The Im'peck'able Adventures of Liisa Winkler: with the belles at Bells and Whistles
by: Liisa Winkler, WSPA Canada Ambassador and supermodel
It's not every day that you get to meet a president. Today I met Bill Black, president of the Belleville Shrine Club, along with 70 of his hens, 3 of his roosters and some of his ducks. It's hard to believe that Mr. Black has only been raising hens for a year, as he seems to have done things the right way — right away.
He and his wife run a wonderful Bed and Breakfast called Bells and Whistles in Prince Edward County and wanted to have their own eggs for the breakfasts. What started out small with bantam chicks, soon grew to include Rhode Island Reds and a Romanian breed he refers to as "naked neck" (these ones literally have a naked neck!). He even has ducks whose eggs he hatched under a few unsuspecting hens. They have free range of his yard during the day, but will come when he calls them into their shelter for the night!
The roosters strut around the large yard and Mr. Black tells me about how they are quite protective of the hens. I can see how they tend to almost herd the hens into a safe corner as we intrude on their privacy. It's easy to picture them as the "bodyguards" of this yard party.
These hens eat grain and grass, bugs, small frogs and even (last week) snakes! They love grass clippings so much that just the noise of the lawn mower starting up can cause utter mayhem in the coop.
Each bird usually produces one egg per day and what doesn't get used for breakfast, sells very quickly on the front porch.
I ask about winters and predators, and Mr. Black assures me that his birds were warm and cozy with two heat lamps and strong metal walls that he dug down three feet all around the coop to prevent rats or raccoons from tunneling in. I thought that production would go down somewhat in winter, but perhaps winters are boring for the ladies, as eggs were produced even more faithfully all winter long. (Wow, 70 eggs/day!)
There is a small accidental family in "quarantine" as there are young hens not yet ready to lay and be with the rest of the flock. A little bantam hen was hiding her eggs over the fence in a hole and by the time anyone realized it, the eggs were hatching!
The birds and their eggs are obviously a huge part of this Bed and Breakfast's allure. The children (and families) who stay here get to meet the hens who gave them their breakfast and gain a better understanding and appreciation of where eggs come from. I am sure that the taste of a farm fresh egg will stay with them and perhaps they will be convinced to "choose cage-free" on their next trip to the grocery store!