Have hens, will travel

SUE FRANCIS
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014
Neroli Williamson-Hellewell and her chickens
SUE FRANCIS/Fairfax NZ
POULTRY PALACE: Neroli Williamson-Hellewell and her chickens outside the movable hen house at Ikawai, near Waimate.

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The hens at Arnstead Farm enjoy a movable feast from their house-on-wheels that's shifted around the paddocks with a vintage Ferguson tractor.

Their owners, Maurice Hellewell and Neroli Williamson-Hellewell, of Ikawai, run a mixed organic farm producing beef, cattle and lamb. The farm also produces organic milling wheat for the bread market.

Mr Hellewell built the henhouse using an old trailer chassis for the base. Visiting Woofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) took care of the artwork.

Rain water for the hens is collected from the roof, and the interior floor is made of netting that allows them to fertilise the earth beneath.

Seconds from the milled wheat are used to feed the 50 hens, whose eggs are sold at the farm gate. This week the girls enjoyed a new paddock of red clover, chicory, plantain and white clover.

Cider vinegar, milk for extra calcium, and liquid kelp for minerals are added to their diet.

"The yolks are a lovely bright yellow which is a reflection of what they eat - no dyes are used here," Mrs Williamson-Hellewell said.

The hens have been recycled from a free-range commercial poultry farm. "They go into a quarantine paddock and are fed organic feed for six weeks, and after that we can sell their eggs as organic."

She says recycling the hens gives the animals longer and happier lives.

"And for us it is considerably cheaper than buying point of lay. We hope to get to 100 hens as demand is exceeding supply, but we won't exceed that because of all the regulations, and it wouldn't be financially viable."

And as for recipes, this poultry-woman said eggs were versatile, but her family really enjoyed them scrambled with a little cream and topped with thin shavings of parma ham.

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- The Timaru Herald

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