Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Sunday 14 December 2008

A question about keeping a non laying hen.

Hello lovely people!

I have had a question via email about me keeping Genghis Hen even though she doesn't lay, which I am happy to answer on here so eveyone else sees it.

She DOES eat ( expensive) feed but not produce an egg, BUT I keep her because she is an ex battery hen and I feel sorry for her. She IS also useful as she always spots danger first of all the hens( Buzzard, Fox etc..) and warns all the others....

As some of you may remember I WAS going to kill her, as she used to be a bully and an egg eater and her solf shelled, pecked eggs made a lot of eggstra work for me cleaning out a nest box.

BUT I cured her of egg eating, she lays the occasional egg which is a hard shelled one and she doesn't peck it anymore and now she only pecks her own feathers....so I feel she deserves another chance!

BUT mainly I keep her because I feel sorrow and guilt by association, that humans could have kept her in a tiny cage and not ever allowed her the natural expression of her hennishness and then wanted to kill her just because she got to the end of her "useful" life....

And I won't do the same.

Having observed the wide ranging antics of my hens, their NEED to scratch, furtle around, be inquisitive, look at everything going on, run around, play fight, try to steal the cat food, try to get in through the cat flap etc etc etc ..

Chickens are increadibly active, bright birds and the idea of keeping them in a tiny cage is abhorrent to me. And I feel pleased to be able to give at least a couple of ex prisioner hens a good life!

So Genghis the Hen has a happy life, and I feel good !

Cw x

And it would have been fine for the e-mailer to ask away on here as a comment (they very kindly didn't because they thought it might be a sore spot)

but I don't mind comments (critial or kind)

about anything, as long as they are polite!


  1. I would feel the same as you CW - I would have no problem in keeping a non-laying hen, especially is she was an ex-battery girl.

    I only keep two hens at the moment, and they are purely as pets - the eggs being an extra bonus! I firmly believe that if I take on the care of an animal, then I have a responsibility for the welfare of that animal until the end of its natural life. For me personally, the amount of food that one hen eats is negligable - compared to the amount of food that alot of people waste! So, I would have no misgivings about keeping a hen on "free board & lodgings" !!!

    Willow xx

  2. Hi both

    Its a question of degree really, isn't it? I have 8 laying hens, one of whom lays very rarely. The others all lay when not in moult, so I have enough eggs. If it got to the point where none laid and I had no other laying hens I might well feel I would be eating a few of them...

    But at the moment I can afford one hen's worth of feed...who doesn't lay..

    and yes even though I have 14 in total, I *do* view them as pets really..

    If, however, I were rearing a flock for meat , I wouldn't name them!

  3. What a lovely soft heart you have. I would do exactly the same. What is the cost in real terms of keeping her? Priceless. The cost of not keeping her? It doesn't bear thinking about, does it.

  4. Hmm having spent half an hour running around in the cold and dark chasing her tonight, trying to get her to go in the bloody hen run....

    I am beginning to regret my soft heart... ;-)

    I was muttering "sage and onion stuffing " towards the end.....

  5. CW, the next one you get you have to call Paxo. We have said once we are able to keep chickens they will all be called Dimanche, or rouge label! LOL That is bad isnt it!

  6. I feel the same, half of my girls are ex battery hens, and i am just happy to be able to give them quality of life whether they lay for me or not. there is also the fact that naturally reared hens lay infrequently in winter anyway, unlike the poor caged birds kept in 24 hr artificial light to force them into continual laying. My own hens barely lay in winter- but thays ok, their bodies are resting, as nature intended. Genghis is probably doing the same :-)

    Leanne x

  7. Yes leanne!

    I am very pleased that my girls are still laying well despite the dark days, I must be doing something right by them!

    ANd I do NOT use artificial light! ( apart from the torch I need to use to get bloddy recalcitrant hens to go inside the house after dark....)

  8. Yes, been there (by torchlight!) too! flippin hens! wouldnt be without them though!

    Leranne x

  9. Good for you! On my farmlet the bullies go first, the necessary next, and several get to live till they drop. Not the most economical, but part of my 'ethically raised egg' practices.


  10. Good for you HDR

    Although I would hardly describe YOUR activities as a "farmlet"!

    Your blog reads more like a fully fledged farm to me...

  11. Sadly Genghis the hen is rather poorly and I fear is on her last legs :-(

    I can't find any obvious ailment and she is not apparently egg bound , has no crop or breathing problems or a swollen abdome...

    but is looking bad....

    I shall probably seek the vet's advice tomorrow..


Hello! Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting. I try to reply as quickly as I can and I really appreciate your interest in my life and doings here in The Compost Bin.