Just under 4 years ago, I got my first three hens. Today, I’m not aware of anyone in Lewis, possibly the Western Isles, with more than me.
I remember when I was wee, asking my parents if we could get hens, but being told no as the mink would kill them all.
The mink are now long gone (due to SNH eradication scheme) so that meant no ground predators here, just as had been the case.
Anyway, my first three hens came by accident, almost. My cousin Erica was recently married and was building a house with her husband. She had 4 hens at a house they were renting, but there wouldn’t be space for them at her new house. So, in early 2011, I took them on. Unfortunately one had been run over, so it was only 3 of them that made the journey to Ness.
Here they are, 4th April 2011
I don’t think any of those ones are still with us, but 2 weeks later I got a cockerel. This was him when he arrived, and he’s still strutting his stuff!
Slowly the numbers started creeping up. People who got no longer wanted their hens started leaving them with me and before I knew it, there were 45 hens!
18 months ago, I moved them all into one largish hen house but by then I had already made up my mind to go bigger.
I had seen a gap in the market for local eggs and kept meaning to give it a go myself. I was selling eggs at work and covering all my feed costs, so knew it wouldn’t be a loss.
Around this time last year, I decided to change the way I worked. After 10 years on committees and supporting local community groups, I decided to take a step back and help myself instead. I’ll go back to the community stuff at some point in the future – when I have the time, energy and patience. In the meantime, I just wanted to do my own thing, so I just went ahead and ordered 320 hens.
They arrived in July and I have been soldiering on with them since then, until this week. After months of selling eggs privately, things finally came together this week and I got into the shops. I had registered with the Government back in the summer and had an inspection in September. That was all fine but I couldn’t get into the shops until I got my labels and environmental health gave the the all clear, which they did this week.
After a sleepless night on Sunday, I got through my inspection at the first time of asking and got eggs into the shops within minutes! This has been one of the most hectic and exciting I’ve had a a crofter, and it’s given me a taste for more!
My eggs are now available in the two Ness shops, Swainbost & Cross, WJ MacDonald in Stornoway, the shops in Tong and Point, as well as the Community Co-op in Leverburgh, Harris.
Make sure you buy some eggs!