A year on

This week, we will have been keeping chickens for one year. Although to some this won’t seem like a momentous occasion, we have learned a great deal and have had such a lovely time with our little friends that we will certainly be celebrating this small anniversary. Our chickens have become a huge part of our lives so that now it would feel strange not to have them with us.

A year ago, we agreed that as we had a nice big garden, and had both wanted to keep chickens for a while, we should go ahead and get them. We worked hard to level the garden and planted grass seed in preparation for when the chickens were grown and would need lots of space for frolicking.

Around the same time my parents were getting a new shed so we gratefully took their old one away…re-assmbled it in our garden, gave it a lick of paint and a chicken shed was born!

After some research, we decided to buy our chickens from nearby Home Farm in Overton. This place is really idyllic; ducks, geese, chickens and pigs live happily side-by-side, with lots of space to play and run around in. I truly felt that the animals on the farm were living decent lives and being treated extremely well, and the owners were delightfully welcoming and helpful.

We explained that we were after three hens and a cockerel and the lovely farmer helped us pick out a Black Rock, a Rhode Island Red and two bantam silver-pencilled Wyandottes (one of which was the cockerel). They were all around eight weeks old so small enough to travel together in a box! Then they were introduced to their new home…

That ramp took a bit of negotiating!

It took us a bit of time but we finally agreed on names…

Queenie the Rhode Island Red and Verena the Black Rock.

Homie the bantam cockerel…

…and little Pearl, the smallest of them all.

The chickens’ first run was only small, as they themselves were tiny, and we wanted to make sure they were safe from the neighbours’ cats. We used chicken wire, bits of wood and bricks to make a small standing attached to the shed…

The photo above demonstrates what a chicken looks like when it has heard a train. Living right next to a railway, the chickens had to get used to hearing noisy trains thundering up and down the tracks, and for a while there was a lot of running around and hiding in the shed. But they got used to their new surroundings pretty quickly, and began to show us their funny personalities…

Here are Verena and Queenie doing what they do best: being nosey.

Pearl and Homie; flightly and cautious, and much less likely to be eaten by a fox!

We spent a lot of time with the chickens during the first few months, getting to know them and letting them get used to us. I realised just how funny, silly and incredibly cute chickens could be.

They lived in the small run happily for about three months, when a bout of feather-pecking made us realise they were growing fast and needed more space. Happily our big bare garden had, over the summer, become a lawn!

We quickly installed a high chicken wire fence along the garden next to the shed, and added chicken wire all the way around the garden. Then we released them into their new plot of land…

Needless to say, they loved it. Grass! Lots and lots of delicious new grass, which they loved scratching around in for grubs, and digging holes in to take dust baths. They also very much enjoyed the peas and beans we had recently planted around the edge of the garden. Hmph!

As Autumn approached they began to grow from young chicks to proper grown-up chickens, and we learned that they loved pasta, cucumber, mashed potato, blackberries and damsons…

Then, in around October, Queenie started laying! A month later, Pearl joined in, although her eggs were a lot smaller.

Throughout the Autumn and Winter, we continued to spend time in the garden with the chickens. This was easy with all the space they had, and they would often “help” me to collect eggs and clear out their nest boxes…

Then, without us really noticing, it became apparent that Homie had grown into a beautiful cockerel!

As cockerels go, he’s not very authoritative – probably because he is a bantam and has two large chickens to contend with in Queenie and Verena. But he does his best, and I love to see him gallantly clucking for the others to come over when he finds something delicious to eat. What a little gentleman!

In the Spring, Verena joined in the egg party, and began to lay green eggs! Here they are altogether, with a Lego man for scale…

The next development came a couple of months ago, when we decided to give the chickens a little bit more room again, and different things to jump onto and explore. Although they love grass, we felt that they should have more space to investigate; trees, rocks and branches. So we sectioned off a further part of the garden with chicken wire and let them in…

At one point we thought we’d lost Verena, but we eventually found her nesting in the privet!

We began to find eggs not only in the nest boxes, but also dotted around in the undergrowth. The chickens certainly settled into this part of the garden very quickly, which we think means they like it there.

And that brings us up to now. Chickens are certainly a challenge; we are currently negotiating with a broody hen and trying to ensure that Queenie doesn’t eat all the food. We have to keep an eye out for the neighbours’ cats and have fashioned a homemade water-squirter. But the benefits of keeping chickens far outweigh any negative points. We currently have eggs every day, and are eating a lot of cake and omelettes. They are incredibly funny, and excellent company. There is nothing better on a sunny day than taking a chair into the garden and relaxing with them. They even have a little friend, who we often see hanging out with them of an afternoon…

We are planning to get more chickens in future, and thinking about hatching some of Pearl’s eggs into tiny little grey-and-white bantams. I am very grateful that we have the space and time to keep them. If you have that, too, I highly recommend getting some. You’ll be surprised at how attached you become. They may even be your new best friends.

5 thoughts on “A year on

  1. Homie has grown so big! and Pearl’s feathers are such a lovely pattern. Mr Rabbit needs a name, (even if he is a fleeting visitor) Really enjoyed reading x

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