poultry label ‘Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.’

Frank Lloyd Wright

Gubbeen Poultry by Giana Ferguson

The good farm hen is a great double act - they give you eggs and also they can be fattened for the pot. For most poultry lovers though there is a third case for the keeping of hens - they are beautiful and they are really interesting, kind and manageable pets.

We have always reared free range layers here in the orchard; mostly they are the hybrids that give us great numbers of eggs for the Country Markets, we keep them for years and don't slaughter once the two year maximum yields start to slow down, as they are free range they are not too expensive on the feed bills to keep.

There have been lots of breeds here over the years Houdans, Pekin, Sussex and Cochin, and many more besides, but we always have Brahmas, the Gentle Giants.

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It has been a project of the last few years that we now have some perfect Partridge Brahmas, crossed from the Gold Cockerels with Grey hens, lovely large, soft feathered, calm birds.

Fox and mink take their toll so we now have fences, electric defences and some of the best cages both made here and bought in from the Omlet Company, although the hens will always prefer the bales and the shed life - laying in the loose straw and competing with the piglets and doves. We are a GM free feed farm and all the animals and poultry, get special nuts with no Soya or Maize from US sources.

Hatching your own eggs can be the answer to re-stocking. If you are not too worried about pure lines or hybrid egg production, this is a wonderful project with children and with time you will rear your own lines.

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Isolating the right hens with the best cocks is rather a strict regime during the spring but if done correctly will give you the pairings and chicks that can be superb for showing or selling.

You will, though, have to be good at managing the 50/50% male to female ratio!

There is no way around it - you will need to learn how to pull a neck now and then – pluck and gut the males for your table, the final dish then is about as good as it can get if the bird has been reared and fattened around your garden or yard.

We sometimes have eggs available for sale at the Farmers' Markets that we attend regularly. For details, please go to our Where to Buy page.

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S5 Box