Free-range hens with a sea view and freedom to sleep in tree perches at night? Who’d have thought it! Well that’s just what some of the lucky hens at St Mawes Hens in Cornwall enjoy as well as regular dust baths and regular escapes into neighbouring fields.
Run by husband and wife team Rachel and Alastair Weir, St Mawes was established in 2017 with just four chickens and a cockerel, which soon turned into 50 hens. After initially being run as a cottage industry selling eggs at the gate and to friends, St Mawes became fully registered and certified and began selling in shops and supplying the catering trade – it was only at this point that Rachel and Al decided they could no longer name their hens!
The 1,100 hens at St Mawes – made up of mainly Leghorns who lay beautiful white eggs – have eight acres of prime Cornish countryside to roam about on, spread over three sites, one of which includes sea views. The flock even includes one cockerel, who we’re told likes to think he’s a hen and can often be found sitting in the nestboxes looking rather perplexed.
The farm is made up of both Soil Association-certified organic flocks and non-organic birds, though even these live and organic life apart from their feed. Rachel and Al say animal welfare, including allowing hens to go about their natural behaviours, is crucial to them. So crucial in fact, that when not looking for bugs and creating crater-sized dust bathing spots, some rogue hens can be found escaping or hiding their wares among the vegetation. Some even choose to perch in trees at night, which Rachel and Al have allowed as they look very happy on their natural roosts.
So proud are they of their set up that webcams are being installed overlooking both the fields and the sheds at St Mawes – a Big Brother for chickens if you will.
One particularly pleasing part of life at St Mawes is that hens are kept at least twice as long as usual – including some who are in their third year of laying! All of which we bet makes for extra tasty eggs. Speaking of which, Rachel and Al told us their favourite way to enjoy theirs is simply scrambled, with just a knob of butter. Sounds like bliss, for both them and the hens.
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