Keeping chickens has been something of a revelation. Who knew how seamlessly they’d fit into our lives? But now, a little under a year since we got our poor first brood, they’re just a happy part of our daily existence. Last year a survey showed that hens were the sixth most popular pet kept in the UK and I can well believe it. They’re lovely companions to have clucking about the place. Their pompous bustling is brilliant fun to watch and the lovely fresh eggs are just a bonus. They’re also lovely for teaching children responsibility – our oldest collects the eggs every day after school and helps to clean them out every weekend. When he’s older we plan to buy the eggs from him in place of just giving him pocket money for nothing. But I digress. I wanted to introduce you to our newest chickens. A few weeks ago we had a bit of a quiet weekend and my husband suddenly announced that as we’d failed to convince any of our hens to go broody in the summer and hatch us some chicks, that we should go and get some more to up our numbers. So we headed back to the lovely Hollywater Hens to pick up a new group of them. We left an hour later fortified with extensive chicken tips and carrying two boxes of crooning young bantams. We had a beautiful little Polish bantam that we named Mabel, a pretty Millefleur Booted Bantam (henceforth known as Precedent), and two any black Pekins called Stick and Pasta that I wasn’t quite convinced weren’t parrots in disguise. They joined our flock of six pedigree hens (Daisy, Chancery II, Brandy II, Beady II, Snowy II and Crow chicken) and we adore them. Or I should say adored. We kept them in their own tiny chicken run inside the larger enclosure for a few weeks to let them grow a little so they could hold their own and then let them out and Pasta immediately made a bid for freedom through a hole tunnelled by a fox out into our neighbouring field. RIP Pasta. That left three new bantams getting friendly with the massive hens.
The little ones bustle around the larger ones like tug boats and lately Stick has left her little bantam hen box and has started sleeping with the big hens in their larger house, leaving poor little Mabel and Precedent huddled in their house. Honestly, it’s like a soap opera out there. I would never have imagined that chickens had such involved personal lives. Anyway, we are hooked and we can’t wait for next year when we can set up a few maternity boxes and hatch some meat hens. We’ve decided that all of these original pet hens will never be eaten though, we like them too much.