Hens…Raising Happy Girls!

The Bealtaine Girls…a bit like the Bluebell Girls, except they don’t dance!

I love hens.

They are social creatures.

Bealtaine Permaculture

They are inquisitive by nature and become very tame when treated well.

I have kept hens for years, even when I lived in London, I kept hens in my garden in Muswell Hill.

So, hens are familiar to me and have taught me a lot about what makes them happy!

Hens love to scratch and peck…fresh straw is great for this as they peck all the seeds left on the stalks.

Food is easy…lots of greens.

You can pick a few weeds every day and give to the hens, fresh is best.

Bealtaine Cottage permaculture hens

Lots of starchy food leftovers is good for them as it provides a balanced diet.

I supplement with rolled barley, which they love!

If the girls can roam freely then this is good for all.

Bealtaine Cottage

Mine get out for a good long roam-about when I’m working in the upper gardens.

This is because the handsome old fox lives on the hill above the cottage!

Say no more!

Hens love the berries of the Ribes, which stay on the bushes over the winter.

I have watched the girls jump up high to eat these from the bush on winter days.

Blackcurrant Cordial Bealtaine Cottage 015

Here they are scoffing the remains of blackcurrants from wine-making.

Hens are great foragers and will happily troop off on a good old forage through the bushes and woodland, emerging hours later at some unexpected point!

The henhouse is very spacious, with two floors and a long perch…and, you’ve probably noticed, very light too.

This is because it has a perspex roof, so all the sunshine and moonlight can brighten the inside.

In this way, the hens continue to lay eggs all year round as the light induces this process.

I built this on site and positioned the roof on a slope towards the south to catch as much sun and warmth as possible.

Trees are planted around it for maximum shelter, especially from the wind.

It works!

The hens even laid eggs on Christmas day.

Bealtaine in June 2011 046

Hens will lay for years and live for over 7 years and more.


  1. Another wonderful post! I swear I saw a question about broody hens here earlier and went looking for my other favorite bloggers’ answer to the problem… Here’s her post on the subject: http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/whats-a-broody-chicken-and-how-to-stop-it/ Colette, I think you and she have a lot in common.

    I miss having chickens. Always kept Buff Orpingtons because I loved their dispositions and they were a heavier bodied bird. Good for layers in central Alaska year round with just a little added heat and light. But being alone now, it just doesn’t make sense for me to keep them when I can buy fresh eggs from neighbors.

    Lovely to see yours looking so happy.

  2. Thank you so much for showing your flock and the coop! Love the idea of the light coming in from the ceiling! Some greenhouses are now having their chickens inside in a separate area from the “produce” section. Great way to be near any bugs and clippings for feeding, too.

  3. Dear Collette, I love your blog and I often learn something new here. I thought hens just cannot lay eggs all year around and it is really interesting to learn that light has something to do with it. Most chicken houses are dark places with no light in it. I will tell about your ideas to my family and we will (hopefully 🙂 soon have a new light and friendly house for our hens :). Warm regards, Bojca

    • This is why all the Egg Production Factories are lit on a 24 hour basis…forcing the hens to lay continuously. Hens live light, natural light, including moonlight!
      Blessings x

  4. Oh it is true about the light, they needs lots of light for the eggs, half of mine are locked up for a week as they have discovered the grapevines and are eating the grapes we will be making into wine this weekend!! the other half are the barn flock and they do not have a door so i hope they behave! I would not be without them.. like you I have had chooks in all kinds of places. I just love those eggs! c

  5. I love my hens, too, The Girls of Cairnwood Cottage 🙂 I used to let them forage freely all day long, but I ended up with zero garden and zero flower beds even though they have 3.5 acres of orchard and woodland (mostly woodland) to roam about in, plus they’d visit the neighbor’s field often. I love seeing hens roaming freely about, but just couldn’t do with the destroyed gardens, so I’ve recently been keeping them in a huge chicken run in the woods. They’ve got loads of trees and shrubs and they seem to like it enough, but they do have a way of denuding the vegetation! Plus, I was concerned with the occasional free-roaming dog that would visit, not to mention the other wild predators, and HAWKS! When the girls do get out of the run, they head straight for my garden. They, apparently, have very good memories!

    And I love your chicken coop! Great idea for the roof, too. I’ve been getting eggs year ’round, but right now many of them are molting and egg production is waaaaay down. Ah, poor things need a break once in a while 🙂

Your comments are welcome!