The British Hen Welfare Trust— mother hen or cock of the roost?
I would like all animals to have a decent life. I love the fact that although
these birds have had a nightmare factory-farming period, at the end of it
they are in a lovely environment with people who make a fuss of them.
They have a happy ending.
It is very touching to receive the poor, bald, yellow-combed battery hens
and see them change into confident, curious, luxuriantly-feathered and
highly productive girls-about-the-place.
British farmers – good eggs or bad eggs?
Good eggs of course. And if I was feeding my family on a budget I would
be first in the queue to buy battery eggs. I wouldn’t like it, but the family
would have to come first.
Guilty pleasure - Creme egg or fried egg?
A bit of both really. I like scrambled eggs on toast and I also make crème
caramel which is good for using up a surplus and is a nice, cold, refreshing
Free range fanatic or free for all?
I always ask if the eggs are free-range and I find most hotels and
restaurants are keen to state if their eggs are free range anyway. I wouldn’t
knowingly eat battery eggs if I could afford to buy free range.
What would be your top tip for someone considering keeping their own
Protect your hens. Invest in a decent house. The design of some
henhouses is awful and impossible to clean. Imagine yourself on a rainy
day faced with cleaning out the dirty bedding. Are there awkward little
steps and stages? Or can you get a clean sweep. I like slide-out panels
under the perches, you can just take them out and scrape the old bedding
into a wheelbarrow for the compost heap. Look for a cosy house that
closes up securely and keeps the fox out. Get one with dark, private
nestboxes where your hens will want to lay. Feed your hens properly. (I
knew a hotelier who just flung his hens buckets of bread.) Give them a few
treats, pulled-up Brussels sprouts plants from the vegetable garden, a
corn-on-the-cob or two. Enjoy the fact that you’ve done a kind, humane
thing by taking them on and giving them a better life.
And finally – You are renowned for your humorous poetry and observa-
tions of life. What do your hens get up to that makes you laugh?
I love to see them having a dust-bath, fluffing up their feathers with one leg
stuck out in abandon and the head thrown ecstatically backwards amid
clouds of choking dust. Nobody could see them and not smile.