The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Update on our chickens. Past, present and future.

Pekin chicks

Two month old Pekin chicks

In spring 2011 we bought some new standard sized chickens from Cambridge Poultry in Botisham – this is the place to buy good hens locally. Ours are healthy, beautiful hens that lay well and are proving to be a good investment. They provide enough eggs for the two of us with more to spare for friends.

So why did we want more chickens this spring?

These Bottisham hens are a bit like the Stepford Wives. They are sweet natured and don’t display a lot of personality. They are ruled by Queen Zeb – the one remaining chicken from the batch that *Caroline hatched for us back in 2009. Zeb is a feisty leader of the pack and the Stepford wives defer totally to her.

We have two bantams – Hope and Beatyl the diminutive cockerel. Queen Zeb used to hang out with Beatyl until she put on a growth spurt and left him far behind. Hope is out on the edge of the flock – independent and strong willed.

We miss our old bantams. International superstar Mrs Boss and her loathed companion the sparkling Mrs Squeaky Clean. The latter spent so much time preening in the chicken house that The Chivcken Lady’s husband declared.
“I have never, ever seen Mrs Squeaky. Does she really exist?”
Well she was real. You can see her in all her glowing whiteness in back of the largest circle in the cover image on my Facebook page.

Bantams tend not to lay as regularly and consistently as standard hens. With the Stepford Wives diligently producing a good supply of eggs this wouldn’t be a problem for us. We now want companion chickens with strong personalities.

Unfortunately the hatching eggs that we bought on Ebay hung around for over seven days before they were popped under TCL’s broody hen. Hatching eggs, sent by post, need to rest for 24 hours before they are put under a broody hen. After this, with each day that passes the fertility of the hatching eggs decreases quite dramatically.

Out of six eggs one was rotten, three infertile and in the case of the final two the chicks died when trying to hatch out. I must admit we were all gutted. I couldn’t stop thinking about the chicks struggling in vain.

Then I got a message from Sue on Google+. She had five Pekin bantams that she’d happily give me! They hatched at Easter this year. I was thrilled – suddenly we had tenants for the pretty new chicken house and run. Mrs Boss and Mrs Squeaky were Pekin bantams too. Loads of personality to make up for poor performance on the egg laying stakes! I’m collecting the brood in early June and can’t wait to meet Sue and welcome the young chickens to the cottage.

*As well as raising chickens, Caroline makes wonderful jewellery. Well worth checking out!


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  1. alice

    So glad everything worked out! Your stories about Mrs Boss are among my favorites on your site. Yay!

  2. Tanya @ Lovely Greens

    Brilliant! We’re also buying some bantams within the next month and are truly looking forward to having them around. We’ve heard so many good things about Bantams and since we’re only looking for eggs enough for two people they’re just perfect.

    Good luck with your chooks 🙂

  3. Sue Long

    I am so glad you want bantams with personality. I have just been out to put your chicks to bed and like petulant teenagers they are running around with no intention of going to roost. Three of the five eventually made a run for the nursery but the two buff ones were enjoying the game far too much! Not for long though, Reggie the cockerel came clucking down from his roost in the leylandii and gave them a good ticking off. They have now joined him up the tree!! You are going to have so much fun!!

  4. Jane Hewitt

    Also- sorry i forgot to say we now have, against my better judgement 5 Mallard duck eggs in our incubator courtesy of my mother in law who found a duck nesting on them outside her front door. The duck was subsequently chased away by her cat so now we have them! I half want them to hatch and half don’t. We do not have a pond, are surrounded by horrible foxes- against which we are always attempting to protect our chickens- and I am not even sure they lay eggs frequently like chickens do. Does anyone know? Thanks

  5. Jane Hewitt

    We recently incubated 3 welsummer eggs and 3 white sussex. Sadly only one of the six were fertilized. We were lucky that the one that could hatch did hatch sucessfully. She/he is a welsummer and probbaly the prettiest chick I have seen. I felt bad about her being on her own so I had to buy 2 hatched chicks- I could only find white sussex- at £5 each. It was meant to be a cost effective exercise! I have now reached the conclusion that incubating and hatching eggs on a small scale can only be for the pleasure of doing it along with the potential of your own eggs and dare I say it- meat

  6. Anne Wilson

    We have never had much luck with eggs from ebay, of the last six we bought, two were infertile, two addled, so only two hatched, rather expensive chicks at £18 for six plus postage.You can never be sure how old the eggs are before they are posted. If I see a chick struggling to hatch I give a helping hand, I’ve never lost a chick through helping. Katie Thear tells you how to do it in her book on breeding and hatching.

  7. Magic Cochin


    That’s soooo exciting!


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