Keeping fowl is something we have always wanted to do in our little piece of Galway Bay so we were very excited when our carpenter finished work on our new hen-coup and large enclosure.
We got our first hens from a Free Range Poultry farm in Athenry, Galway – the very same town memorialized in the song called ‘The Fields Of Athenry.’
The main reason I wanted to keep hens and ducks is that I have great childhood memories.
Most of these memories formed when visiting a tiny farmed owned by the late Pat and May Keogh of Aughavanagh, County Wicklow.
We called them uncle Pat and Auntie May but they weren’t related.
CIGGIES AND CHIPS
In those days, kids called every adult Auntie and Uncle – whether they were related or not!
So I had lots of Aunties and Uncles each with their own set of perks or peculiarities.
One Uncle smoked cigarettes and ate chips at the same time. Yes, very healthy but so what? I loved him and he was so kind.
WAS IT MAGIC?
Another Auntie used to turn chalk into sausage rolls and no, I still haven’t figured out how she did it.
One of my Uncles was a little bit famous as he had performed in music halls as a one-man-band.
Still my favourite was Auntie May – she was the only one with a farm.
I grew up in Liverpool but went to Ireland to stay with my granny every summer and part of our holiday was spent camping on Auntie May’s farm in the wilds of Wicklow.
The Keoghs kept cattle and hens.
To help them with the herding they had two friendly dogs called, Jet and Finnegan.
The one in the photograph here was Jet.
Behind Jet is my mother, Auntie Bet and behind them is Auntie May – sadly they are no longer with us.
The other dog, Finnegan, was probably out helping Pat to herd the cattle along the road at the time this photograph was taken,
We kids were given lots of little jobs to do on the farm and we loved them all.
We used to help with milking the cows. Not something I was good at.
But what I could do was prepare the milk for drinking by straining and removing hairs and bits of grass and straw.
It was an easy job but it was very important – nobody likes hairy milk!
All I had to do was pour the milk through a piece of muslin stretched over a bucket.
Then we got to enjoy a big glass of creamy milk – it was gorgeous.
To go with the milk we were always given a piece of homemade buttermilk soda bread, thickly spread with hand churned butter that we helped churn in a large bucket type churn with a handle.
The bread was always slathered with a big dollop of May’s homemade sloppy Loganberry Jam!
I remember seeing the hens coming in and out of the kitchen and Auntie May sweeping them out with her brush, as she stirred a pot on the range.
It was so the opposite of my home life growing up in a tiny terraced house in Liverpool’s city centre with not a hen or cow for miles.
WHERE ARE THE EGGS?
Auntie May also used to let me and my cousin collect the freshly laid eggs.
The easy-going hens laid eggs all over the place. So we had to carry out a thorough search along the bramble covered stone walls.
We usually managed to come up with an egg or two and I’ll never forget how special I felt if I managed to find an egg so fresh it was still warm.
I still remember the taste – so different from the eggs we get in the supermarkets today.
The taste of fresh eggs from my hens is still wonderful and if you are thinking of keeping hens I’d say go for it – now!
WARM MASH FOR HENS
I also remember Auntie May making some kind of mash to feed the hens with.
She cooked it in an old pot with no handle, on the range on which she did all the cooking.
I can still remember the concoction having a very pleasant and homey smell.
I wish I knew what that mash was made from because I wouldn’t mind learning how to make it.
I would love to feed our hens on something other than manufactured stuff – organic or not!
So if anyone knows how to do this please let me know in the comments.
All the best from Galway.
MORE ABOUT HENS, DUCKS AND ALL THINGS FOWL
Our very first chickens and free range eggs – The hens are here
Looking after hens – Keeping hens
How we feed our hens – Feeding hens
When a dog came to visit – Chicken predators
Dog owner refuses to take responsibility – Dog attacks
Permaculture – Chicken tractors
Looking after our first born chicken – Meet Tweetie
Looking after our new ducks – Raising Ducks
Images of our growing ducks – Pictures of Ducks
Feeding our ducks – What do ducks eat?
New to the flock – Guinea Fowl
Amazing sounds – The call of the Guinea
Frequent flyers – The Legbars.