Well, they’re sort of allotment chickens. Let me explain.
I don’t house my chickens on the allotment, they live in my garden for a couple of reasons. Firstly there really isn’t enough space to keep chickens on my allotment, the site is tiny compared to others with just 33 plots in total which are compact in size compared to standard plot sizes. My garden is plenty big for them to roam around quite happily with someone always at home to keep an eye on them, which takes me on to my second reason – I would worry about them too much! Our site is not secure, just a simple gate which anyone can access, the idea behind this is to allow villagers in to use the community orchard. The site is only 10 years old and I was one of the first tenants, in all that time I believe the allotments have been targeted by vandals just once, my shed at the time was damaged but nothing stolen as is usually the case with allotment crime. However, I really do worry about livestock being left unattended for large amounts of time, particularly in winter.
Even though my chickens are not housed on the allotment they do contribute and are key to keeping my soil healthy. I collect the very best brown compost material which of course is chicken manure mixed with chopped straw. Added to a compost bin this really does help to speed things along, eventually breaking everything down into nitrogen-rich compost/mulch which my brassica love me for. So as promised, let me introduce my little flock of allotment pooping machines (just to be clear my hens are currently on lockdown due to bird flu restrictions, the photos are from previous years).
First up is Tiffany, or ‘Tiff’ as I mostly call her. I got her from a local farm along with two Brahmas as growers, she’s a cross between a Buff Orpington and Gold Partridge Brahma which are two very large breeds.
Tiff is HUGE and very very LOUD! She likes to shout about everything and lets you know when she’s laid an egg, actually she lets the whole village know. I paid just £5 for her and was told there was a slight chance of her being a he (hence the price), feather and comb sexing can still lead to mistakes but I took her anyway. I could get away with having a boy where I live, but I didn’t realise just how loud she was going to be so I’m very pleased she was sexed correctly, I dread to think how loud a male version of Tiff would’ve been!
This black Brahma is Tara, she has the same ‘father’ as Tiff. In the sunshine her feathers have the most beautiful iridescent glow, shades of green, purple and sometimes blue depending on the angle. She’s super friendly, probably the friendliest chicken I have at the moment and is quite happy to be picked up and cuddled. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to cuddle a Brahma you’ll know just how fluffy they are. Brahmas are a large breed with heavily feathered bodies and feet, just like the tiny Bantam breeds which also have feathered feet they don’t do too much damage to lawns but with Brahmas they will flatten anything in their path due to their size. Tara is actually rather quiet, unlike her half sister Tiff.
These two grey hens are hybrid layers which are crosses to create steady egg layers. The Speckledy (the darker of the two) has a lovely pattern to her feathers, bred from a Maran which are similar. Her name is Florrie and she’s a friendly little hen and very greedy, she constantly tries to steal my food and will jump up 3 feet in the air to grab a bit of sandwich from my hand. The lighter grey hen is more of a violet colour hence her name, Violet. She’s very flighty and skittish which makes her very hard to catch if needed, the only way to get her back into the coop at night is to rattle a corn bucket. I have many skills; Allotmenteer by day, Chicken Pied Piper by dusk.
This lovely lady is Edna, she’s a Light Sussex hybrid. A friendly and inquisitive hen she doesn’t lay anymore but is super fun to have around with her nosey and cheeky character.
The hen at the front is Toff. Isn’t she posh! Full sister to Tara, half sister to Tiff. She’s a Gold Partridge Brahma and really is a stunning chicken. Unlike Tara she isn’t too keen on me, she’s very suspicious and watches everything I do from a distance. Oh well, you can’t win them all round.
Toff has the fluffiest chicken pants.
This old lady is Binky. She came to me as a 1 day old chick many years ago along with 3 other chicks, one of which I still have. Both are going on 7 years old which is incredible considering they were bred for a battery farm and not for longevity. Luckily, Binky and her friends never endured that life, which is why two of them are still kicking around. Binky loves to sit on my head if she gets the chance which is usually when I bend down to top the feeders up. She doesn’t mind being handled but human head perching is preferred. She lives with the Brahma-gang, on very cold nights she can be found squished in the middle of probably the fluffiest chickens in the world. She isn’t silly our Binky!
Last up is Phoebe. I took her in with Binky so she’s going on for 7 years old now. How can I describe her….. hmmm that’s a tricky one, I like her but she hasn’t been a particularly nice hen over the years. She had a nasty habit of pecking the vents of other chickens (the area under the tail from which they lay eggs and poop from), the last chicken on the receiving end of Phoebe’s cannibalistic tendencies was Binky so they are no longer housed together.
Phoebe used to go for me like a cockerel would, as she’s grown older she appears to have calmed down but she still pecks me at times. She pecked a vet so hard once she drew blood, she’s not for the faint hearted. Most people would have given up on her by now and I wouldn’t blame them, but I took her in as chick and bonded with her. So, she’s here to stay with her wickedly sharp beak and ninja moves.
Chickens are not the easiest animals to keep at times, if they were I’d have hundreds of them. I’m happy to go into more detail about chicken behaviour and care etc but that’ll be for another time. I have been a chicken keeper for around 15 years, taking in ex battery hens and dumped hens when space allowed. I actually started off with ex battery hens, so you could say I was thrown in at the deep end but I gained so much from the experience.
I’ll leave this post with a favourite photo of mine, it was used in a previous calendar by the British Hen Welfare Trust (BHWT) for Miss October. Proud moment.