Great egg-spectations

When Dr Cormac O’Shea and colleagues from the university’s School of Biosciences applied for a Cascade grant to buy and house a flock of hens, nobody quite eggs-pected what a fantastic impact it would have. The hen coop, also known as the i-Hen project, soon became the talk of the Sutton Bonington campus. 

Great eggspectations (2)

Dr Cormac O'Shea and the iHens

The hens were initially used to support teaching and learning across a variety of animal science and agriculture modules, but it soon became clear that staff and students were visiting the friendly free-rangers for their wellbeing.

The hens were also involved in a student-led egg laying competition which was so successful it was recognised with a Lord Dearing Award, which recognises outstanding contributions to the development of teaching and student learning.

Commenting on the project, Dr O’Shea said, “Having the hens here is really invaluable in giving students experience of handling and looking after commercial free-range hens. They have also proved to be very popular with staff who want to pick their own eggs or help out with looking after them. This gave us the idea to maximise their appeal and turn the flock into a sustainable enterprise project that students could take ownership of that would widen their impact and boost egg sales.”

The next generation of i-Hens flew in this March. They will have a busy calendar, as they prepare for student modules, meet local school children in a citizen science project, continue egg-laying for the fortnightly farmer’s market and become the hot topic of alumni guest lecturers.

Sutton Bonington staff and students are also hoping to link with allotment groups and food to fork teams to use waste foods as feed for the hens and co-design wellbeing walks around campus.

Our feathered friends have only been able to join us on campus and make a huge difference to the well-being of our students, staff and local community, thanks to generous support towards Cascade. Thank you so much for your contributions.

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