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. Magic Cochin

    Isn’t it great having eggs in different sizes and colours?! We know just which hen has laid and every egg is a special treat.

    I love the name suggestions (very time I think of one I discover it’s been suggested already). Lucy’s Pencil Case is my fave so far 🙂

    Of course there’s Vanity Case and Watch Case. Spectacle Case and Camera Case.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your new hens – what a lovely way to celebrate spring.


  2. jjt363

    Good idea to build a hen house from a sturdy crate. Last year we were given some double length pallets & my husband constructed a very fine hen house, a small open tool store up by the veg patch (with a corrugated tin roof and a water butt), and he even managed an extension to our new wooden garage to use as a workshop. The garage was a flat pack one & he turned the wooden base it arrived on into an impressive 5 bar gate but it doesn’t do a very good job in keeping the hens in, they limbo underneath every chance they get!!

  3. Not forgetting
    violin case (for the Al Capon) 🙂

    Case in (on) point (of lay)

    Some of you obviously just have too much time on your hands.
    Brilliant suggestions, all.

  4. Lucy @ Smallest Smallholding

    I have not had chickens for almost a year now, and I do miss them like mad. My ex-batties were the life and soul of my smallest smallholding, but I need to give myself (and my bank balance) a bit longer. I get terribly attached to my hens, you see. But boy, do I miss those fresh eggs too. Seriously. People who go for the shop-bought ones – even the free range eggs – are missing a beat! Luckily someone a few doors down has started keeping their own chickens and are selling the eggs from the garden gate. But I hear their hens shouting and I have to almost restrain myself from marching out and bringing home a new flock!

    PS, please please name one of your hens Pencil Case. She could become Penny for short, of course.

  5. What about Tiffany case of James Bond fame. We have 3 chickens born last spring and they have been laying an egg each every day all Winter. Incredible stamina in this cold weather!

  6. There’s an ongoing debate in our house – to have chickens or not when we move to our barn. I desperately want some, but Michael is not so keen, thinking they will tie us to the barn too much. Everyone here keeps poultry so I’m trying to convince him that our neighbours or their children would be happy to hen-sit for us if we wanted to go on holiday. I’m also keen to get some guinea fowl as apparently they are the very best thing to deal with ticks – and we have a big tick problem here. Almost lost Ollie our dog last year to tick fever, and we don’t want to go through that again. Will you be posting some photos of your new gals when they arrive? I do hope so.

  7. Pamela

    What about the Russian Relatives? Incaseov Rain and Fire.

  8. sebbie

    Nipping in before the school run to add fruit case – nut case’s twin!

  9. Pamela

    Lost Case for the one who is a boiled egg short of a picnic.

    Needle Case for the prickly one.

    and my last one for now – Camera Case for the truly flashy chick.

  10. Debbie Lees

    You could always have a Justine seeing as a Justin will be out of the question!

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