Accessible self-catering holiday cottage in Northumberland
Situated at Bingfield near Hexham Northumberland
Sonja's Hen page
We started keeping free range hens when our children were very young; they were essentially pets who provided us the luxury of a constant supply of lovely fresh free range eggs.
Our children have now grown up but our pet hens have become such a part of our way of life I could not imagine our garden without them in it, or their wonderful free range eggs.
Meet our hens......
Marans - Originally a French breed of hen, it has fine mottled grey/black feathers and lays the most beautiful dark brown coloured eggs.
We have recently found a new young Maran cockerel - he is called "Marlon" he's a bit of a "Jack the lad" but the girls are keeping him in his place!
Silkies - Originate in China, these unusual chickens look as though they are covered in white fur, have black skin and lay small creamy white coloured eggs, about 150 a year (they do have a strong tendency to go broody and stop laying at the drop of a hat) but make lovely mothers.
Goldline - brown hybrid - These are a commercial breed of hen and are reddish brown and white in colour, they lay upward of 300 pale brown eggs a year. The lady we buy them from refers to them as "egg laying machines" We like to think of them as "wonderful layers" between them they provide us with eggs all year round.
Cream Leg bar - we also have one Crested Cream Leg bar, a shy brown speckled hen that has a pompom on top of her head, and she lays blue eggs. We knew this because we had found one in the nature area!! She was not laying in a nest box and she hid her eggs very well! We kept her inside for a few days until she got used to laying in the hen house and "voila!" Who says hens can't be trained?
Our hens have two acres of garden, trees and wildlife area in which to "range". Most of their daylight hours are taken up with scratching about for food, but they do stop from time to time to indulge in preening and dust bathing and when the weather permits sunbathing! Only pausing to dash back to the hut to lay an egg! At dusk they take themselves to bed into the safety their hut. "Clever!"
What makes "Free Range" eggs the best?
Well think of the alternative -
Egg laying hens are one of the few types of farm animal in the UK that on some farms, are still kept in close-confinement cage systems for all of their productive lives. Around 30 million egg laying hens are kept in the UK, of which around 58 per cent (17 million) are kept in cages.
Battery cages are bare wire enclosures which are stacked on top of each other in rows. Each hen in the cage has the equivalent floor space of 550cm2, less than the size of an A4 piece of paper.
Enriched cages are similar to conventional battery cages but with 50cm2 more space - less than the size of a beer mat and contain limited facilities for hens to nest, perch and scratch.
Hens in cages cannot experience natural behaviour, they are unable to properly stretch or flap their wings, exercise, turn around easily or move away from other birds when they want to.
There are a number of welfare problems for egg laying hens kept in cages and for this reason the RSPCA believes all cages should be banned.
What the RSPCA Wants
- All cage systems for egg-laying hens to be banned by 2012.
- All hens to be kept in well managed alternative egg production systems, namely barn or free range.
- Shops to sell only eggs and products containing eggs that are from hens kept in barn or free range systems.
Visit their website at www.rspca.org.uk/eggs
Freedom Food is the RSPCA's farm assurance and food labelling scheme. It is the only UK farm assurance scheme to focus solely on improving the welfare of farm animals reared for food.
"Whether it is an egg-laying hen, a salmon, or a sheep (or for that matter, any other animal covered by the scheme), we believe that animals reared for food deserve a happy, healthy life. This means providing them with an environment that meets their needs - needs not confined to space, food and water but psychological needs too. So providing a stimulating environment that enables the animals to exhibit their natural behaviour is very important".
You can already find Freedom Food labelled products in most of the major supermarkets, including;
Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrison's, Waitrose, Boothes, and the Co-Operative.
What you can do to help
Only buy eggs clearly labelled Barn, Free Range or Freedom Food, the RSPCA's farm assurance and food labelling scheme.
We hope you enjoy seeing our hens in their natural "Free Range" state, Spend a while watching them enjoying the freedom to scratch, feed, dust bathe and generally relishing life.........very different to the dreary conditions of a caged hen.
Guests who come to the Hytte receive a complementary basket of home grown eggs from our own hens; we hope that these eggs and seeing the lifestyle of the hens that produce them will encourage more people to consider buying "Free Range Eggs" in the future. Be prepared to pay a little extra so the hens that have laid your eggs will have been able to enjoy the sunshine on their backs and experience the pleasures of running through the fields chasing insects!
What happens to Battery Hens once they reach the end of their commercial life?
Well I am sure anyone who has seen the film "Chicken Run" can work that out......
However................. The Battery Hen Welfare Trust (Registered Charity No: 1109060).
Became the UK's first registered charity for laying hens in April 2005 and was established in order to raise awareness of the millions of hens currently kept in cages in the UK.
They also help to re home ex battery hens to volunteers who can offer them a second chance and a "Free Range" retirement.
The Hytte supports the Battery Hen Welfare Trust.
We have adopted a hen (her details and story can be found in the Hytte) and we have sent a donation to help support the valuable work they do.
We are registered with the BHWT and hope later this year to re home some ex battery hens (We will let you see how they get on).
The money collected from the eggs we sell to our guests will be donated to the "Battery Hen Welfare Trust".
If you are staying at the Hytte and would like to take some eggs home with you, please ask we nearly always have eggs for sale.
Easter 2010 THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT! Some eggciting news
The Battery Hen Welfare Trust have taken the bold decision to rebrand the charity with a new patriotic title and iconic new logo to better reflect our support for the British industry and appeal to everyone who eats eggs or products that contain eggs.
And here it is - "The British Hen Welfare Trust" with the little red hen and her golden egg. She's smart in her red, white and blue colours and she gives clear distinction between chickens raised for meat and hens reared for egg laying. It's our way of saying we are not just here to rescue fluffy hens from slaughter, we are here to help the millions of hens that we cannot save from slaughter too.
My passion for the commercial laying hen has no limits and with your help, I intend to continue working on her behalf until we have achieved our goal of seeing all laying hens enjoy a good quality life outside in the fresh air, with the opportunity to run through the grass chasing bugs, dust bathe in a shady spot on a hot day and preening in their little groups after breakfast - it's how my hens live and it's how all hens should live. Together, through our positive campaigning, I believe we can achieve this goal.
With my very best wishes