Keeping Chickens – practical & entertaining additions to the menagerie

February 13, 2013
light sussex and two bluebell hens

Light Sussex and a two Bluebell Hens

We added some pretty new arrivals to our small flock of chickens this week.

A friend was looking to rehouse some of her flock which had grown to over twenty and as our own had shrunk to three and a large rooster, we were happy to oblige.

Two Bluebell Hens

Two Bluebell Hens

Collecting the chickens was easier than we’d imagined – a few handfuls of feed were scattered into a corner and we were invited to dive in and grab as many hens as we wanted. Having always had brown hybrids or Rhode Island Reds, we were therefore drawn to the colourful birds. Our youngest had mentioned she’d love a companion for our Light Sussex rooster “Bob” so we were delighted to spot one in the large flock. She was first to be deposited into the large travelling box, followed by two pretty Bluebells and a black hen (an Orpington perhaps??)

Light Sussex Rooster and a Hybrid Hen

Bob the Light Sussex and Goldie

We’ve been keeping hens for their eggs for a few years now and if anyone reading this is thinking of doing likewise I’d definitely recommend getting some advice or taking a poultry course before you do so, such as the ones Fiona from Hunterslodge offers. We had no prior knowledge of hen keeping and it’s been quite a learning experience. From scale leg to gape, broody hens, chicks and unwanted roosters, we’ve had to learn as we went along how to care for them… and it wasn’t quite as straight forward as we thought! A course at the beginning would have been very useful!

We spent an entertaining hour watching the new girls settle in. Beaks were most certainly put out of joint from our existing hens and Bob couldn’t decide whether to mind his favourite ladies or try to make out with the new ones. Almost as soon as they arrived he headed over, lifted his wing slightly and attempted his sideways shuffle dance prior to jumping them, but the new hens were having none of it. They were much more interested in settling into their new surroundings than letting a randy new beau interrupt their grass pecking! If you’ve never observed chickens scratching around you may be surprised at just how entertaining they can be.

Light Sussex Rooster

“Who’s the Daddy? I’m the Daddy!

As most male of the species are want to do, Bob decided his best course of action was not to get involved in the squabbles between the women folk as pecking orders began to establish in his growing flock. He settled for keeping the peace. Whenever feathers and claws started to fly, he quickly stepped in and broke them up, flapping and clucking and crowing as he attempted to retain some order among his seven clucky hens.

Light Sussex and a Black HenWe’ve never regretted keeping chickens. Yes it can be tricky when we want to head off for a few days or a nuisance when it’s pouring with rain and we have to throw on the wellies and lock them up for the night.  However, you really can’t beat eating a vibrant omelette knowing it’s originated from free range hens that have been fed  scraps from the kitchen window or organic and GM free pellets. Our compost heap has never been better for all the nitrogen rich droppings that are now added to it on a regular basis either. Once they’re all laying we’ll be trying an honesty table outside the front gate for the excess eggs as Margaret has done.

Now we’re happy keeping hens, this year we’re investigating the possibility of rearing pigs for the table and have learnt our lesson in terms of the livestock – we’ll be attending an Old Farm course on pig rearing prior to bring any piglets home!


  • Reply Lorna February 13, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I keep meaning to get hens again esp now that we should have a shed free (was used by goats). Once the calves are all born and we have a free shed. We have a lot of foxes around here and have seen some in the daytime which isn’t terribly promising for free range eggs! I was thinking re the pig rearing course too! I had thought of getting 2 pet lambs from a neighbour and having 2 lambs for the freezer – still might, once this flipping flu shifts! We have a freemartin heifer too to be fattened although I think I’d need a chest freezer for all the meat but I’d love to have to get on with it and cook those cuts of meat that we just don’t tend to do anymore.
    Lovely photos of your hens, they really are pretty ones.

    • Reply greensideupveg February 13, 2013 at 11:09 pm

      Keep waiting for the foxes to get braver Lorna as have seen them here during the day too but I think so far the dogs and the fact the hens are directly behind our kitchen has helped. Ian’s keep to get a couple of sheep too funnily enough, as much to keep the lawn down now the children aren’t playing on it as much as when they were smaller. Really looking forward to the Old Farm course as it’s taken me ages to persuade himself to go for it! Hopefully see you there 🙂

  • Reply Margaret February 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Dee, love this post! Great picture in my mind of you all jumping in to grab your favourite hen! Could the black one be a young Austrolorp?

    I am still in shock that the honesty table has taken off. Don’t have sales every day, but most days. Did have to put an extra notice that ‘eggs and change are in box’…. people didn’t understand!

    Looking forward to having you (and Lorna) along for pig-rearing!!!!

    • Reply greensideupveg February 13, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Thanks Margaret! Haha, they were so easy to catch, no leaping involved 🙂 I’m not great at hen breeds but will have a good look at your suggestion, thanks and really looking forward to coming up for your course and catching up again 🙂

  • Reply Day 1: Our Saddleback pigs arrive from Oldfarm August 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    […] I shared dreams of becoming more self-sufficient in our food. We started with the vegetable garden, followed by the hens for their eggs (still working towards hens for the table) and at last the […]

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