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Throw a HEN PARTY!

PUBLISHED: 16:08 12 September 2012 | UPDATED: 13:53 15 November 2012

Have you ever thought of showing off your hens at a party? Rosie and Clive Coker throw regular parties in their garden in Croydon, south London. Ruth Mansergh, one of their guests, tells the story

"QUICK QUESTIONS FROM BEGINNERS"

How many eggs will me chickens lay? Clive & Rosie: “A healthy chicken can lay five to six eggs a week during summer months and the number of eggs reduces to three or four per week in the winter.” How long will my chickens live? “Our chickens live anything from five to 10 years. Egg-laying started to decline at 3 - 4 years.” How do you keep the hen house clear of mites? Clive & Rosie: ““To prevent mites from starting to take up residence in the hen house, we sprinkle a little Diatomaceous Earth around it. This powdered clay prevents mites from reproducing by disrupting their eggs from hatching.” How do you deter foxes? Clive & Rosie: “You must keep the hens securely locked up at night. Having a radio playing outdoors, tuned to a voice station, deters foxes during the day.” What shall I tell the neighbours? Clive & Rosie: “If you haven’t got chickens, then ask your neighbours first and reassure them that you will not be getting cockerels. If your birds get into a neighbour’s garden, eggs can be part of the apology!”

Rosie and Clive Coker have been spreading the word about the joys of henkeeping by holding regular Hen Parties at their suburban home. And they are much more genteel affairs that the Hen Parties thrown by young ladies before their wedding day!

“We have run these short chicken keeping courses for three years and are surprised that demand for them remains even for most of the year,” said Clive.

“We enjoy passing on tips on how to look after chickens, and meeting new people with similar interests. Hosting Hen Parties gives us that opportunity.

“The part of our course that people enjoy the most is when they hold a chicken, often for the first time. This can be the moment when any sceptics have their doubts overcome, and enthusiasts become committed to keeping chickens.

“Through chicken keeping we have made contact with many new people who share our enjoyment of fresh laid eggs with zero food miles.”

It all started when Rosie, a teacher, wanted to show her students where eggs come from and took some to school to incubate for a science lesson. Rosie and Clive, both 51, then developed a passion for the chicken-keeping at home. They now keep 10 in their back garden of about a quarter of an acre, and say the flock has given them great pleasure.

They have built up a lot of expertise, and wanted to share this with others who might just be starting out. They throw a Hen Party for Beginners every six weeks, and more often in the spring, and teach in a friendly, relaxed way. They also run a ‘hen hotel’ from home, looking after other people’s chickens for a small sum while the owners are on holiday.

Most people find details of Clive and Rosie’s parties on the Omlet website (www.omlet.co.uk) or by word of mouth. The idea is to attract people with broadly the same level of experience in chicken keeping. The fee is £13.60.

I attended a Saturday afternoon hen party with seven other people, and learnt about the joys of keeping chickens as suburban pets and for getting your own eggs.

One partygoer had never kept chickens but had just bought an Eglu coop and wanted advice. Another had just bought chickens for her birthday, while another had travelled all the way from Gravesend in Kent just for the occasion. A fourth had chickens as a child and wanted to take up the hobby again.

The lesson started when we met the friendly chickens in the garden. Then we went indoors for tea and cake and more advice.

There were lots of questions covering a range of issues, such as how many eggs the birds will lay at different times of the year, how long they live, how to protect them from the fox, how to deal with chicken poo, how to feed the birds and how to tell if they are healthy.

The partygoers left full of enthusiasm, with booklets provided by Clive and Rosie. “It was great; they were very helpful,” said one.

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