We started to keep chickens over eight years ago, mainly for their eggs but also to add a pretty addition to the garden, such as it is, it is very small. When we began keeping chickens all those years ago we chose a mix of chickens, some that we knew would lay very regularly, over three hundred eggs per year and some that would lay only about two hundred but were completely irresistible, such as my Buff Orpington, who I adored because of her sturdy yet cuddly build and quiet chirruping when she was deep in conversation. We kept our first chickens for many years, even when they weren’t laying and were costing us quite a lot of personal energy let alone hard earned pennies to keep them.
Then we had Black Rocks which is a commercial trademarked name (but which the industry instantly recognises) which are Rhode Rocks. They laid well, well over three hundred eggs per year each and laid well for three years, but then we were left with hens that either didn’t lay or were destroying the eggs that were laid. It was time to say goodbye. I know that sounds very heartless, but it is a necessary evil if you are keeping hens mainly for their eggs.
At that point, late last autumn, we weren’t sure if we needed or wanted any more hens, one boy was off to University and the other is hardly ever home. And so we talked and talked and really couldn’t make our mind up as to whether we wanted more hens. So we left it in limbo.
I then started to buy eggs from the supermarket. And even if I bought eggs that were the freshest in date that was available, free range and organic they were pretty nasty compared to a freshly laid egg. To the point that we almost stopped eating eggs!
A few weeks ago, with hubby in tow, I was again looking for the freshest eggs that were available and said to hubby “look these eggs are over £3.00 for a dozen, how much does it cost us for a sack of grain?” “Well, just over £7.00” “Really?!,” (enough to feed three hens for weeks) “forget that then, we are going to buy some hens I am so sick of these eggs”, to which hubby agreed.
And with that we ventured forth to the Domestic Fowl Trust at Honeybourne and on the journey chatted away as to what we were looking for, I said that this time I would like white hens. To my delight they had three White Stars, which were clearly laying as not only were their combs full and bright red, which is a clear indication that they are starting to lay, they had already laid five eggs in their viewing pen.
White Stars are a quite a slim bird bred just for egg laying they are a Leghorn hybrid, which means they are they won’t eat as much as an Orpington to lay eggs, so are much cheaper to keep. They are very nervous and flighty compared to some of the older style hens so possibly not suitable for a new hen keeper, with only three hens they will quickly get to know us so they shouldn’t be as flighty as if there were in a huge flock, but they are so pretty and what is more they lay between 300 and 340 eggs per year, each! The sad part about this is that they will wear themselves out quite quickly, three years will be their limit, but on the other hand, we should be getting eggs right through until the darkest days of winter.
They came home with us as did their newly laid eggs, which was a lovely treat. We let them settle in their hen house for a day with food and water before letting them out the next day. We let them out on their second day and remembering they are barn raised hens who haven’t seen daylight before, they were very cautious and only came out for half an hour to feed and water. But it was okay because they still had food and water in their hen house.
Day three, they weren’t coming out either, so I investigated if everything was okay for them and with the noise that I was making at the end of their run they came out. My camera was ready..
Hens that are really not sure,
an hour or so later I gave them some outer leaves of a cabbage I was preparing and they looked at it, and looked at me as if to say, “what’s that?” I am sure they will enjoy learning all their is to know about being a chicken.
“Well this is very interesting”
An egg laid in completely the wrong place, we have since taught them to lay in the egg box. And you may be asking how does one teach a hen where to lay, well normally they like to lay where it is dark and secure, but because these hens didn’t know any better because they are barn raised, any place that is dark is okay, such as the hen house, which was difficult as hubby had to crawl into the hen house to retrieve the eggs. But along with that the hen house has an egg laying area which is even darker and more secure so we just left an egg there. And sure enough the hens found it and started to lay their clutch of eggs with the egg that was already there. Simples….
But it is all worth it, look at such a perfectly white almost porcelain egg.
The hens are laying well, their eggs are starting to increase in size, hubby was quite excited today as one egg was a full sized egg. And as for me, well I love the eggs, but I have also missed the hens chirruping along with their triumphant calls as to when they have laid an egg.
Chick chick chick chicken lay a little egg for me,
chick, chick, chick, chick, chicken I want one for my tea…