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Backyard Biddies

Do any of you ever wonder how on earth you came to keep the type of stock you do?

Most of us grew up in an era when everyone’s family had at the very least a few hens in the back garden, or even a pig. Now I imagine those of you who have smallholdings have forward planned the type of beasties you wanted to keep but there are some of us who it just simply crept up on and it all came as a bit of a surprise really.

Well, let me regale you with the tale of how we came to keep poultry. It all started in 1985 when a border canary flew into my mother’s kitchen and she asked me if I could find a home for it. So I did – with us. I named him Winston and he was a real songster. Thinking he might be lonely I bought him a female companion (big mistake). No prizes for guessing what happened next. I had assumed two males might start fighting but the male and female simply started breeding. And so, about one dozen canaries later Derek’s asthma certainly was not improving with all these birds in the house, but kind spouse that he is, he set to and built me my very own “cree” which Derek (in his best Geordie voice) nicknamed the “Bord” (Board) Room.

The “Bird” room was lovely, it even had electricity (very posh) so the birds and I could have light and heat if it proved necessary. It also had a good-sized flight erected onto one side running down the entire length of the garden. Initially, it was virtually empty with just a dozen canaries flying around so I bought several pairs of different species of foreign finch and some quail to pad out the space. They too enjoyed being “fruitful” and began to multiply at a steady rate. Very quickly (well it was over two or three years actually) I began to get a wee bit overrun with stock and I decided it was time to downsize, so it was off to the auction at Haswell (Co Durham)to sell a few spuggies.

It was there I first had sight of, and fell in love with, Silkie chicks. They were lovely little white fluffy things, just huddled into the corner of a cardboard box (without a clocker to cover them) and they were being held up for sale. An opportunity! So decision made, actions speaking louder than words, and having watched how it was being done ,I winked, blinked did a few facial contortions and nodded appropriately and YES, the bid was mine. The auctioneer bellowed out-“NAME?” and I replied Wailes. Well there were about 500 lots for sale (one hell-of-a-lot of noise from the ducks, geese, hens, budgies etc.) as well as about a couple of hundred people packed into a shed, therefore my voice was lost (believe that if you can!). Derek boomed out our surname and turned to me and asked “What have you done?” He’d been standing beside me but had been completely unaware of my intentions and actions but it was too late, the deed was done so I sent him around to the office to pay for my “new family”.

Of course, he had to become “technical” and ask me where I was going to keep half a dozen silkie hens? I said he was a joiner and he could build me a hen house but, in the meantime they were just little babies and could live in the spare budgie cage on top of the central heating boiler in the kitchen. Actually they lived there until the cage became too small (very quickly) and then they graduated to the floor in small cardboard boxes, then bigger cardboard boxes and then cardboard boxes taped together with holes punched in the sides so they could have a “run”. But eventually the “joiner” got stuck in and the hens got their very own hen house-which we nick-named “BIDDIES ROOST”.

So that was the very beginning of how we first came to keep our very own “BACKYARD BIDDIES”*

Maggie Wailes

*Look out for more instalments of Backyard Biddies stories in the future