The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Watching chickens

ginger hen“If I have to return I’d like to come back as one of Fiona’s chickens.”

I overheard this at a summer party when I was topping up people’s wine. I was delighted. The chickens were relatively new back then. The run was filled with a good two inches of gravel, the immaculate accommodation comprised of a pretty hen house and the Ken Doherty day centre.

Our flock of seven live an enclosure (30 x 6 feet). A gated community. Until we stop keeping Min Pins, this is the status quo chicken wise. If I came back as a chicken I’d prefer to be free range. On a bad day I fret about our chickens and their freedom, which is silly as I know that they are happy chucks.

I spent a few days last week gardening in the vicinity of our chicken run. They are companionable creatures. Yes, there is a bit of gentle bullying but not enough to intervene dramatically. It’s acknowledged and acted upon by throwing some treats into the hens in the cheaper seats. You can’t take out an ASBO against a dominant chicken, although if the problem is causing distress it’s good to have enough space to isolate a chicken. Luckily we have enough space in the run for a hen pecked chicken to escape and lie in the sun.

Getting to the stage where each member of the flock is happy, from the top to the bottom of the pecking order, feels good to me. We are gliding there right now. So many additional factors can throw this happy mean out of kilter at the drop of a feed scoop. Changeable weather, a hen going broody or the drama of introducing new fowl.

In just over a week’s time we will have a clutch of teeny ducklings hatching in a luxuriant nest within the Emerald Castle. This will affect the equilibrium of the flock. Whilst Mrs Boss tussles with the complexities of raising her brood the rest of our flock will be bystanders outside the event, for a few weeks. Unlike the hordes that couldn’t get a ticket for Glastonbury, our birds will be able to watch the ducklings through the wire. And they will do. They might not have all the soduko playing genes that make us tick but they have fun and react to anything that is going on…

I know which ones will be in the front row for the Emerald Castle floor show. Cloud and Thunder. They always closely watch any Emerald Castle activity. After all, it was where they hatched last year. Sometimes I have seen them gently check the door into the castle grounds. They move their beaks within the gap between the door and the frame. They give up eventually but if they spot Mrs Boss taking the air in the castle grounds they flutter down, intrigued as she scratches for treats.

Keeping a few chickens is good for your health. When I step out over the back doorstep and head down the garden, I am buoyant. As I open the feed bin, I can hear Carol’s heavy chicken steps as she charges up the run. When I pass the end of the rose border I am greeted by the motley crew. They are totally distracted by a large handful of wild bird seed.

I can change their water, top up their food and collect their eggs before they even look up to survey the Min Pin audience watching them.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Wendy

    I’m looking forward to the arrival of the ducklings too!

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Yes, you are right, chickens do keep you in touch with the seasons.

    Hi Chicken Lady

    What a palaver! Hope the chickens have settle by now.

    Hi Pamela

    Your nephew and niece sound great fun. Hope that they get a guinea pig soon. They sell them in the local pet shop and they are £16.00 each!

    Hi Tania

    I think that I’ll be Granny Huck…

    Hi Pat

    The ducklings will live in the run with Mrs Boss well away from the ponds. Yes you are right, chickens can’t swim.

    They are only staying with us for the summer and then they will go to live on the stud with a big gang of Indian Runners.

    Hi Sara

    That’s great news. Good luck with Hatty and the eggs.

    I do love my guinea fowl. They interact quite a lot with the hens.

  2. farmingfriends

    I can’t wait to see your ducklings when they hatch. I too love chicken watching. I have decided to follow in your footsteps and am getting hatty the hen some eggs to hatch like Mrs Boss, so thanks for the inspiration Mrs Boss.
    It must be interesting to see the interaction of the guinea fowl with your other chickens.
    Sara from farmingfriends

  3. Fiona, while reading a thought occured to me. What will happen when the ducklings take to water??? Will Mrs. Boss worry about them? Or go in after them? I don’t think Chickens can swim can they?

  4. Tania

    I’ve been trying to work it out. When the ducklings arrive will that make you a Granny Hen or Granny Duck? Or a Granny Den/Granny Huck?

  5. Pamela

    Hi Fiona

    Can’t wait to see the new ducklings. I looked up the breed and thought they looked hilarious. I love ducks and think if I were keeping birds I would have to have a mix of hens and ducks. My little sister was offered some guinea pigs recently and was discussing how to keep them safe from the foxes when the builder happened to mention that you just used the same technique as you would use for hens. At this point two little heads (my nephew and niece aged 4 and 8 respectively) popped up and went “Hens! We could have hens!” and disappeared inside to inspect the state of their finances. To date they have neither hens nor guinea pigs.

  6. The Chicken Lady.

    chickens can be theraputic although this week i have found them everything but.We introduced some new birds to our old girls and they were not best pleased.We are having to keep them penned in at the moment as our local fox has cubs and she is active during the day.I spent most of yesterday catching new birds who thought our field with residant fox was a safer bet than our chicken run with disgruntled old hens!!

  7. magic cochin

    Watching chickens should be a recognised therapy! Our ‘under-gardeners’ are calming and entertaining; they keep us in tune with the seasons (bed time is about half an hour before sunset) and keeping an orderly stress free pattern to their lives gives our days an order and awareness of the seasons too. And they reward us with the most delicious eggs we’ve ever tasted. They’re worth their weight in gold!!!!


  8. Wendy

    Love it, Love it! Wish I could come and watch them all! Can’t wait to hear news of the new brood of ducklings when they arrive.

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