Hen-mania Part 2: The chickens arrive!

By Ruth D’Alessandro, The Wildlife Gardener In Henmania Part 1 the Wildlife Gardener told us about her plan to obtain some poultry for her garden, and how she got a ramshackle old ark – but no hens. Read on to see whether her new residents will at last take their places!

Chicken ark before and after

The ark was mended. 20 kgs of chicken feed, 80m of wire netting, and 9 fencing stakes were purchased. Where were the chickens? At last, the local poultry farm had 18-week-old point-of-lay pullets available: “You’d better get here early, luv, we’ve had more enquiries than we have pullets.” I hastily dumped the JWGs at school and roared off to Turner’s Hill to join the queue at the farm gate. 08-reg BMWs with chino-ed ex-bankers lined up alongside travellers’ muddy pickups. A gnarled grandfather puffed on a roll-up as a blonde lady in white trousers tried to keep Blaise and Octavia out of the puddles. All walks of life united by one thing: chickens. I was about fifth in the queue. The gnarly grandpa in front of me said “I wants 20 o’ them pullets” and my heart sank as the farmer replied “I don’t know if we have that many.” Happily they did, and soon an inverted feathery orange bundle, like an armful of Field Marshals’ hats was dragged out of a shed and presented to me. As the pile of feathers was tipped back up again for me to inspect, four pairs of bright hazel eyes peered at me curiously above panting beaks. Like eyes meeting across a crowded room, it was love at first sight. “Hello ladies,” I said, stroking each one under the chin, “are you coming home with me?” “I can see these four are going to be rather spoiled” chuckled the stockman. And they were unceremoniously tipped head-first into a cardboard box marked’Fresh Eggs Every Day’ and put in the boot of the WGmobile. I drove back home along the A22 to a gentle clucking sound and, incongruously, Radio 4 playing the Smiths’ dirge’Meat Is Murder’. When we arrived, I set about filling the feeders with layer’s pellets and water and the nest box with hay. I had been too superstitious to do this before as I was convinced the farm would run out of pullets. But they hadn’t. The Wildlife Garden hens had come home! Welcome, Mrs von Quark, Mademoiselle Pompidelle, Laverne and Imelda. I almost bought a cockerel just because of the name the JWGs had suggested – Sergeant Pompus ” but came to my senses in time. The first thing to do was get the pullets out of the egg box and into the ark. They had fallen asleep in the box and were now utterly terrified of whatever was about to befall them. Frozen with fear, they clung to the box and resisted their new home, and an attempt to pick one up left me with a lacerated hand:

Ruth's poor hand!

Eventually, I shook them into the ark and shut the door. Two alighted on the wooden stairs where they sat, motionless, for 2 hours, while the other two cowered in a corner. Grateful the JWGs were at school and unable to stress them further, I left them to settle in. By the evening, the pullets had started to explore the ark and peck at the grass. One had gone upstairs but couldn’t get down again, and the other three had to be manually put into the roost that night (further lacerations). That was all a couple of weeks ago. I’m pleased to report that the ladies have settled in and become part of the family. They come down in the morning and put themselves up to bed at night (which is more than the JWGs do). Mr WG and I have spent the last couple of weekends constructing a fox-resistant (we hope) run behind the fruit bushes:

Hen palace

The hens can forage, scratch, dust-bathe and flap as much as they like. We can pick them up without being ripped to shreds by razor talons, and they like being stroked and hand-fed:

Sophia and hens

Although we haven’t had an egg yet, and won’t for the next week or so, we all wonder why it has taken us so long to get these most perfect of’companion animals’. There are even medical benefits: I went for a blood pressure check last week (my BP had been rather high in recent months) and it was down to the level it was in 2001 (115/73). Is there anything hens aren’t good for?

Latest posts by The Wildlife Gardener (see all)

4 thoughts on “Hen-mania Part 2: The chickens arrive!

  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you – they certainly seem happy – very friendly, we can pick them up without a struggle and no pounding heartbeats, indeed Mrs von Quark almost dropped off to sleep in my arms the other evening! Yes – they are all laying now, so 4 little eggs a day.

    Reply
  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
    Permalink

    They are going to be such happy hens and I bet by now you have eggs.

    Reply
  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Bill, If you look on the Foresham Ark website in the UK you should get some better pictures to help your DIY project.

    Reply
  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm
    Permalink

    I absolutely love the chicken ark! It looks very portable so one could move it around as they wish. Very nice design, and simple! I will try buiding one for our homestead.

    Thanks.

    Bill;www.wildramblings.com

    Reply

Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.