, though as many chicken keepers will tell you, you soon become besotted with these endearing creatures and inevitably end up increasing your flock!
I like the fact I know my hens are happy and healthy and they provide us with many eggs. It is also a fantastic experience for my children.... from holding and feeding them to watching the change from egg to chick to maturity. They are not so keen on the cleaning out though!
I have 8 hens; 3 Light Sussex cross bantams (Elsie, Chatty, Harry), 2 Araucanas (Wendy and Henry), 2 RIR bantams (Sadie and Britt), 1 Star hybrid (Starla) All girls despite the 'boys' names! Elsie is top hen, a Light Sussex/Silkie cross. She is broody as regular as clockwork - 3 weeks on, 3 weeks off. She is a wonderfully feisty character in her 'bloomers' and has taught me so many things about keeping chickens. Wing clipping, breaking the egg-eating habit, incubating eggs under a broody and raising a chick. You soon get to recognise who's who, not just by their look but also by the different sounds each make and their personalities.
As I said, Elsie is a feisty girl and we have had occasional battle of wills! I'm sure she thinks she is also superior to me as she often ignores what I want her to do and does it her way - which usually turns out to be the right way! When I tried to keep her and the one chick (the other 11 eggs failed) safe by enclosing her in a run within the run, she kept finding ways to get them both out and I would find them at large in the garden! I gave up and took down the enclosure and everything was fine!
The newest girl to the flock, Starla, came to us by default! A neighbour came to the door to tell me one of my chickens was out in the road! I ran out to find it wasn't one of mine, but no way could I leave her to the mercy of the traffic, dogs or anything else! After an hour or trying to catch her and eventually enlisting the help of the local pet shop owner/chicken enthusiast, we managed to corner her and he took her back to his shop while the owner was traced. She laid a couple of beautiful large white eggs but then had a prolapse. We decided to let her rest for a week or so and though I put up many posters etc no-one came forward to claim her. I eventually brought her home and she settled in quickly with my girls. After a week she was laying again, and several egg laying weeks later, she hasn't prolapsed, though I will continue to monitor her.
Cons: Absolutely no cons - well apart from having to get up early in the morning to let them out and the sad duty of dealing with the demise of your hen.
Pros: Too many to mention! Mainly for me is the entertainment! Hen-watching is such a great pastime. A fantastic education for my children. Plus, of course, delicious eggs!
Advice: Try to visit someone who is already a hen keeper, to see their set up and get advice from. Also, do plenty of research into the most suitable coop for you - bear in mind you may soon get bitten by the chicken bug and get more! - and before your hens arrive, make sure you are as fox/predator proof as possible. Research chickens! Try to find the best for your requirements - I have a friend whose hens quickly grew too large for his set up as he hadn't realised how big they would get! Also, one of my first girls is constantly broody which wasn't something I checked when I was looking for hens. And try to get your chickens from a good source - my first 3 came with a dubious age and 2 with scaly leg mite. However, they were soon fine after treatment and still with me after nearly 3 years. Ideally, a first timer shouldn't have to face problems from the outset.
My story is only from about three weeks ago.
I was in the garden, cleaning the coop and run, and the dogs and the chooks were just bumbling about the garden.
After a while, I realized that not only had no one tripped me up for a while, but that it had gone awfully quiet. Looked about - not a hair or a feather anywhere! I fair panicked, thinking they'd escaped some how so ran indoors, checking the undergrowth and bushes on the way, and saw I'd left the backdoor open.
The chooks often steal my dogs' dinners, if they can sneak in so I headed for the kitchen. No dogs, no chooks.
Was about to proper panic and headed for the stairs to wake my OH up (he's a night-worker) to panic him too, when as I passed the living room I heard a 'bok'.
Popped my head round the door and there are the two dogs, sitting comfortably, one either end of the couch and my three Ladies sitting in the middle WATCHING TV!
Oh, I SO wish I was a modern techie person with the mobile always to hand, but I'm not - it was on charge in the kitchen...
