Years ago it was not uncommon for households to keep a few hens to provide fresh eggs for the family or to supplement the family income. Surplus eggs were brought to the local shop as a part payment for other groceries. Indeed there were occasions in the 18th and 19th centuries when poor Irish tenants sold any eggs they had as payment for rent due to their Landlord.
It was also quite common to refer to the fields where hens were fed and left to roam freely as ‘Gort na Circe’ or ‘Gortnagark’. A few such field names existed in the town lands of Abbey and these are still remembered by the older people.
As a believer in the value of hens around the place, I was delighted when the local community in Abbey embarked on a project this year to develop a community hen house. With funding from Abbey Community Development Association and the brilliant skills of the men on the Community Employment Scheme, we produced a 5-star hen house available to everyone in the community!
The main aim of the project was to encourage households to remove food waste from their black bins and to bring this to the ‘food recycling area’ created at the hen house. To make the project attractive to households, recycled buckets are available to take home, fill with food waste, and return to the food recycling area. In return fresh eggs are available to take home and recycled egg cartons are available on site to facilitate this. Those who wish to avail of fresh free-range eggs are invited to contribute €2 for six eggs and this contribution goes towards maintenance costs eg layers pellets and oat, needed for the nutrition of the hens.
From the start, children in the local school were enthusiastic about the project and they too got involved, giving each hen a name and christening the hen house and the special feeding area ‘Pecker’s Park’!
There is water on site for the hens, made available by connecting the rainwater down pipe on the hen house to a barrel with a water feeder attached to a recycled trough from a local farmer. Many of the materials used in this project were from recycled and discarded materials and it is a good example of what can be done as we all work towards creating a more sustainable environment.
Our project will be showcased during heritage week, so do come along on 24th August and listen to the story of Abbey Community Hen House.