Jump to content

Chicken keeping of yesteryear

Recommended Posts

Having been here for a little while now, I have been struck by the massive expertise of everyone - and the massive number of things that can go wrong with hens!


I remember my gran (officially the best person in the world) keeping chickens in the back garden.


(incidentally, I now live in what was her house and keep my chickens primarily in exactly the same spot)


The hens lived in a traditional wooden henhouse, probably about 6 x 6 and about 5 ft tall with a run comprised of chicken wire about 3.6ft high held up with random bits of wood. The run was semi-permanent, my uncle would move it about 90 degrees once a year and then back the following year.


In the morning my gran fed the hens 'mash' - but this was nothing like 'our' mash. It was simply s"Ooops, word censored!"s boiled up with some extra potatoes or other bits begged from neighbours etc. Everything from the kitchen (except chicken!) went in the mash bucket throughout the day to be boiled up in the morning


In the afternoon, my treat was to go and throw them some corn and grit, which were kept in two beautiful tea-caddy type tins in the pantry.


Once a year 'a man' would come and clip their wings.


There had been four hens, but two, over the years were snatched by foxes - so as a little child I remember two - known simply as brown hen and speckeldy hen. I was very scared of the latter - a very grumpy and peck-y bird; but I loved to sit and watch them

(would they have been our modern hybrids? This would have been almost 50 years ago)


What's interesting is that then hens were never ill or appeared to suffer any problems; there was no treatments for mites and so forth, they lived on the same ground and the hens lived to about 8 and 12 years

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I lurk on an "old-timers" thread on Backyard Chickens and their basic attitude is that chickens who aren't hardy don't deserve to live... sort of a "survival of the fittest" mentality. They can get pretty vicious making fun of people, especially "town" types, who spend a lot of money treating a chicken as a pet. I'm somewhere in between. I'll treat the hens if I can do it affordably, but I don't think I'd spend big bucks taking one to a vet!


They also claim that hatchery stock is less hardy than chicks bred by experienced individuals who breed for production rather than show. I'm not sure how or where you are supposed to find these people. I guess you have to hang out at chicken swaps and interrogate everyone about the health of a breeder's stock. :think:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

About 40 years ago I had two great aunts who kept 'white' and 'red' chickens each. The one with the red chickens always seemed to have lots of rather scrawny birds in a fenced in area (I suppose you'd call it a WIR) on a sort of small holding and even as a child I used to think their house was rather yucky. I don't know what age they lived to but I'm sure they never went to any vet. The one with the white chickens was a great animal lover and treated her birds as pets. They free ranged in an orchard, and would wander into her kitchen for treats of cabbage leaves. Each morning they would be given a mash like the stuff you mention (I remember the bucket that 'everything' went into and the old pan on the hob that was used for boiling it up). They also had corn at night. Their water container was metal, exactly like some you can get today. They seemed to be very long lived and always made the nicest contented clucking noises. I loved them and I loved her and that's why I now keep chickens. She even had a rescue chicken who had 'fallen off a lorry' and had no feathers on her bum who lived well over a decade.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...