Noel Phillips was born in Banstead, England. Here he recollects his boyhood, growing up on a poultry farm in Croydon Lane.

Growing up on a poultry farm

"In the 1930s, I had various tasks to do every morning before going to school while my mother was frying bacon and eggs for my breakfast.
There were about five large sheds and they had large hoppers inside full of mash; zinc covers were put over the feeding troughs at night to keep the rats out. Outside the sheds there were galvanized troughs of water - so that the hens did not make a mess inside. My job was to take off the covers of these drinking troughs and in cold weather the ice had to be broken. The little trap-door in each shed had to be opened to let the hens out, and a check made on the hopper as the mash sometimes needed to be pushed down.
Finally, when the weather was hot, I had to open the big door of each shed and hook it back wide open.
Then my father took over and went the rounds of all the sheds to see that the hens had got their feed. For a few years in the mid -1930s we had a resident helper, a strong young man called Bill who pushed a barrow to transport heavy grain or water around the farm.
The chicken feed was delivered in an open-backed lorry from the firm of Dendy Napper in Sutton. It came in cwt sacks. My dad and the driver carried them into the big storeshed one at a time on their backs and tipped the feed into the storage bins. There were separate bins for meal, maize, wheat and oats. Some of the bins were made out of big wooden containers which had been used to import Remington typewriters from the U.S.A. These were given to us by my uncle Leslie who worked for Remington.

Regarding re-stocking, this was done as far as possible from our own breeding pens. Each house had one cockerel and about one dozen hens. The eggs were collected and brought into the incubator shed, then put in trays in the incubators, which were heated by paraffin lamps.
Sometimes day-old chicks were bought from a breeder and these arrived in cardboard boxes delivered by rail. The chicks were transferred to brooder houses heated by paraffin lamps. They were fed on finely chopped-up grain, which you could buy ready-made, it could also be prepared in a kibbling mill which was hand-turned.
'Point-of-lay' hens were bought occasionally, although this could be a bad investment as we found out when one batch developed fowl pest and we lost the lot!
The two breeds kept were Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns; I remember that the R.I.Rs were lovely, very quiet, good layers and a large bird for eating, and the W.Ls were easily panicked which put them off laying, they were a smaller bird for the table. Present day "404s" are a mix of the two.

Dogs were an ever present menace to the hens; they came through from Fairlawn Grove, The dogs would arrive in packs of 10 or 12 and if they weren't spotted immediately, they could wipe out a whole pen of hens in no time. Whoever spotted them first would shout 'Dogs! Dogs!' and run out to the pen, hoping someone else had heard and would follow up close behind. Inside the pen gate was a stick which you picked up, that was usually enough as the dogs were cowards and soon ran out again through the hole they had made to get in.

Another threat to the hens were the badgers which occasionally got into the hen-houses at night and killed the birds. My dad killed three altogether, two smallish ones and a third, a massive boar which went for him after he had shot it, and he had to dispatch it by hitting it over the head with his empty gun and broke off the stock doing so.
There were also foxes in the area, but they did not seem to touch the hens.

Regular customers bought eggs and chickens for the table direct from the farm. My mother also did an egg-round, cycling as far as Purley to deliver eggs to private houses. But in the late 1930s new regulations forced us to sell the eggs through established 'egg-packing stations' and this did not provide a very good profit. At the same time it was becoming more difficult to obtain feed, especially in the early years of the War. What was available was of poor quality and so the poultry farm turned into a vegetable-growing concern. But that is another story."