Hens are fairly easy to look after, but like all animals they still need care and consideration. This week has given me an unforgettable experience in keeping hens, which was very exciting for me as I’m from a large town and not used to farm animals.
Initially, I was a bit apprehensive about handling the hens, as I didn’t want to accidentally hurt them. However, I soon learned that they are hardy animals and can easily tolerate an inexperienced handler.
On my first day, the Principal, Mr. O’Donnell, explained to me and my two classmate helpers how to care for the hens. Firstly, we had to put on the school wellington boots which were only for use in the hen area. Next, we let the hens out of their coop at 9:20am every morning and counted them as they exited their ‘home’. When I was counting each hen, I quickly looked at them individually to make sure they looked okay, for example, their eyes – I made sure they looked bright and healthy and had no sticky stuff or crust in and around them. I also looked at each hen’s comb – this is the red fleshy part on top of its head – to make sure it was not dull in colour. A surprising part of my job was to ensure that the hens were happy because Mr. O’Donnell said that they can sometimes be sad and appear droopy, isolate themselves from the flock, and might not lay a lot of eggs. I also made sure the drinking water was clean and plentiful, and they also had enough food to eat. Once these checks were done, I left the hens to forage around the garden and empty themselves.
My next visit to check the hens was at 12:15pm. Again, I went with two of my classmates. Together we put on boots, aprons and gloves which are used specifically for hen duties. Using gloved hands we cleared the hen droppings by placing them in a bucket which we emptied into the school compost heap. Entering the hen coop, we checked for laid eggs, collected them in a bowl and put them into the school greenhouse until we finished the rest of our duties. This involved cleaning the hen coop, making sure the bedding was clean and that there was enough paper shredding in each sleeping area. When finished, we brought the eggs into our classroom where we left them until we finished our lunch.
After lunch, we helped each other wash the eggs in a bowl of cold water, dried them with tissue paper and packed them into half a dozen egg boxes. I made a log of each number of eggs collected, writing it into the hen log book alongside the collection dates.
At 2:45pm, before finishing school for the day, myself and my two classmates delivered all boxed eggs to a specific class before going back to the hens. Our final job was to ensure that the hens were in good form and healthy before herding them back into their coop. Herding was great fun because we had to make a hen-like clucking noise to mimic them and encourage them to make their way into the coop. Finally we made sure they were safe and comfortable before locking them in for the night.
Next day, we started the routine all over again! So far, this has been a fantastic experience, I’ve loved every second of it and I hope to get another chance to repeat the job again.
Communications Department, Gugalaí Gug Egg Company