The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Egg laying in our flock of chickens


Photo: French egg cupboard with eggs from our flock

Photo: French egg cupboard with eggs from our flock

Zebedee our youngest hen hatched on May 20th last year. The day that Mrs Squeaky Clean died – super clean heroine of all things white. A Garbo of the chicken world.  We loved Mrs Squeaky and it was a shock when she died.

The arrival of the new chicks salved the grief and Zeb has grown to be a beautiful back hen. Elegant yet happy to scratch in the mud. She been laying sporadically since the middle of January. Her eggs are creamy coloured with a very pointy end. Hope, the little black and white Wynadotte hen has being laying too. Hope was one of a pair of hens that The Chicken Lady and S gave us a couple of Christmases ago. A wonderful surprise present. Hope lays white eggs which are almost all yolk and perfect softly boiled or poached for breakfast.

Today I found two fresh eggs in the nesting box that did not belong to Hope or Zebedee. Bottom row in the egg cupboard – the giant brown egg is definitely one of Carol’s. She will be seven this year. Carol, a standard sized Maran hen, presented us with a large brown egg most days between February and October last year. This egg is twice the size of a normal Carol egg – perhaps it’s a double yoker?

The other egg is from Thumper, one of the ginger hybrids. It doesn’t take long to work out which hen lays which egg as they are all subtly individual. The gingers are heading for their eighth summer. For the first three years they laid very well and this has gradually trailed off to an occasional egg every now and then. They are so old that their feathers have turned from ginger to a soft apricot. They are pets so they will live here for the rest of their lives. An extra egg every now and then is a bonus. Incidentally did you know that a hen’s eggs get bigger the older she is?

Last year I was given a sturdy crate that had housed slate tiles for a kitchen floor. With a bit of planning this can be transformed into a new chicken house. The local builder’s merchant cuts wood to size, so if I do my maths well, it will just be a question of hammering the walls into place, fitting a perch and a making a nesting box. It does need a hinged door and a hinged roof on the nesting box. I can copy these from the existing chicken house. I love this sort of project and enjoy working with wood. Hen houses are expensive in the UK. I can’t wait to be fit enough to start building my own.

Just before Christmas I sold an old leather cartridge case to a friend – apparently these are extremely popular with the shooting brigade. The proceeds have been saved to be invested in some new hens. Needless to say all these hens will share the same surname to celebrate the sale. It could only really be Case. It will be great fun making up the names. I feel a competition stirring!

I’m not sure what breed we will choose. We will probably stick to bantam breeds as the eggs are yolk heavy and they are not often available in the shops. Also bantams take up far less space in the run. The new hen house could comfortably house 6 – 8 bantams but only three Marans.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been keeping chickens for eight years this summer. I can’t wait to get the new flock of six Miss Cases – our chickens are a source of constant fun and pleasure. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen garden where their run is located. Chicken lives are complex and packed with daily dramas.

I don’t know how I’ve managed this but if a fight breaks out I just need to step into the run and it stops, the perpetrators look embarrassed and fizzle away. Perhaps they recognise the daemon hen in me.

  Leave a reply


  1. Jackie

    Have you heard of the Battery hen welfare trust? They rescue battery hens and sell them on for about 50p.

  2. sebbie

    Some more
    the rather sophisticated attache case
    the more serious legal and business case
    the inquisitive curious case
    the good layer egg case
    the studious pencil case
    the show off display case
    and if you dare 😉 best and worst case

    (Oh dear can you tell I have a research proposal to put together and a severe case(!) of procrastination.


  3. sebbie

    If you are having a family you could have the double barrelled grammatical-cases


    Not terribly easy on the tongue though!


  4. Pamela

    Hard Case and Soft Case? In Any Case? Each Case?

  5. jackie

    and of course, the learned Miss Book Case, and WPC Cold Case.

  6. Pamela

    Missing from the list is Suit Case, for the best turned out chick in the flock!

  7. Can’t wait to see your coop. We recently acquired a tile crate, like you, for a chicken coop. I think we’ll wait to work on ours so that we can get some ideas from you.

    best regards,

  8. Oh blow, Jackie, I thought that I would be first with Justin and Basket! But you were miles ahead of me with Brief, Upper and Lower. You have a great future as a . . . . something really good 🙂

  9. jackie

    Oh, there will surely be chief chick, Miss Head Case, and of course the delightfully ditsy Miss Nut Case. Perhaps, with chickens, it would be a step too far to suggest a Miss Basket Case, the connotations might be too painful? The slight but pretty Miss Brief Case? Her ladyship Miss Upper Case? And the subservient Miss Lower Case?

    Could you not consider a cockerel? A cockerel called Justin seems too good a chance to miss. 🙂

  10. Choclette

    Oh how wonderful to get really fresh eggs and how nice to be identify whose egg each one is by it;s shape and colour.

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