Our 350 hens rule the roost here at the Cookery School! They get star treatment and, in return, keep us in a plentiful supply of fabulous quality eggs every day. We keep 4 main varieties - Leg Horn, Sussex, Black and Barred.
The 'Palais du Poulet', just to the right of the cookery school entrance, is where approximately half of our hen family live. This is surrounded by an electrified fence to keep them safe from predators. Our other two holding areas for our hens are situated beside The Dairy. In line with strict organic regulations, one of these areas must be kept clear each year before new hens can be introduced to the area again. We have just recently introduced a a glass viewing wall so that visitors can see our happy hens as they roost. Visitors will also notice the feeding trough where our students deposit all the scraps from each morning's cooking. Hens love scraps, and it is this addition to their diet that ensures they give us such gorgeous eggs!
However, laying an egg requires a lot of energy, so we supplement the hens' diet with specially formulated layers of mash, a mixture of wheat, barley, oats, maize and soya with added vitamins and minerals. On an average day at the cookery school we get 350 eggs and we have lots of uses for them in the kitchens! They are also on sale at The Farm Shop.
Hens have no teeth, hence the expression ‘as rare as hens’ teeth’. They sallow small stones and grit to help them grind up the food in their gizzards. On a hot day, a chicken can drink up to 600ml of water!
Fertilised hens’ eggs have an incubation period of 21 days. When the chicks hatch they will probably stay tucked under the mother hen for a couple of days.
Depending on the breed of hen, a hen can lay up to 300 eggs a year.