Updated: Apr 27
An introduction to the egg laying team
We already had four hens – enough to give us plenty of eggs for our own use with some left over to give to friends. Each hen is different, so we can tell them apart and so their eggs also vary and we know who has laid what. The oldest is called Little Grey Hen and she is now about 3 years old – and had just about given up laying eggs until we introduced some new hens into the team last year. With their arrival she took on a new lease of life and lays about one light brown egg every three days or so.
Last year we bought two hens or pullets (the English name for young hens at “point of lay” (i.e. at the point in their lives when they are old enough to start laying eggs). They are both brown – one a plain brown and the other resembling a Welsummer (another favourite of ours for its temperament and lovely brown eggs). We called them Chicken and Egg – Egg, appropriately enough, started laying eggs first.
Our children came out to stay in the summer and bought us two more as a surprise – these were grey hens. They resemble Marans, a French breed of hen, with one darker than the other so that we could tell them apart. The children called them Dil and Do (don’t ask – nothing to do with me). Sadly Do, who was the light coloured one, was eaten by a predator after about six months but Dil remains with us and lays enormous eggs. She is huge, a bit bossy towards the others and with a tendancy to fly out of their hen run. Little Grey Hen, Chicken, Egg and Dil have brought a lot of fun into our lives but have also created havoc in the garden. The potager and soft fruit gardens are fenced off, so they can’t get in there and the orchard is safe but the ornamental flower garden started to resemble a battle ground. They would rush over to where I was working (or had been recently) and attack the earth as though they were taking part in a gold rush. They threw the soil onto the grass, ate all the worms and - quelle horreur – pulled up anything recently planted. Then, in dry weather – to make matters worse, they would settle down into the soil and create great huge hollows where they had given themselves a dust bath. One of us had to go – me or them.
Happily we reached a compromise and the four working girls, as I call them, are now confined to their hen house and run. They have plenty of space to run around in and we make a point of giving them interesting food to eat and stuff to scratch around in. From time to time – when we are around to watch them – we will let them into the garden for a treat. Most importantly, after a few days of confusion, egg laying is back up to its usual quota, so they must be content.
A birthday treat for me
However – we missed the company of little fluffy friends to talk to as we worked in the garden – and so my birthday present arrived early. We bought our trio, an impulse purchase, at Jardiland near Bergerac where they sell certificated, pure breed hens. We already had a suitable small henhouse (an ark – which is combined house and run) which we brought from the UK years ago and the paraphernalia needed to dispense water and food – plus plenty of straw for bedding, plus the actual food itself, of course. Our trio came home with us in two cardboard boxes – the hens in one and the cockerel in the other. They moved into their new house that evening and immediately all became firm friends.
At 7am the next morning we were woken up by Bertie Buttons (the cockerel) crowing his heart out – he has made himself at home.