Henrietta is an individual — a hungry, free-thinking chicken who thinks outside of the (egg)box. Every morning she hops into the goats’ paddock, ready to help herself to their breakfast. Chocolate, Squeak, Gloria and Gaynor obligingly share breakfast with their little feathered friend. Then Henrietta follows guests through the gate into the chicken’s paddock to start on the second half of her brekkie.
“We usually have a non-conformist among the hens” elaborates Farmer Tim, “it used to be Doris who stayed overnight in a nest in the trees, rather than join the other hens in the henhouse”
As a child, Farmer Tim had a Red Rhode Island hen who refused to go back into the brood once her chicks had hatched. She hung out with the farm cats instead, stealing their food and following them around.
We have 13 hens at present — a mix of Buff Sussex, Cuckoo Maran, Black Rocks and Cotswold Legbars. One thing I’ve noticed is the flamboyance of chicken breed names. My favourites are Appenzeller Spitzhaubens and Crevecoeurs…not to mention Naked Neckers and Easter Eggers (seriously).
The Cotswold Legbars are recognisable by their Beatle ‘moptop’ hair do and they lay the blue eggs (rumoured to be peppermint flavoured)! The chickens are fed wheat grain, grown on the farm, and children have an opportunity to feed them by hand. Although there is another option, as Farmer Tim describes:
“We noticed that the chickens could be — literally — too peckish for children, alarming them with hard beaks pecking into their hands. Farmer Jenny had the idea to cut down some Lavazza paper coffee cups from the soft play and let the children use these instead.”
The flock put themselves to bed each evening just before dusk so they are safely tucked away from foxes. At twilight, the hen house door closes automatically as Tredethick’s nocturnal wildlife emerges. Badgers snuffle across the alpacas field, foxes and rabbits roam and you can hear the eerie cry of barn and tawny owls. Just after dawn, when the risk of prowling foxes recedes, the door rises automatically (thanks to a clever little German device).
However one hen never puts herself to bed. Buff Sussex, Gwendolyn, chooses to take her chances and sleeps high up in an apple tree, even on the stormiest night.
For many smaller guests (and some parents!), the most amazing thing about chickens is their cleverness in laying exactly the right number of eggs each morning. There’s always precisely the right number for each child to take one home for a teatime dippy egg and soldiers. Sssshhh, the secret of that magic stays between the hens and Farmers Tim and Jenny!
Ashlyn, Mrs Farmer Tim
Posted in Our animals