Caroline Quentin

TV goddess Caroline Quentin is well known for her starring roles in Men Behaving Badly, Jonathan Creek, Kiss Me Kate and Life of Riley, to name but a few. When not acting, Caroline enjoys the good life on a small farm in Devon with her husband, Sam, and children Emily and William.

This interview first appeared in issue 5 of Chicken & Egg magazine and we thought it might be fun to ask a Caroline to describe a dozen of her poultry preferences…

1. Favourite breed – posh bird or ex-bat?

I have about 30 laying hens and 3 cockerels. They include ex-bats and a mixture of breeds including Light Sussex, Wyandotte and I have one remaining Dorking – my favourite breed. When we lived in Suffolk I kept ex-bats and I adopted 15 more ex-bats in March this year from the British Hen Welfare Trust – they have settled in really well and are so friendly, always wanting some fuss.  My Uncle Mike lived in Devon and my family is Cornish but I didn’t take an interest until we moved out to Suffolk and I got 4 battery hens about 14 years ago. It was the battery hens that got me into animals – they are so easy to look after and an easy way in to keeping animals. Now we keep pigs. 200 sheep graze on our land and we took on some lambs in Spring. We also have turkeys at certain times of the year, and have 6 dogs, 6 cats and a tortoise!

2. Naming hens – sensible or silly?

I have named some of my hens… Ralph is my dearly loved cockerel. Yolko was one of my battery hens and my son’s hen is called Yellow Legs.

3. Keeping hens – Caroline’s keenness or the children’s choice?

We had hens before we had children! The ex-battery hens came first! We all really really love our hens – but love their eggs too! We are always saying “Aren’t these eggs delicious?” We are obsessed with our hens and their outlay.

4. Hen housing – good wood or plastic fantastic?

We have a home-built wooden hen house made out of timber. When I first started keeping hens, I had a glamorous posh hexagonal one with a spire! But I’ve got so many now and need proper, utilitarian housing. The hens have a massive, enclosed area with big hen houses. They’re allowed to run about and the dogs know to leave them alone. But it gets very foxy round here in cold weather and then I have to keep them in the enclosure.

5. The weekend coop clean – yours truly or him indoors?

My husband Sam cleans the coop at the weekend and sometimes it’s Antony, who helps us on the 40 acre farm. But the big spring clean and delousing is my job and I occasionally go in there in the week and give it a freshen up. The children don’t do it which is a great shame – so it’s mostly the men!

6. Hens Behaving Badly…?! Is your garden – hen-free or hen-pecked?

The hens like to be out and about but I grow my own veg so I try to keep them out of the vegetable area – with a greater or lesser degree of success! Most of the time they’re up on the hill which is fox-free and chicken wired.

7. Favourite eggy brekkie – full English or dainty egg soldiers..?

That’s a pretty hard question for me because I love eggs and we eat eggs every day in this household. My 9 year old son makes a brilliant omelette and my husband Sam makes his own ice-cream and custard. We all love pancakes and boiled eggs and soldiers. We often eat our own bacon with our own eggs and home grown tomatoes – and feel very proud when we do that! I’m a big scrambled eggs fan. But for me, poached egg on toast is by far the best meal in the world ever! Forget quail’s eggs and caviar – poached egg on toast would be my last meal.

8. The British Hen Welfare Trust — mother hen or cock of the roost?

I think you can probably tell from my answers so far.. I think chickens should be more respected than they are. Thy give us so much – they feed us with eggs, and their bodies sometimes. They clear the garden of slugs. They’re funny to watch, and make great pets – they are all round a fabulous thing! Anyone who has been to a County Show will tell you that the poultry tent is the best tent ever – it’s wonderful to see all the different breeds. I think hens are very important. The British Hen Welfare trust is gold star!

9. Home-made bake – gooey gateau or cheesy quiche?

I do like a cake but I’m not a very good baker. Luckily my husband Sam is a fantastic baker – but to be honest, whatever he cooks with eggs is fab! He makes an amazing recipe where he uses a whole, empty egg shell and puts meringue inside with lemon curd in the middle so when you open it up it looks like a soft boiled egg with the yolk. Meringues are brilliant for using up eggs and Sam also does a lovely chocolate mousse and lemon meringue eggs. I will give you the recipe!

10. British farmers – good eggs or bad eggs?

British farmers and great eggs – the best eggs! I hugely support British farmers. We live in farmland, are surrounded by farmers and are passionate about farming. I’m very proud of our farming traditions and some of our best friends are farmers. It makes me so proud.

11. Guilty pleasure – Creme egg or fried egg?

Fried egg definitely.

12. And finally – we love the coincidence that your husband Sam’s surname is Farmer! Have you always dreamed of living on a farm or did it become a necessity when you married a ‘Farmer’?!

It was after I met Sam that I got the chickens, so maybe in a subconscious way I’m not sure! But I’m always telling people to get chickens – they are so easy!

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