Ahead of ‘Hens & Garden’s, horticulturist advocates keeping rarer breeds 

William Dyson, the man behind ‘Hens & Garden’s’, Kent’s premier celebration of hen-keeping and smallholding, is probably best-known in the horticultural world for his world-renowned salvia collection, but for William, hens are as important as plants in his garden in Sevenoaks.


William is a breeder of pure and rare-breed poultry and is particularly interested in promoting the old utility breeds. He says: “The beautiful  blue eggs of the Cream Legbar, the dark brown eggs of the Welsummer and Copper Black Marans and the pure white elegance of the rare French Hergnies eggs are something special to behold. We really should be encouraging people to keep these rare breeds rather than the more destructive hybrid birds. We need to preserve the gene-pool for future generations, after all, the rare breeds provide you with productivity as well as beauty, and keeping good producers is why many people embrace the idea of smallholding in the first instance!” hens


William has gently built the reputation of his annual event ‘Hens & Gardens’ and now sees smallholders and hen-keepers from far and wide visiting the show in June.


William says: “I was struck by the idea that there wasn’t really an event that celebrated both the hen and the garden, so decided to create it here in our seven acre haven at Great Comp Garden. With the help of well-known hen-keeping advocate Francine Raymond and the Kent Smallholders Group we really have a great event, now in it’s fourth year, which provides instructive advice as well as great products for those interested in hen-keeping.”


The event will be held on Saturday 16 June in the grounds of Great Comp Garden in Platt and will feature hatching eggs and bird sellers. 


The Kent Smallholders group and their members will share specialities such as spinning, rug-making, felting, bee-keeping, and self-sufficiency on the day. The group celebrate their 30th birthday last year. They were formed by Hadlow College in 1987 and remain affiliated to the college. The group advise and help people become as self-sufficient as possible. They use innovative displays to educate visitors on the life-cycle of an egg and also bring along unusual and often hard to source tools to help the smallholder. 


Advice will be offered at the annual event by Una McFarlane, a Veterinarian who has a special interest in poultry medicine. Telegraph columnist Francine Raymond will also be giving a talk and presentation on hen-keeping in the home garden and will be selling signed copies of her new book ‘The Garden Farmer’.


William says: “Events like these are important as they provide a show ground in which to share skills and to talk about breeds that are under threat from hybrid birds. We want to show that hens fit really well into a garden: managed well, the right small flock of hens can give you eggs for the kitchen, manure for the garden and hours of amusement.”

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