Saturday, June 4, 2011


We had made our decision to keep hens.  Now we had to decide where to get them from.  And what types.  Some are better at laying eggs.  Some are better for eating.  And some are okay for both.  We did a little bit of research.  There is a Wairarapa Poultry and Pigeon Club.  I think they used to call themselves the Poultry and Pigeon Fanciers Club.  They dropped the “fanciers”.  Good move I thought.

Well, we attended a few chicken shows.  All a bit bewildering really.  There were big ones.  Little ones.  Coloured ones.  Brown ones.  The only things they all seemed to have in common were sharp beaks, beady eyes and scaly clawed feet.  Do we really want to go ahead with this?

There is a guy up the road who runs a battery hen farm.  He has a sign outside his gate that says “fresh eggs”.  He also has a sign that says “dressed poultry”.  The kids think this is like fancy dress.  I know different.  I think.

The thing about hens is that they have a life cycle.  This guy makes his money from the eggs they produce.  Hens have a productive window in which you make more money from their eggs than it costs you to feed them.  As they get older their egg production drops off.  This is when I think they transition from the “fresh eggs” banner to the “dressed poultry” banner.

I turned up with a couple of cardboard boxes.  We walked into one end of this huge barn.  He has certainly done this before.  He reached in to seemingly random cages and grabbed birds by their feet.  There was a whole lot of squawking and flapping.  He held each bird upside down so it couldn’t reach up and peck him.  Put each one in one of my cardboard boxes.

They weren’t very expensive.  I think it was $5 each.  I might have haggled him down and ended up with 6 birds for $25.  Not sure.

We got our new girls home and shut them up in the coop for a few days so they would know where their new home was.  Then we opened the door and let them out one morning.  Hens have an amazing genetic memory.  These girls had never seen sky before.  Never felt the ground under their scaly clawed feet.  Within minutes they were scratching and pecking the ground and having dust paths like professionals.

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