Sunday, 13 January 2008

A little eggs-tra effort

Listening to: Another Girl Another Planet (The Only Ones)
Weather: horizontal rain this morning, turning to vertical this afternoon
Birds: knot, oystercatcher, black-backed gull.

I'm not aware that the hens have a television in their shed. If they do it's well hidden.

For those who don't know, British Channel 4 has had a number of shows presented by celebrity chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver this last week highlighting exactly how chicken meat and eggs get onto the supermarket shelves. It hasn't been pretty, but it has caused something of a stir with letters in the papers, an internet campaign and at least one phone-in show on BBC radio.

Can it be any coincidence that our four remaining hens have stubbed the fags out and set to work? We arrived home on Monday to find an egg and have had nine more since - double figures for the week.

We haven't been doing much different, but there's been quite a transformation in the hen house. The girls look healthier, plumper and have been more active. They are noisier and will now go outside in almost all weathers.

As it appears we take most of our farming advice from TV chefs these days, we have put quite a bit of hay in their run and have some more hay knotted at the end of string dangling from the farm's only tree (which cowers for safety behind the hen house) so they have something to peck at. They have a couple of footballs and we're trying to put a couple of ramps up so they can climb into the tree (and presumably get stuck).

We have decided that, once the spring comes around, we will be sectioning off about half an acre for chickens, splitting the paddock in two so one half can rest while the other is grazed.

And the Trainee Pig Farmer is trying to get over his chicken phobia. I've taken to spending some time in the hen house with the birds to give them a chance to get used to me, making sure they know it's me who gives them their food. The next stage will be to actually hold one, but that'll take a while yet.


Ginni Dee said...

Congrats on all the eggs! Wow that's great ..there's nothing like those fresh farm eggs. Not to mention the good feeling of getting something back for all your feed money!

Chef Jamie is on the Food Network here in the USA and I love watching him! His show is so refreshing.

It took me a while to get used to holding a chicken too, I had a fear of them from childhood. They were just fine and it's easier when they get to know you. They don't freak out so much! I made pets out of all my laying hens!


P.S. I love your cement mixer!

dinahmow said...

I have this wonderful vision of your chooks stuck up a tree...and the Fire Brigade being helicoptered out from Inverness!

(At least up in the Islands you should be clear of that rotten bird flu.)

ziggi said...

probably they're about as keen to be held as you are to hold them - so why put all of you through the trauma? If an emergency arises you'll be amazed how you'll cope

or not

hope this helps!

(my chickens loved bacon!)

Dave said...

When you find you're completely egg-bound you may rue the day you started pampering this birds.

Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd said...

Not to take all the credit away from you, but the reason egg production is on the increase is most likely because the days are now lengthening...

Malc said...


Opinion on Mr Oliver is divided over here - his Essex geezer image gets on some people's nerves. I reckon he's OK. His recipes work (which is rare for a celeb chef) and there's no arguing with the two campaigns he's been part of - better school meals and better conditions for chickens.


All leave has been cancelled.


I'd prefer not to handle them, but I ought to check which ones are laying and which aren't - and that involves a certain amount of examination of their nether regions.

Bacon? Really? Heck!


Better too many than none at all.


I had secretly come to that conclusion, but was trying my best to bluff my way through, hoping I'd impress someone. The difference in them has been dramatic and started well before we started what I now think of as the Alton Towers regime.

elizabethm said...

Isn't it great to have your own eggs though? We have three hens and a cockerel and we get about 12 eggs a week. Ours are free range when we are around and can and occasionally do fly up trees if spooked. The bantams fly down. The Welsummer who is a bigger hen needs to be shaken out.
I'm with you on Jamie Oliver - can be irritating but basically knows his stuff and uses his influence for good. I've been thinking and blogging about food more generally, mainly in response to the HFW and JO programmes. Absolute nightmare really.

Anonymous said...

I think I've only seen one Jamie Oliver episode where he makes fabulous scrambled eggs. Can we see photos of your hens in their coop?

Daphne said...

I just watched what must surely be the Biggest Fox in the World amble across our lawn. I think he was on his way to buy a ticket to Westray.

Ginni Dee said...

Malc, Is it okay for me to put a link to your blog on my blog?

I, still, like the views said...

I like Blink-182's version of that song!

very envious of all those eggs - had an interesting conversation with a trainee chicken farmer recently. . .

. . .very interesting

I learnt a lot

you probably know it all already


is it as windy there as it is here? or is that a silly question


Jessica at Bwlchyrhyd said...

Re checking which hens are laying: If you figure out how to do this, let me know! Somebody told me that the thing to do is to put a different colour of food colouring around each hen's vent, and then you can tell by the colours of the eggs which hens are laying, but I always thought that sounded too complicated...

Malc said...


The hens have shown no interest in getting into the tree so far. The food I put there to tempt them merely went to the starlings.


I've been trying to get a decent shot of them, but it's tricky, especially as they are a sort of bluey-grey and blend with the background, but I'll keep trying.


He'll be a bit lonely. No foxes here - that's why there are so many bloody rabbits.


No problem - always flattered when someone does that.


Welcome back.

Haven't heard that version, but will try to track it down.

I bet I don't know it all already. . . far from it.

Just a light, chilly northerly breeze today. It's been mostly quiet, but very wet lately.

homo escapeons said...

I spent a few months working for a Hatchery after high school. I was amazed to discover that there were so many diabolical instruments devised that could have been designed by the Spanish Inquisition. The Rubber Fingers for defeathering and the killing cones for beheading gave me nightmares! CONFESS!

The weirdest item had to be the little red 'sunglasses' that were pinned through the beaks. Apparently they had a calming effect on the Hens that reduced the number of violent attacks on each other caused by cramming 6 of them in a tiny cage.

They swivelled so that they could see the food running down in front of their prison. None of my city slicker friends believed that they were authentic items.

lettuce said...


hahahaha - i'd like to see that.

Anonymous said...

A barnful of david peckhams eh?

HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA! Oh, that made me feel sick...

Virgin Porker said...

Well done on the eggs Malc - looks like your little chickens must've been having meetings 'Chicken Run' style. You didn't actually install that pie maker, did you?

I want to get a couple of hens now. Do you let yours wander around with Eric & Ern? I'm scared that Rock Steady & Tubbs'll eat them.

VP x

Malc said...


Yep, we've heard the colour one and Sal is worryingly keen on the idea. All other ways of telling if a hen is laying sound a bit gynaecological. Let me know if you get any good tips - asking them a straight question doesn't seem to do the trick.


I really hope you are making that up. Sounds like some ghastly sci-fi nightmare.


The rights are being negotiated with SkySports and Setanta. We may fly in a few foreign hens to boost the squad.


Ho ho! Take a deep breath and have a glass of water. All right now?


No, we keep the hens in their own fenced-off run, mainly because of the dogs. The pigs are back in their nice big shed at the moment, partly because of the wind here, but more because our ancient fuse box is creaking and reconnecting the fence would probably plunge the whole island into darkness. We hope to get it up and running again next month in time for the two sows to arrive.