I had a 40 foot fox-proof run which used to be for rescue and rehab of wild owls. When it was no longer needed (the bird intake moved to other premises) I decided to start with chookies. Ive had burford browns, speckledies, goldline and white star and cannot imagine life chookless. I mean, what other pet makes you breakfast ? My hen is a mouser too! Has anyone else got one that catches and eats mice ? It was initially for a few eggs but they are such entertainers, I now consider the eggs as an added bonus.
Mine are in a 40 foot fox-proofrun with a semi covered and wire roof. Inside the run they have a range of perches of varying heights and positions, and an eglu go up which some hate, some love, some just go in to lay. They are free ranging when I'm home
I only keep a couple at a time and their names are usually old fashioned like Betsy, Lucy, Matilda. However, my current goldline favourite is Bouddica and she suits it well... Boudicca is a mouser! I was stunned to see her race across the garden and next I knew, there was a little mouse wriggling in her beak. She ripped it to shreds and ate it before I got to her. She wasn't hungry, she isn't short on protein .. stunning !
Pros: Eggs! Entertainment. Cuddles
Cons: There are non as far as i'm concerned!
Advice: Get hens! Get Happy!
Frances Corlett, UK
I grew up in the 70's. Our family home was an old farmhouse on the edge of the moor in the Yorkshire Dales. My parents were really into self sufficiency. With my father having the most amazing vegetable garden. We had lots of chickens, ducks, geese, bantams and guinea fowl. We were forever finding broody hens sitting on nests. Sometimes if the hen had left the nest, my Dad would put the eggs in the kitchen draw next to the Aga. I remember on one occasion, whilst Sunday lunch was being prepared. When we opened the draw to get the big serving spoon out (for the Apple Crumble) a chick jumped out and ran over the top of the crumble ! Mum and Dad had forgotten all about the eggs they had put in the draw a few days earlier !
They were very much a part of our family. We were always having 'sick' chickens or young chicks that had been abandoned kept in a box by the side of the Aga, with the hope that they would get better. Some did some didn't ! We loved having them, such friendly pets.
My sister and I had to put them to bed every night whatever the weather. But we didn't have to let them out in the morning, as we had to leave the house at 7.45 to catch the school bus.
Our chickens are pets although there is too many of them to know them all by name, theres always the odd few that stand out as they have so much character!
We have a a rather mischievous chicken named Vera who is an escape artist. She was recently missing for a long time, and could not be found. This was until one cold winter morning she was found on top of the hay bales with a bunch of chicks. This then lead to my elderly Grandma having to scale the hay bales to rescue mother and young. Luckily all are recovered and doing fine (my grandma included!)
Raising Happy Chickens
I have a tiny little bantam Lemon Millefleur Sablepoot called Bono (he was called Bonnie until he started crowing and squaring up!) who insists on squaring up to everyone, including my huge 50 kilo Livestock Guardian Dog. She is completely bemused by him and never tries to hurt him - she just stares him down. He doesn't actually do her any damage as he can't even reach the top of her leg.
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).
Rachael Harris, London
On honeymoon in South Africa there were some feather footed chickens (?cochins) in one of the places we were staying. They were so much fun and came to visit us every morning! When we got home I said to my husband that I wanted to keep chickens but my husband didn't agree. It took me about 18 months before he agreed and now we both love them. It hasn't all been straight forward but it is a huge learning curve which is just ongoing! We have now had chickens for about 2 years
I would like to keep more animals and become more self sufficient but our hectic London life style doesn't let us (we both work full time). I was always nervous about supermarket eggs, not knowing how the hens are treated :-( Plus, how great is collecting fresh eggs everyday?! We also find that it is very relaxing watching the flock free range in summer... But we also go through very stressful points when things go wrong... Foxes, illness, pecking order etc
We started with one second hand Eglu with 3 hybrids, last summer we expanded to a cube with 6 bantams, about 4 months later we rescued a bantam rooster. We then got 2 Polands, they were not happy in the cube so we had an emergency purchase of a second eglu.
