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The joy of chicken keeping and my diva hen

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

How I came to be a chicken keeper, my favourite egg recipes and how I made my hen a bit of a celebrity!


Lots of you have asked how on earth I ended up as a devoted hen mother.  I thought I would write this post to explain how it all came about!

Having lived all my life in cities, I never imagined a time when I would keep chickens.  It simply hadn’t occurred to me as an option.

All that changed when I was planning to move back to Northern Ireland from London at the end of 2012.  I was going through a very stressful time in work and was pretty miserable.  I generally am blessed with a sunny disposition, but I truly was very unhappy and my health was being affected.  I decided to write a wish list of things that I would achieve when I finally escaped back to NI.   Getting some work was obviously high on the list but I also wanted to develop the blog and continue to enjoy writing and sharing it. Also on my list was a desire to be a TV/ movie extra and to keep chickens.  To be honest, I never actually thought I would get any chicks, but when my sister said that she would eat her shoe if I did, I just had to!  (By the way, I did get to be an extra too and can be seen in Game of Thrones and a U2 music video).

 I really never imagined how much joy the hens would bring to me.  Eggs every day is a plus but after a tough day at work, just seeing them sprint down the garden to greet me never fails to make me smile.  They all have their own personalities and can be quite vocal when they want something.  I feel enormous pride when they lay an extra big egg and sadly find myself checking the eggs for stray feathers to see which girl has earned a special treat!  They very often just sit on the doorstep, waiting for us to come home or fly up onto the windowsill to see what is cooking in the kitchen.  We have patio doors in our living room and it makes me laugh when they peck on the glass to get our attention.

Making Mabel a star!

Just like any other devoted pet owner, I started to take numerous photos of my girls and post them on the Eating Ideas social media channels.  This amused me no end and I got more and more ambitious with the shots I was taking.  Mabel was the first chick I got, and I will admit to her being my absolute favourite (but don’t tell the others). She suffers the indignity of being my main poster girl, primarily because she is daft enough to let me lift her and pose her in ridiculous situations. 

I posted a picture of Mabel and I watching Great British Bake Off.  I have to stress that Mabel doesn’t actually live in the house with me but it’s great fun pretending that she does.  I shared the picture on social media and the team at “The Great British Bake Off” contacted me to ask if they could use the picture on their spin off show “Great British Bake Off: An Extra slice” I didn’t hesitate to say yes!  I got a fantastic reaction to her TV appearance and quickly posted a picture of her and I watching ourselves on the show.  Imagine my surprise when they contacted me again to ask if they could use the second picture.  I was thrilled.  I did post a picture of Mabel and I watching ourselves, watch ourselves watch Bake Off but I think they had had enough of us.  

Mabel & I watching Great British Bake Off
Mabel & I watching ourselves on Great British Bake Off: An extra slice
Mabel & I watching ourselves, watch outselves watch the programme

Since then she has increased her level of celebrity with an appearance on Channel 4’s “Sunday Brunch”.  She has also appeared in the Belfast Telegraph, the Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council magazine and the Tesco NI website.  She makes regular appearances on the Eating Ideas Facebook page along with Twitter & Instagram.  Our joke at home is that if Mabel could speak, the first thing she would say every morning would be “How many likes Mummy?”

Other hens do feature in pictures on occasion but in my eyes, Mabel is the true star.  The Kim KardashiHEN of the chicken world!

Mabel's second appearance on Great British bake off: an extra slice

Mabel and I in Northern Woman magazine
Mabel and I on Channel 4's Sunday Brunch
Mabel in her jewels now that she is a celebrity
Mabel the diva demanding spa treatments

Some useful information in case you want to start keeping chickens

  • They need somewhere safe to sleep in at night.  The coop you choose will be your most expensive outlay.  Whatever you choose, it will need to have nesting boxes and perches to roost.  You should also think about how easy it will be to clean and how best to collect your eggs.  The floor should have sand or wood shavings.
  • They definitely need an outdoor space.  Mine are entirely free range but at the very least, you will need a run.  Create the biggest run you can as they love their space.
  • Both the coop and the run need to be fox-proofed.  Be very clear, the fox is your enemy.  He will stop at no lengths to get at your girls.  He won’t just kill one to have for dinner, he will kill them all for sport.
  • They will put themselves to bed but it’s best to bolt them in to be sure.
  • They need fresh water every day and drink a lot of it.  I have a few water containers around to ensure that they get enough.
  • They need a balanced diet.  In the past, chickens were fed on scraps, but it really is best to buy feed which has the correct balance of vitamins, nutrients and minerals.  I use Layers Pellets and allow them scraps as a treat.
  • They will also need some grit & oyster shell grit in their diet.  This will help them grind their food and make their shells strong.  You may have heard the expression “As rare as hens’ teeth”, that’s because they don’t have any!
  • A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar is very good for their digestion, and in my opinion, if it’s good enough for Victoria Beckham, it’s good enough for my girls!
  • Hens love bath time.  If they are free-range, they will dig a hole and create their own dust bath. If not, you will need to create one. a wide plastic container with  a mixture of sand and dry soil is ideal.  They flick the soil up through their feathers to clean themselves and remove any mites.  It’s a good idea to add Diatomaceous earth which helps keep them mite free. (add this to their bedding too)

beware if you do get chickens- you will never again take photos of friends and family, the hens will take over!

some recipes for eggs

One of the main benefits of keeping chickens is the constant supply of fresh eggs.  Forget the eggs you buy in the shops, the eggs your girls will lay will be the tastiest you have ever had.  I have pulled together a selection of my favourite egg recipes for you to try.  Just click on the pictures to link to the recipes.

White Chocolate and lemon cake- totally delicious
Courgette based pizza- a great gluten-free alternative
Pavlova Roulade- this has to be the perfect pudding
my posh cheese scones- winner of the Golden Cow Best NI scone competition
Chocolate Profiteroles
Peanut butter and chocolate brownies
Home made jaffa cakes
a simple victoria sandwich
"No chickens were harmed in the making of this post!"
Lynne
Eating Ideas

and in case you didn't believe my claim that i had appeared as an extra in game of thrones and a u2 music video...

me, second from the right on GOT, season 5
me, playing a rioter in the video for "every breaking wave". Even Mary Berry would make a more convincing rioter!

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