Steph Humes designed a small show garden, named A Chicken Keeper's Corner, at Sandringham Flower Show this year for the British Hen Welfare Trust.

Since starting with Bantams, then moving to other breeds, Steph has most recently been rehoming ex-caged hens. They’ve stolen her heart, so she decided to build a garden to celebrate these girls, and to encourage people to think about re-homing them.

Steph has written to us about the garden, in the letter published below.

Smallholder:

Steph Humes with rehomed hen Edi (lost her whilst building the garden)

I always said I’d never keep chickens; they’ll be too much of a commitment. Well they are, like any animal, a commitment. But I wouldn’t be without my girls for the world.

It was only by chance I ended up with chickens though. One Summer, my neighbour went on holiday and a hen got injured amongst the others in the run. Before I knew it I was nursing the poor thing and when he got back he said I could have some more. It was not until last September, when one of my girls passed, that I started rehoming ex-caged hens. I contacted my local animal shelter, Wood Green Animals Charity, and it turned out my affinity to all creatures great and small also stretched to un-feathery. Ever since, when there’s a loss amongst the flock, I’m always back for more golden girls.

The garden is designed to encourage people to think about keeping chickens. I’ve chosen the plants to reflect not only the colours of the hens but also the idea of the sunrise and sunset. Ex-caged hens do tend to look up towards the sun.

Smallholder:

And yes, we all know chickens pretty much eat and annihilate anything they can get their legs and beaks into, but they do favour certain plants over others, and there’s some great choices of plants, vegetables and fruit that can be grown for them all year round, which is what I’ve tried to portray within the garden. Not only is there salad crops and brassicas, but there is also grasses like carex, herbs, echinacea, chick weed and stinging nettles within the garden. All of which in some way will either be eaten, can be stored over winter, or used for medicinal purposes.

The garden also features some chicken keepers essentials like electric fencing wire to hang up your tomatoes with, and I’ve used chicken grit to decorate some of the pots to aid drainage, like a miniature gravel garden.

The garden is mainly focused on natural or recycled products. Chickens love hunting for creepy crawlies so I’ve used stacked wood and bark chip throughout. Equally we all know how much chickens poo! So I’ve upcycled some sewage pipes into planters to show you can grow using anything. I’ve also used egg shells to plant into to reduce the use of plastic. At the end of the path I envisage them running along, each one a golden coin, there is the chicken keeper’s seat. I wanted the seat to really shout out what chickens are all about. They love perching and I know a lot of people have swings for them, so I opted for a porch swing glider chair, that I’ve renamed as the gardens ‘perch swing glider’.

The gardens been built to raise money for the British Hen Welfare Trust. I truly believe these golden girls deserve a place in are gardens and I’ll be swinging on my glider chair, with these girls right beside me, until I fall off my very own perch!