A 15-year- old small­holder

El­lie Hall, 15, from Glouces­ter­shire, has cre­ated her own lit­tle small­hold­ing. She talked to John Wright

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month - MORE: El­lie’s small­hold­ing Face­book page: Green­way Small­hold­ing

Keen small­holder El­lie Hall may only be 15, but she owns 20 hens, six ducks, two pygmy goats, four guinea pigs, and a pony, all of which she looks af­ter, feeds, wa­ters and pays for her­self.

El­lie’s par­ents have been im­par­tial ob­servers in her grow­ing in­ter­est in an­i­mals, the de­sire for a prac­ti­cal in­volve­ment with them hav­ing been all her own idea from the start.

The fam­ily moved to their present 1½ acres on the edge of the For­est of Dean in ru­ral Glouces­ter­shire, for their two horses (El­lie’s and her mother Sher­ryl’s) and an out­door life­style, nine years ago.

El­lie was 11 when she asked her par­ents if she could hatch chicks. She not only pre­sented them with the re­sults of care­ful re­search into the right incubator to buy but even had the money to pay for it.

She was given some fer­tile eggs which duly hatched at 21 days and later she bred some pure breeds. Fi­nally, there were 10 hens to which she added a cock­erel. Since

then she has had up to 45 chick­ens, such as Silkies, Dutch Ban­tams and cross­breeds for eggs and to ex­per­i­ment with egg colours.

From the start, El­lie has had a busi­ness in­ter­est in her an­i­mals. Her mother Sher­ryl said: “She’s up around 7am to 7.30am to let the chick­ens and her six ducks out and make sure her two pygmy goats and pony have hay, be­fore hav­ing break­fast and school.”

You sense this is one mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion. When the two goat kids were born pre­ma­turely they had to be fed half-hourly. Once El­lie got them stronger, they slept overnight in the goat shed for the first few nights with heat lamps. Sadly, the weaker one died and, when the other was old enough, he was sold. “El­lie is the only one who knows how to milk the nanny,” says Sher­ryl.

El­lie’s fa­ther, Jeff, is a self-em­ployed builder and built the goat shed, sta­bles for their horses and a field shel­ter. Sher­ryl works as a child min­der of preschool chil­dren, who are ex­cited to be able to watch chicks hatch­ing, col­lect eggs or have a pony ride.

El­lie has been keen to take on chal­lenges. Af­ter sell­ing the eggs and chick­ens, she asked if she could buy pygmy goats. She has a sense of busi­ness and re­searched the go­ing price for kids, as well as chick­ens, and works out other ways to make money. Her par­ents have en­cour­aged her to keep a record of all her in­come and out­go­ings and don’t con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially.

Peak sea­son

“In the peak sea­son she sells 90 eggs a week,” Sher­ryl says. “She had 45 chick­ens last au­tumn, some of which she sold, thus pro­vid­ing space for more. The older hens were sold be­fore win­ter set in.”

El­lie also res­cues and re-homes ex- bat­tery chick­ens, and is now hop­ing to buy a big­ger, 40-egg incubator, to sell more eggs and breed more chick­ens to sell at point of lay. “I hope to do Cream Leg­bars and more cross­breeds to pro­duce blue and green eggs, and I sell the older hens for a lower price be­fore they stop lay­ing,” she said.

“Male chicks will be grown on for slaugh­ter­ing which I do my­self. My dad taught me how. I grow the fe­males un­til they’re six months old and sell them at point of lay.”

“Mum takes me to the feed store ev­ery few weeks,” El­lie says. “I like hav­ing the sup­port. We get lay­ers pellets and corn for the chick­ens and ducks, pony nuts for the horses, and salt lick for the pony and goat for min­er­als. Re­cently I bought some live meal­worms to breed to give to the chick­ens. You put the worms into a plas­tic box with their food in. When it goes into lar­vae stage, it hatches into a bee­tle. You put the bee­tle into the next box, where it breeds and lays eggs. When hatched you have lit­tle worms again – it doesn’t take that long.”

It’s a per­fect ex­am­ple of the busi­nesslike way El­lie thinks. Nor does her horse get off lightly. She is break­ing her in to drive so that she can pull a har­row to scar­ify the ground where the chick­ens free range to bring up loose grass and aer­ate the sur­face to re­store healthy grass cover. “She’s a Welsh pony and quite strong,” El­lie says.

Care­ful steps

And so El­lie’s ven­ture con­tin­ues, each step pre­pared for care­fully and with an en­tre­pre­neur­ial eye. “I’m on dif­fer­ent Face­book groups, such as the Rare Breeds Sur­vival Trust one, which has a monthly mag­a­zine.”

She even of­fers hol­i­day board­ing for an­i­mals and holds lo­cal char­ity fundrais­ing events, in­clud­ing a ‘guess the name of the chick’ stall, egg sales, pony rides, goat rac­ing and of­fer­ing tea and cake.

El­lie is jus­ti­fi­ably proud of hav­ing cre­ated “a very small small­hold­ing”, as she puts it, while mak­ing time for other ac­tiv­i­ties such as horse-rid­ing and cross-coun­try run­ning. “It’s hard work, es­pe­cially with school work, but I love ev­ery­thing about it. Soon I’ll be do­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence at a farm milk­ing goats and lamb­ing. I re­ally can’t wait!”

It’s hard work, es­pe­cially with school work, but I love ev­ery­thing about it

14

El­lie with some of her an­i­mals

El­lie’s par­ents and the fam­ily dogs

El­lie mov­ing straw on her quad bike

El­lie’s pygmy goat kid with his mum, Eclipse

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