Yesterday our three oldest children were back at Secondary school, but the three youngest did not go back to Primary school until today, so yesterday with the three youngest, I set off in the car on a chicken hunt.
When I say, "Chicken hunt" I mean I had rung someone who had some chicken advertised in our local paper and went off to see and buy some to recoup the chicken coop. Just over two years ago, we bought six point-of-lay hens and we now had just the one left Rose.
Rose is a hybrid called a White Ranger, known as the credit crunch hen due to being small, hardy and lay well and lay big eggs compared to the size of them. Rose has laid well for two years which is very good and around a month ago after her last two mates pegged it, she went off lay. She is looking very well and I suspect she will return to lay again in the not to distant future. My son, Bert as noted she has got a bit plumper since she went off lay and I told him, "Now's the time to eat her. Nothing better than an old laying hen, when you boil them first and then roast them. You won't get a taster chicken." My son won't have any of it though, but I jokingly said, "Maybe the children need a trip to the beach."
A trip to the beach when I was a child and we had fattened tame lambs normally meant on our return, the lambs had disappeared, but the deep freezer was burgeoning with meat. With my parents having milk doorstep delivery business, each Christmas and Easter we reared and killed for the table chickens, turkeys and ducks, sold to customers on the milk rounds. When we were very young, we got farmed out to a friend's farm for a couple days whilst the slaughter was done, but as we got older and strong enough to pluck them, we would then take up our seat amongst the rest of the family and friends who came and helped do the plucking, being paid with a couple brace of poultry each for their help. Rose though is around to stay and our children don't have to worry if we take them to the beach, that on their return Rose will of disappeared.
Yesterday we brought home six hens. Four are Goldline hens which the young lad I got them from, buys from a commercial unit. They chuck them out of commercial units around 12 to 18 months as they go off lay. The commercial free range unit these chicken were on advertise locally to sell off some before they are all shipped of to go in the food chain. I have been up to the unit years ago and got myself some hens for a £1 a hen and they went on to lay well for another couple years once they come back into lay. This young lad has been a bit entrepreneurial and bought a load, reared them on a bit and is selling them for £5 a hen . I asked him what they were like when he got them and he told me, "They did not have any feathers on their backs." This is because although they kept them free range, they are kept in such big flocks, hen pecking occurs. When I got some from the same place, the hens had no feathers on their backs or their bottoms and most had a lot of feathers missing up their necks. The Goldline hybrids are what most big commercial set ups use, as these chicken are phenomenal layers. In the photos of the Goldlines you can see that they are just growing their feathers back.
The other two are hybrids at point-of-lay. The blackish one is a Maran Cuivree and the whitish one is a Sussex Ranger. You will notice they are in a lot better condition, as these are the young lad's own chickens he has bred and I paid him £15 each for them and this morning I have two eggs, which looking at their crests and the colouring of the eggs come from these two girls.
Rose has now been on her own for at least a month and has inevitably with the children has become more of a pet chicken than a laying hen. With the arrival of some more chicken I had to be a little careful with introducing them to each other. I was worried Rose might get beat up, but as the video shows, I did not need to worry about Rose being beat up.
Chicken are funny things and a couple of them take a seemingly disliking to another chicken, even if they are free ranging in a good space, they can still kill each other. Often they can pick on one that is a bit off colour or a new chicken in amongst them. Chickens can be and are very cannibalistic.
Thankfully, other than a couple frame ups, as you see in the video they all seem to be getting along okay and are settling in well, with two eggs laid this morning in the hen house.
Going back to my childhood when we reared chicken for the table. Each year we would always end up with a couple chicken being reared totally free range. These were chicken that just kept escaping and you give up keeping them in or chicken that had been picked on, so had been removed from the main flock for their own safety. One year we ended up with two cock birds out and about the farm. One cockerel was a proper old friendly chap, but the other was not so friendly. My mother at the time had a broody hen, who had reared some chicks. This not so friendly cockerel killed two of her chicks and then a couple days latter, I was running around playing with my siblings with a water pistol and this cockerel approached me and I took aim and squirted him with my pistol and he then attacked me. I had shorts on and he scratched me all the way down my legs. I ran for my life to the house and my mother asked me how I had injured my legs and I told her. A couple days later was Sunday and that Sunday we eat Roast Cockerel.
The photo shows me at around the age of three in my early water pistol shooting days. As you can see from the pose I was a demure little thing. Lol
The other cockerel though lived on for several more years being alleviated to pet status. He though has a funny story attached to him.
When we moved home to Trayne Farm it had not been lived in for twenty years, so for the first couple years doing it up, we lived in part of the old cob Devon longhouse and also a large mobile home.
In the summer time the chicken free ranging around the farm, would shade under the mobile home and dust bath themselves. My brother Peter had an air rifle and at the time he found it funny, to watch the chicken dust bathing themselves from a window upstairs in the farmhouse and then he would take aim at a chickens bum, at the range he was, it would just give them a quick ping on the backside. It was funny to watch them jump up making much noise and look around trying to figure out where the ping had come from. Now the inevitable happened eventually, Peter took aim at the old cockerel and misaimed hitting the cockerel in the head. Old cockerel dropped down like a lead weight.
Panic set in and my brother me and two other older sisters, run down to where the cockerel lay (what we thought) dead. Peter thinking on his feet grabbed a shovel as we approached the cockerel, because if Mum found the old boy dead, someone was going to find it hard sitting down for a day or two. I suppose Peter hoped he could bury the old boy and mum might not notice him, not about the place and if she did with no body around she may consider he had been taken by a fox, but to are surprise as we stood staring at his seemingly lifeless body, he then moved, got up shock his head and started to walk off with an air rifle pellet embedded in beside his eye. Mum did see the pellet and thankfully saw the funny side of it and the old cockerel lived a couple more years happily with an air rifle pellet stuck in his head and my brother never took aim at another chicken.
“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you,but he will make a fool of himself, too.”
― Samuel Butler
Me (Jane) with Bumble and Blottie, waiting patiently to be unleashed, November 2018
Hello, I am Jane!