Talking point: Keeping Chickens….

Have you ever cosidered keeping Chickens? Until recently neither had Mother and Blogger Hayley Goleniowska. After featuring in THE SUN, BELLA Magazine and appearing on ITV’s THIS MORNING discussing how daughter Natty, who has Downs Syndrome, is now making waves modelling children’s clothes, Mum Hayley’s blog DownsSideUp is making it’s own impact.

If you think keeping chickens is a bit eccentric and something you couldn’t see yourself doing then read Hayley’s latest blog and perhaps you might consider it… after all, there is a four-day Jubilee holiday approaching and why not spend the time between waves of the Union Jack flag, feeding chickens?!

BY HAYLEY GOLENIOWSKA

Clucking Mad

If you had told me two weeks ago that I would be sitting on a makeshift bench made out of a plank and 2 tree stumps, singing ‘Daisy, Daisy Give Me Your Answer Do’ to a small flock of birds I would have laughed you out of town.  I am a lady of balanced mind.

Natty, Mia and the chickens

If you had said I would be tickling these birds under the chin whilst feeding them specially cooked spaghetti with chopped garlic and a topping of freshly gathered slugs from the garden, accompanied by a side order of toasted egg shell, ground to a powder in the coffee grinder, I would have said, ‘they’ll get chicken pellets or nowt!’

If you had told me that I would be waiting up late on school nights for them to roost, so I could lock them up safe and sound, (after a head count and a ‘Night night ladies’ of course) I would have firmly told you that they would be made to go to bed when the children do.  Not so, they get their own way.  And worse still, I can often be seen tiptoeing down to their house in my PJs and wellies , torch in hand, as quiet as a mouse so as not to wake them… shhhhh, the ladies are asleep.

Flocking Together

But here’s the thing… keeping chickens has been the most brilliant activity for the whole family.

The shared excitement tinged with nervousness when we went to Nick’s barn to choose them was the best feeling. They then sat surprisingly calmly in boxes in the boot of the car as we took them home to their specially prepared enclosure and swish new recycled plastic house.  We had spent weeks preparing for their arrival, which felt like the run up to Christmas.

The children were bursting to release them and once we did, they happily made themselves at home immediately, ‘the White One’ even produced an egg on the first afternoon.  I bet you could hear us squealing from where you sit!  We then spent the next 2 hours just watching them go about their business, just being hens.

Then came the task of choosing names.  One name for a new cat or dog is fun…but six names at once, well you can really go to town on that. We picked a couple of  ‘henny’ names; Henrietta and Egg, a clever comedy name; Edwina (after a politician with an eggy past), a colour related name; Crystal, one for the hen with the malformed wings; Feathers, and a clucky ‘lady of a certain age with petticoats’ name; Gladys (which happened also to be my Grandmother’s name.)

Everyone can take part with hen husbandry. The children can carry out little  chores such as feeding, putting out fresh water and checking for eggs, with little supervision.  They are hilarious company, chatting away with a variety of noises and they are so entertaining to watch.  A scratch here, a wiggle there, peck, peck, a frenzied fly chase, even their way of drinking is humorous.

Eggsellent Teachers

The experience has also been educational. I have learnt what ‘Mescamphus’ is, that chickens cannot swallow or urinate, and a myraid of terms for bits of their anatomy.

Our youngest daughter Natty, who has a learning disability, has also learnt so many new words and can often be heard fluently chastising a naughty chicken for pecking her wellies.

Folie Bergere

Having owned hens for all of 2 weeks now, I have changed my opinion of how I view them.  No longer housecoat-wearing buxom older women with ample hips, petticoats rustling,  a la Les Dawson.  More a kind of pre-historic Can-Can dancer, with their scaly dinosaur legs emerging from their beautiful fluffy under-feather skirt of the softest down.

With this in mind, I am off to buy two more today, partly so I can name them appropriately.  I’m thinking show girl names this time.

Mad.  But in a nice way.

Do you have a general interest piece you would like to write about for Talking Point? If so we would love to hear from you! Contact us here: Writing for the Magazine.

Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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