By Paul Howard
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
A family from Northamptonshire allow their hens into their house. The birds even seem to want to help the children with their homework!
Talk about house trained. The Hawtin family in the village of Eastcote in Northamptonshire pretty much keep open house for their hens. The birds wander in and out as they please – and seem to be particularly interested in the kids’ homework!
As you can see, it is open house for the chickens, they happily wonder in and out of the kitchen, even when Lucy and Elizabeth are trying to do their homework.
Mum, Jayne Hawtin (a farmer’s daughter, who has grown up with animals and hens on her dad’s farm) said: “The chickens have been resident for just over a year. Initially, we started out with Marans, Amber Star, Columbian Blacktail, Light Sussex and Rhode Island Reds.
“Then we got caught by the bug, and were enjoying our new hobby so much that we acquired some more. Our ranks have now swelled to include Welsummer, Bluebelles, Buff Laced Wyndotte, Barnevelder, Copper Black, Gold Laced Orpingtons and Lavender Orpingtons.
“When the children, Lucy and Elizabeth, come home from school (often with their friends, who love to help) the first thing they do is check to see if any eggs have been laid. The eggs taste so delicious and are sold to neighbours and friends. They are becoming very popular and are getting to be quite well known locally as ‘the best eggs that we have ever had’.
“The chickens are very clever and a delight to watch. When we are sitting around our kitchen table having a meal, we are often interrupted by a tap at the window - just one of the chickens letting us know they are there hoping for a tasty treat!
“When we acquire new chickens, this does come with new problems - mainly getting them into a routine and to go into the coop to roost with the other chickens. It doesn’t help having a couple of lazy ones!
“As each day draws to a close, a queue forms on the ramp leading up to the coop door. As the first chicken never seems to want to go straight in, the queue then becomes longer. Just like humans, as the waiting gets longer, the pushing and shoving begins. When it gets to this stage, we take over as ‘the chicken police’ and lay down the law! We begin by picking the odd chicken from the unruly mob and putting them through the door and locking it behind them as though they were a bunch of hooligans!
“Today, one of our first chickens, the Marans, has decided to go broody. This is only the second time we have had a broody hen, and it’s the same one again. She collects eggs that others from the gang have laid and rolls them into her nest. Now, when we collect her eggs, this has become an affair of screeching, puffing up of all her feathers and, of course, a few sharp pecks to the back of the hand as she shows her displeasure at being disturbed.
“It is now decision time. Do we put up with the screeching and pecking until she realises she is going nowhere, or do we buy some fertile eggs for her to sit on? I suppose the other option is to block our ears and never put our hands too close!
“We are considering fertile eggs from either Legbars or Leghorns, as we have no chickens laying blue eggs. Our local breeder is more than happy to oblige with either breed.
“We have purchased Leghorns before, a pair of stunning looking birds who strode majestically around our gardens. Our pair obviously loved their new home so much that they insisted on roosting in the trees every night. At first, we would catch them and put them inside for the night. Yes, we could have clipped their wings, but we feel all our chickens should be able to fly up to the fences and choose whether they would like to scratch around in the woods, gardens or paddock as the free range chickens should.
“All the branches below 6ft were all cut off for added protection. The Legbars never seemed to mind but, alas, our local fox seems able to climb pretty well. If only they had the legs of a Jack Russell, the world would be a far safer place for all the chickens.
“We do see foxes regularly here because we live on the edge of our village and our wood can provide great cover for a hungry stalking fox. Now it is growing season, we are constantly cutting back the vegetation to expose the crafty little devils, and then trying to block off the regular routes they use around our property; it is a constant battle of wits.
“Our best form of defence from the fox is siting the coops next to the pig sty - all that snoring should be enough to ward any off animal.
“To sum things up, since we have had our chickens, life has got a bit busier, but we benefit with plenty of fertiliser for the vegetable plot, the best fresh eggs we have tasted, and the delight of just watching birds scratching around the garden and forging new friendships with them. We would highly recommend anyone that has the inclination to give it a try.”