Will Tribble, the son of the other two authors Andy and Will Tribble, sums up the book very succinctly thus: ‘If you have purchased a book called Keeping Hens solely for information about keeping hens, all you need to know are two things. The first is that most of this book was written between 2010 and 2012, but for reasons explained later, it was published in 2020. The second is that it’s based on small scale personal experiences, written by and for people keeping hens in their garden (or field) rather than industrial scale farming, although I hope it’s useful for everyone.
Keeping Hens is a twenty first century amalgam of “My family and other animals’ and the television series ‘The Good Life’ but you may need to be of a certain age to understand these references. Jane Furnival was as her son describes a ‘f’irework’, intensely driven, resourceful, highly intelligent and a great, if somewhat argumentative, friend. Jane was never scared of a challenge and indeed embraced them. She was well known for her Mr Thrifty newspaper columns, books and then television series. What few will know is that the work grew out of economic necessity and keeping hens was part of that. The book shows Jane’s love of animals, and particularly her flock of hens. She tells how she came by them and describes individuals their characters and personalities. Her style of hen keeping was very much the make do and mend mentality of post war Britain. Sadly since Jane’s demise, eight years ago, much has changed in the hen-keeping world. No longer can you feed your bird scraps, other than Vegan ones. Luckily for those readers wishing to keep their own hens, Will guides us through the changes that have come into place over the last ten years.
The book includes the whole family including the star, dog, Boo described by Jane thus ‘I should be nowhere without Boo, the Bouvier des Flandres, Hen Herder and Fearless Finder and Feed- Sampler of Hens, and Fox-Killer, Wrist-Watch-Tapper to me to remind me of the correct times to take them out and put them away? My golden boy. No finer dog exists.’
As well as the family fun and shenanigans this book is truly useful and a mine of information for any would be hen keeper. Rats, diseases, foxes and the trials and tribulations of keeping cockerels are all covered. There is an excellent chapter by Andy Tribble on how to build a hen house. The instructions and illustrations are very clear and easy to follow although Andy makes the following observation: “Having spent days lovingly making Jane’s henhouse, it recently occurred to me that the classic French film shot of hens fluttering out of an old Citroen van, is quite a decent way to have an instant henhouse. An old car with some hay or straw in the bottom, doesn’t allow easy access to predators like rats or foxes, has ventilation, as long as you keep the windows open when it gets hot, and also windows for them to look out of and places to perch – the seats would get mucky quickly of course unless you took them out or covered them. Also you can move it around your land and rig up a covered run at the back if wanted.”
The book ends with a useful resources and knowledge chapter. Even if you don’t want to keep hens, this is a very entertaining book and will make an excellent or should I say Eggscellent Christmas Present. A final request, as the book is published by a new small independent publisher please buy from them directly. Details below:
Title: Keeping Hens: A Chatty Guide to Chickens
Author: Jane Furnival, with contributions from Will and Andy Tribble
Price: Paperback £8.99 | Ebook £3.99
Every copy bought from direct from wideopensea.co.uk will include a donation to the British Hen Welfare Trust. We want to encourage indie shopping, and help a cause that really matters!
Review by Juliet Bawden