Living with Hens
The Freedom Days
|House for Hens by night
In the following spring of 2011, we found out!! When plants were beginning to emerge and displaying all those young, vulnerable and tender green shoots, the chickens attacked showing no mercy and taking no prisoners! If they didn't devour them, they dug them up. I lost count of the number of times a certain (and much prized) David Austin rose was replanted. Thorns proved no deterrent any more than the wire mesh surrounding it. A row of beetroot was devoured in a single day. The bank surrounding the bottom of the pond was constantly being dug up and used for dust bathing. Bomb craters appeared everywhere. As fast as we filled them, new ones appeared. All gravel was constantly being moved around - dug up by the hens and swept back by us. The wood chip mulch in the borders resembled ever shifting sand dunes. They were ruthless! The only good to come out of all this freedom was eradication of all slugs but at what cost? Something had to be done.
Reluctant Restricted Roaming
|Decorative wire nest & egg on top of the Hennery roof
|Lulu popping upstairs to lay
We wanted free range without the free for all. We tried allowing them to gaze along the 'Gaza Strip' - the area of no-man's-land between the 2 lines of rabbit fencing. We built them a jet-way allowing access.
It worked perfectly for a few weeks but then there was free for all of a more sinister kind. Mr. Fox came visiting. We lost Sandy to a fox who attacked in broad daylight in the middle of the day. This meant only one thing: the end of total freedom and the beginning of secure and restricted roaming! We first designed and then, with the help of Chris, set about building a spacious, bespoke and shady Bamboo garden of their very own enclosed by an elegant curved fence of concrete reinforcing mesh. (I really did want curves and not the typical rectangular chicken pen) We made entrances between the Hen Pen and the Hennery which allowed access to shelter from snow and rain. We installed electric fence wire above the mesh and planted a beech hedge in front to soften to look and achieve a less concentration camp appearance! It was difficult obtaining the security of a Category A prison AND keeping the look of an English cottage garden!
Follow this link to see more of the trouble 4 hens caused in this garden!
The Privileged Poultry Property Portfolio consists of
- The Hennery - a hexagonal conservatory with its own ornamental giant ceramic egg in a nest on top
- The Hen Pen (or henclosure!) - a secure but extensively landscaped area with shady Bamboos and Miscanthus all carpeted with 5 tons of wood chips!
- Bespoke wrought iron gate with designer pin-up cockerel silhouette
- Gaza Strip Jetway
- Outdoor hand built perch from reclaimed oak (for morning preening)
- House for Hens - an elevated penthouse of Medieval style with views over the garden and complete with ladder
- Hennery house - cosy winter quarters (since extended with a further lean-to nest box) inside a hexagonal 'conservatory' with pitched roof
- Hen Shelter with secondary perching facility
- A vintage steerage hoe for additional perching & preening
|Lulu looking out at the world
Out of the original 4, only Black Betty remains. Although egg production has declined as the girls have 'matured', we haven't bought a single egg since their arrival. Any eggcess numbers are sold in the lane from an egg sales point - a small wooden stall on our gatepost with a roof to shade the eggs which, by the way, won 2nd prize at Stoke Bliss Agricultural Improvement Society Show - clever girls!
- Pleasure gained from just having them around
- Fresh eggs daily
- Stress cure: hen gazing! Spending a few leisurely minutes watching them randomly scratching, preening and interacting. Guaranteed cure!
|(prize winning) egg sales point!
In early 2015, rats were breaching our defences, chewing through the wire and tunnelling up into the Hennery and eating the chicken's food. Chris Genever came up with a perfect solution - remove all the wood chip, lay concrete slabs and replace the wood chip on top. We did exactly that and were amazed to find the vast extent of rat excavations. Since this has been done, we are far less aware of their presence.
|A proud moment
Stoke Bliss Agricultural Improvement Society's Annual Show