From Coop To Classroom

A long-standing tenant of Brakenhurst Farm on the Needwood Estate in Staffordshire is bringing the coop to the classroom with a unique lending service called Hens For Hire. 

Aimed at providing children and young people with hands-on experience of hen-keeping and incubator hatching, this award-winning service is available to schools and care homes as well as for children with disabilities and complex needs. It is designed to help young people in both urban and rural settings connect with the natural environment, understand more about nutrition and learn about poultry and animal welfare.

There are a number of bespoke hire packages available to schools to suit their individual needs and budget. Qualified teaching staff provide training and classroom resources to engage the pupils and link hen-keeping to all areas of the National Curriculum. Winner of the Theo Paphitis Small Business Sunday Award in 2013, the service was recently featured on CBBC where a class of Year 7 children clearly demonstrated learning through their interaction with chicks and hens in the classroom.

Duchy tenant Claire Peach is delighted with the uptake of the service to date: “We wanted to do something to help people who may not have the opportunity to enjoy access to animals on a day-to-day basis and I am delighted to say that it’s been a great success. Working with school children is incredibly rewarding as they are so quick and enthusiastic to learn. We also offer day visits to the farm where we have a number of small ponies who serve as therapy animals to young people struggling with their mental health. Farming, the natural environment and looking after animals is an excellent escape for many of these children and young people and a valuable tool in helping to address issues such as shyness, anxiety, social awkwardness and even depression.”

Hens For Hire hatches only rare and pure breed poultry with all of the chicks returning to Pages Poultry at the end of the hire period. The chickens are then grown and passed on to new homes as family pets or breeding birds. Some even go on to become prize-winning show birds at local and national level.

Brakenhurst Farm is on the Duchy of Lancaster’s Needwood Estate in Staffordshire. Centred around the former Royal Hunting Ground of Needwood Forest, the Estate includes a mix of arable, dairy, sheep and beef farms as well as a number of residential, equestrian and commercial properties.