The Appleton Poultry Partnership
When we moved to Town End Farm, one of the things on our bucket list was to have chickens. We quickly realised that this was going to be impossible on the land that came with the house; the idea of chickens wandering around the courtyard was a romantic idea, but not practical for guests staying!
Step forward Meg and Simon in the village who had some already had some chickens but wanted to share the work/cost of their current small flock. They were keen to expand the flock and so the number of eggs laid. We leapt at the chance and became the official Appleton Poultry Partnership.
There are only a few rules! “Chicken duty” days are shared out equally. We take it in turns to do the village egg run to the 10+ households who buy organic eggs from us. We aren’t allowed to name the chickens, so saving any potential future heart break! Luckily we have Nigel the local chicken expert to call upon for chicken advice in the case of any emergencies or chicken husbandry issues.
We’ve expanded the flock several times over the years since setting up the partnership; sadly chickens live between 3 – 7 years (or less if there is a fox about) We’ve had one fox attack following which a fox proof electric fence went up which seems to have done the trick.
For the first flock expansion we went the purist (and cheapest) route and went to an auction in York to bid for fertilised eggs. Quite an experience, especially seeing Meg with a rush of blood to her head bidding against herself at one point! The eggs were incubated at Nigel’s; out of 32 eggs, 20 hatched. It was then we discovered the world of the chicken sexer – who knew?! It is a highly skilled job, and the best chicken sexers (95% success rate) can command a salary of £60,000. Mind you, to earn this it means sexing up to 1200 chicks AN HOUR! Luckily Nigel sexed ours, and the females came back to the village.
The next time we expanded the flock we decided to go the more expensive but certain route which was to buy birds from a local poultry breeder. Meg and Jackie went with the best of intentions e.g. good reliable layers year-round etc. We then were seduced by some of the prettier breeds and came back with a variety of lovely chickens. So, we may not have the most productive flock, but we do get a variety of different coloured eggs. The one thing that is consistent is that they all taste delicious.
We love the flock; at the moment it numbers 20 girls, and one elderly cockerel. We try not to have our favourites but have to admit that there is one at the moment who we have nick named the Appleton One. She has worked out that if she flies onto the hen house roof, she can then fly over the fence into the field. But as soon as she sees us arrive in the morning, she races up the field to us to be let in to get her food.
We are still far from experts, but we are enjoying learning. Our neighbour Lynne rolls her eyes when we talk about the chickens; apparently birds that lay eggs are called hens, and birds breed for meat are called chickens.
We are happy to take any guests down to collect the eggs with us; it’s lovely to see children especially feed the flock and collect the warm eggs to take back for breakfast. Subject to the time of year (production does drop down a lot in the winter) guests will get a dozen eggs in their welcome hamper. So you can experience how delicious they taste yourselves.