3 hybrids have died in 2 years, 2 from fox attacks and one from a mystery illness. The 1 orginal hybrid is alive, she is top of the pecking order, she pecks the lowest chicken and that one always has a bare bottom! Names are Mrs Pilkington (named after my great Grandma, 2 that died were Dorothy and Clara after my grandparents) The rescue rooster is a Pekin bantam called Rocky (previously named!)
The 6 bantams are the 3M's (after were my husband's dad worked!) Margo Maude and Mathilda. And the other 3 were named after Owd Lancashire sayings, Purrt'n Kettle On (Kettle) Is It Heckes Like (Issy) and Ecky Thump (Thumper). Our Polands are Onyx and Amber (they are our most recent addition in September
Characters... Too many to mention... The pecking order is rife... They all chase the ones below... When we add new ones my husband calls it carnage! The Polands are the sweetest the sweetest things.
We have one bantam who is the lowest in the pecking order and she has started spending some time inside with us!
It's relaxing but not so great in winter when it's dark and the are asleep when we go to home and asleep when we come home...! I worry that I won't know if one is sick. In the summer I love it... Just pottering in the garden with them... Seeing their personalities
Hopefully going to have chicks this spring which will be another huge learning curve!
If I were to give advice i'd say research research research, join poultry groups and ask lots of questions and get lots of support!
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
Everything changed for the better when we rescued our rooster! The whole dynamics of the group changed and I love the way he cares for his girls and they think he is a chicken God and act like groupies around him! I love watching him getting horny and getting some (is that too much information!?)
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.
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!
I've always wanted to live in the country with chickens and when we moved to the country we bought some from a breeder, and like most things in our life we did some basic research and winged the rest. They do what they want and teach everyone else, child, dogs, cats, ducks. They are in charge of this household. I love them silly and of course my top dog (or hen) is like a little puppy who follows me everywhere. Tracey likes cuddles and falls asleep in my arms.
They're fantastic for fresh eggs, my girls lay all year round and their house waste I use for fertiliser.
We have four girls:
Tracey. Copper Moran, she's top dog and my favourite, very cheeky, always wants to see me and come into the house bringing Courtney with her. We have regular intellectual conversations about life and things. Crazy out of control free ranging serial stealers of hearts and givers of laughs!
Courtney. Copper Moran who's very tame, quiet, doesn't cause any dramas.
Babs. Purple Haze, she's a lot like Courtney, just bocks around minding her own business.
Carmen. A Black crow looking thing who comes out daily for food then straight back to bed to pretend she's hatching chicks! She's the moody broody pecker!
They make me happy. Every morning when I open the door they come running up the garden to see me! Chickens running is hillarious! Relax, they're easy to keep and easy to train.
Mandy Roberts, 50, Nothumberland
My family kept hens when I was a teenager - part of the self sufficiency 'craze' of the 70's I guess.
We had a Rhode Island Red cockerel called Eric The Red who we were very scared of but needed to lock up at night. We had to use a bamboo stick to get him into the greenhouse - a bigger target than the chicken hut.
We also had bantams who would roost in the bushes at dusk - we had to lift them down and pop them away as they roosted so low that a fox could have easily got them.
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.
Dorothy, 82, Gateshead
A lot of people had them during the war - mainly for the eggs I think because they were hard times. But you could nearly always get chicken or eggs. You always had chicken.
I used to stay at my aunty's in Embleton when I was a child. From about the age of 9 me Mam would put me on the bus at Haymarket and my aunty would get me off at Embleton, up the coast. I used to go up there for holidays in the summer - I loved the sea. Anyway, there were chickens all over the bloody place up there. They'd just wander in the middle of the road. They knew who you were and they'd follow you all over, I've even seen a chicken trying to get into the bloody sea man!
They're funny - they like sitting on that fence with their bum in the air. Or the buggers hide in the bushes. I get them out by showing them a box of paxo!
Jodi, 30, Gateshead
My friend Mel has a Chicken called 'Wanda' that likes to wonder off from time to time.
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