Duchess of Richmond
“I have taken two small groups of battery hens from the Trust and have thoroughly enjoyed watching them blossom into confident and precocious characters. For me, the BHWT does a fantastic job – they don’t confront or judge, they just encourage and promote their work through positive means. These unassuming birds burst into life once they are given the opportunity; their individual personalities are captivating and can become great time wasters! Please support this positive and well founded charity.”
For the Jubilee edition of Chicken & Egg in the summer of 2012, we interviewed The Duchess of Richmond who resides at Goodwood Park in Sussex. She comes from a family of devoted hen-keepers.
1. Who reigns supreme – posh birds or paupers?
I don’t have any ‘posh birds’ any more, I only keep ex-battery hens now. I have six which all came from the British Hen Welfare Trust. The exbats have so much personality – they are bossier too! And it’s very funny watching them chasing the cock pheasants.
2. Hen housing – princess’s palace or maid’s maisonette?
It’s something in between the two – I would describe it as ‘Country Manor!’
3. Your hen-keeping approach: monarchy or anarchy?
We have a Bantam cockerel – but the chickens sort him out – he’s a little frightened of them, so it’s definitely the chickens who rule the roost at Goodwood!
4. Your favourite eggy brekkie – fit for a King or a dainty princess?
I like a light breakfast, so if I had to choose, it would be a boiled egg. But I like scrambled egg for lunch!
5. Free range arrangements: freedom of the realm or in the tower?
The chickens have a big run in the garden; I daren’t let them out because of the foxes. But they have masses of space, a marvelous run which has a good amount of sun, plenty of shade from the trees and a laurel bush they like to shelter in from the rain!
6. The British Hen Welfare Trust— mother hen or cock of the roost?
The British Hen Welfare Trust is definitely cock of the roost! I think battery cages are cruel and that’s got to be dealt with. I also think that free range eggs are healthier and more nutritious – you’ve only got to look at the yolks to see that. Yes, the charity’s work is absolutely essential.
7. Hen feed: crumbs from the table or, as Marie Antoinette said, ‘let them eat cake’?
I give them ex-bat crumb, a little corn, bran mixed with hot water which they like better wet than dry, pellets and a little bread for a treat, but not too much. As a child growing up in Scotland, my Mother used to make the bran in a pot on the range and mash it – that smell of hot chicken food takes me straight back to being an eight year old girl again – it is so reminiscent of my childhood. I think keeping chickens must be in my genes – my Grandmother and my Aunts all kept them and one of my earliest memories is feeding chickens with my Grandmother.
8. Best royal hen name?
We have one called ‘Matriarch’ – as her name suggests, she is sovereign!
9. Guilty pleasure – Creme egg or fried egg?
My Mother used to make ‘creamed egg’ – which is better than either – egg and cream served in a little pot – quite delicious!
10. Bunting in the hen-house – patriotic or idiotic?
Oh yes, definitely with the Jubilee, it has to be patriotic!
11. British Farmers – for the crown or to the tower?
Well I would have to send the battery farmers to the tower… and the free-rangers for the crown!
12. Bird’s-eye view at Goodwood?
The Goodwood hens have a beautiful cherry blossom tree, rose beds and a beautiful view of the valley, dotted with sheep. They are VERY lucky hens!
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