Pippa Greenwood

“The British Hen Welfare Trust is just plain fantastic, I admire you all so much for what you do. So very much! I just wish more people knew about you and what you do. I am possibly about to be branded a BHWT awareness bore, but I cannot help it! In my work, I meet a lot of people with an interest in keeping hens and I never let them get away without the suggestion that they should choose the British Hen Welfare Trust.” 

Pippa Greenwood is a plant pathologist, regular panellist on Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time and former presenter on Gardeners’ World. We thought it might be fun to ask Pippa to describe a dozen of her poultry preferences… she told us about the hens she adopted from the British Hen Welfare Trust…

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

Until we adopted our first hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust, we had only ever known ‘posh’ birds. The whole family has been totally taken by the BHWT hens and I’d never consider buying ‘posh’ hens again – for joie de vivre, enthusiasm, friendliness and pure heart-melting gorgeousness the ex-bat girls win hands down! We have a fantastic gaggle of girls – Beth, Ezzie a large blue grey type with a fancy name and rather haughty personality to match, and Zoe who was given to us by a friend of a friend. Then, about four months ago, we took on eight ex-free range hens from the British Hen Welfare Trust…and were so taken by them that we adopted another eight a month ago, this time ex-caged. Names will come to all in good time.

2. Why the British Hen Welfare Trust?

I think I was nervous of ex-bat hens and that is why it, sadly, has taken us so long to adopt. I’m a rampant vegetarian, brought up by a wonderful mother who, even when I was a child, used to walk miles (we had no car) to a health food shop to buy free range eggs which, in London in the 60’s were not easy to find and were phenomenally expensive…so using them for a family of six was quite an undertaking.

3. Hen names – sensible or silly?

Depends on the hen, doesn’t it?! All our animals develop their own names according to their personalities. With our new girls the names are happened upon by all of us, and they just seem to stick.

4. Keeping hens – Pippa’s passion or the children’s choice?

All four of us love hens, well, pretty well just about all animals actually…except horseflies, house flies and mosquitoes….and out-of-control/biting dogs! The arrival of the BHWT girls in such large numbers is largely down to our son Callum. He prepared so well for the arrival of the first eight, making a large run within the massive existing run, getting boxes etc. ready and then was so moved by how great they were that we started to ‘justify’ adopting some more. We are lucky enough to have lots of space, and already have some good fox-proof potential, so it seemed wrong not to have more. Callum has taken over virtually all of their care now – and supplies many people locally with eggs. The great thing is that he has also wasted no time in explaining to people that our hens were destined for an untimely death before they came to live here, and he provides everyone with all the information they might need to ensure they can make an informed choice when shopping.

5. Hen housing – good wood or plastic fantastic?

Our girls are now putting themselves to bed in one of two houses, one a rather aged posh wooden ark, the other a wooden wendy house with bales of hay for roosting. But Callum has just started converting a larger shed for them all to sleep in.

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

In the old days it was me, then Callum for some extra pocket money, but now he has taken this on, so now I only clean them out if he is away for some reason, or is having a serious homework crisis! I am generally up second, 6am-ish during the week, so I let them out. If I’m away it is usually Callum who does it. In the evenings, mostly Callum, but on occasion Alice or I will do the honours. Whenever we can, they are allowed out of the run, because although it is really big and with plenty of places to go, even trees to fly up into, a bit of field has a lot of appeal too! So we roll out a temporary net ‘fence’ and they go large-area free range. But as foxes are plentiful around here, and as several of the ex-free range girls are fully qualified at vertical take-off, shed climbing, mountaineering and road-running, we only do this when at least one of us is outside…….

7. Your precious garden – hen-free or hen-pecked?

Whatever fencing we use, there are a couple who simply cannot be doing with being fenced in anywhere and will turn up in the house, down the drive and anywhere in the garden. I try to keep them out of the veg-growing areas for much of the year, though they will be invited in soon for a good grub, slug and snail forage once most of the crops are gone; on occasion they get in anyway and excavate the carrot beds or the newly planted raspberry canes….but our garden is a family garden and they are family!

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

Love hens, but I’m afraid I couldn’t face an egg for breakfast! I’m a muesli and fruit woman before midday!

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

Just plain fantastic, I admire you all so much for what you do. So very much. I have to admit that, despite my brilliant upbringing as far as animal welfare is concerned, I was still naïve to some of the things I now know about, and that is thanks to having met the British Hen Welfare Trust people earlier this year. I came home and found out more.

We have also had two really useful chats with the British Hen Welfare Trust helpline and even at just 14 years old, Callum was treated as a caring, thinking adult when he called one day when I was at work. I just wish more people knew about you and what you do, I am possibly about to be branded a British Hen Welfare Trust awareness bore, but I cannot help it ! In my work, I meet a lot of people with an interest in gardens…and nowadays also in hens…and if they talk about wanting hens, they are never let away without the suggestion that they should choose BHWT. The whole family is on the case, but the one with the old trade bike loaded with eggs, photos of our ex-caged girls, and examples of misleading egg-boxes, is particularly hard to ignore!

10. Weekend bake – gooey gateau or cheesy quiche?

I’ve never bought a caged egg. I’m not a great fan of what I call ‘hidden’ eggs! The children and I love cooking and yes, often with eggs – lots of cakes and waffles, and souffles.

11. British farmers – good eggs or bad eggs?

Pass! I support British farmers, but we do try to grow as much of our own veg and fruit as possible.

12. Guilty pleasure – Creme egg or fried egg?

YUCK! Can’t stand either!!

13. Finally, if you could choose any celebrity to pop round one after-noon and do a bit of weeding for you, who would it be and why?!

Probably Alan Titchmarsh, after all, it’d be good to know that he’d know what to weed and what not to weed……and the hens could then go in for the chafer grubs, slugs, snails and leatherjackets that needed removing too!

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