Poultry keeping is on the increase throughout Cork, with approximately 100 entries to the poultry competition at Cork Summer Show last weekend, up by a full hundred per cent on last year’s tally for the category.
Whether as a means of cost-cutting self-sufficiency in tough economic times, or teaching children valuable life-skills, poultry keeping can be done almost anywhere, whether in the country or the city.
That’s according to Marie Casey, now in her second year heading up the poultry category at Cork Summer Show, who explains that just two hens can supply a family of four with more than enough eggs for a week.
Marie started keeping hens for eggs just six years ago, but says the learning process never ends, even though she has since branched out to breeding broilers and keeping pigs for the kitchen table, and will soon be in a position to supply carrots, potatoes and other vegetables for her family’s eating needs.
“It’s a trial and error process, but it’s great, particularly if you have children. It’s a great way to teach them responsibility and pass on very valuable life skills.”
While Marie lives outside the city, she says that hen keeping is feasible in urban areas, and also relatively inexpensive: “For two hens, you only need about two square metres for a coop, as well as a run where the hens can peck at the grass. You need to move the coop and run to fresh grass only once a month, so you really don’t need a huge amount of ground.”
“There are automatic feeders to supply feed pellets for up to three days, and those are available for €5 to €50, depending on how many hens you have. You can also feed them the scraps left from your dinner, particularly high-carb foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes, while for bedding you can use straw, woodchips or even shredded newspaper,” she said.
“It’s possible to recycle a lot of things. Thanks to the hens, I end up with very little waste food,” she explained.
She also flags poultry keeping as an ultimate family-friendly activity. Her eldest son Jamie was breeding cuckoo marons from an incubator at the age of seven, and selling off the surplus stock.
Marie has always been close to nature, having bred Connemara ponies, and began keeping poultry due to her concern about processed foods, especially since the arrival of her four young children who now range in age from six years to 13.
“I suppose it all stems from my parents—my dad had a vegetable garden, and that instilled the interest in me, because there is no comparison in taste. I think it's just fantastic to think that people can eat vegetables and herbs solely from their own garden, every March to October,” she added.
“It’s wonderful to see poultry keeping catching on through the increase in entries for the show. It’s a lovely category at the Summer Show, and great for all the families. It’s something that children not only love, but also actually play a leading role in,” she added.