A Poultry Lover’s Guide to Poetry is the debut pamphlet collection of Cheshire-based poet and hen lover, Helen Kay. 


Helen  is a dyslexia tutor at Reaseheath College in Cheshire. She gained recognition in several smaller poetry competitions and went on to win the Wigan Greenheart Competition in 2012. Since then she has had poems published in various magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Ink Sweat and Tears, Obsessed with Pipework, Nutshells and Nuggets and Dreamcatcher. Her work was also included in the Spokes and Coastword Festival Anthologies. 


Her first chicken poem was hatched in 2010 and she continues to be inspired by her feathered friends.  




Helen Kay


The Poultry Lover's Guide To Poetry


ISBN 978-1-909357-79-2


Indigo Dreams Publishing




138 x 216mm


34 pages


£6.00 + P&P UK


PUB: May 2015











11. Don’t be alarmed if a hen crows


I may have ended in these flower beds,

But I was farmyard born, grit-gut, half-bred,    

Had seven broods and wore the crown,  

‘Til Chauntecleer cropped up. I did stand down,

But never let him fully have his way.

I plucked along to his upstart assay.

A trochee – claws in – then a cretic,  

Four crochets and a semibreve – pathetic,

And Mr Narcissus crowed on and on,  

His scaly legs lit by the morning sun.

My theory is that’s why he’s now deceased,

But call me less a widow, more released.

This rooster crooning is a piece of cake.

Too much, of course, may make my red neck ache.  

A few bars will suffice to pave my way,

A touch of primal scream to crack the day,

When hens are cocks and cocks are plucky hens

In a mixed up, shook up world of nearly men.        



Lay lay lady crowla.





22. A hen coop must be vermin proof


He was a sewer pipe survivor.

A full-bellied wife lay indoors,

Gave birth to five mousy kids

Who cut teeth on the hen coop floor.


Evening, Dad set the neck snappers,

Wrestlers pinning down a snout

Twitching by half-bitten cheese.    

Easy, but this nomad, without


The boundaries of hedge or gate,

Digs the brain’s matrix, mixing angst

For the fowl who first drew secrets

Out of night, with pity for a gangsta


With knuckleduster teeth, a broken back

And a mother, swollen underground,

Next to a gnawed poison pouch, buried

Deep as shame, while hens sleep sound.  





1. Never chase your chickens


I wanted sitting ducks, dust-bathing.

My hands raked the air, erring.

Half-ruffled hens shook, shocked,

fled to shade, distressed, distrusting.  


Watching, father said take time, tame.

Let the twitching hens come, calm.

Gently fold feather-fingers

to clasp pulsing bodies, buddies.


Now writing, I scribble, scrabble

to catch flighty thoughts, fight  

to hold on. They elude, evade,

crouch in hedges aggrieved, afraid.  





4. The pecking order is central to chicken society  


Inside a smooth bill,

pterosaur tongue.  

Before tameness, flesh and bone conflict.


After basilisk stares,

five hens take shape                                                        

in sharp nips over shortbread biscuits.


Alpha hen is king,

still slips Lemon Puffs  

to her princess. They know this world is flat.  


A full pellet tray

can end the war.

Hen three leaps in to dine. Smart tactic.    


Ego free hens, four

and five, have turned

a blue glazed planter into their bidet.


Awful metaphors

addle my thoughts,                                            

push me to six in the garden’s orbit.






7. Poultry breeding is in the blood  

     i.m.  Ian Kay, author of Stairway to the Breeds, 1997



Maybe the teachers shaped him,

maybe not, pigeonholing days, sets,

teams, termly exams, ideas.

Even the boys were templates,


high fliers crossing the Oxbridge dots,  

chick magnets, art room Chagall creeps,  

sweaty, sporty geeks who ticked

the week with lengths and faster times.


But his wings, unclipped, untarred

fanned him out elsewhere.

Sun dust beamed him past windows  

and railings, to a wire mesh pen.


Lacy Sussex, patchy Game,

Brahma, Breda, Yokohama,

had clear markings, the X and Y

he never found in chalky corridors.


From the old men, he learned to judge

the straightest  breastbone, comb  

or tail, to quest for perfect form,  

to write the bible of the breeds.  

“In these remarkable poems Helen Kay takes on the big ideas that touch everyone, not just poultry lovers. Family, memory, creativity, and the act of writing are preoccupations that are explored in superbly crafted and disciplined poems from a poet who knows how to meld form and substance. A dazzling debut collection.”

Barbara Bentley


“A must for poultry and poetry lovers alike. Helen Kay’s collection casts a keen, beady eye over the world of cocks and hens and the characters that keep them.  Here is the language of the chicken coop.  These poems strut, cluck and peck across the page.  Brilliantly observed and beautifully written.”

Emma Purshouse


“In this curiously absorbing collection, Helen Kay guides us lovingly yet unsentimentally though the arcane world of poultry, her poet’s voice charged with irony, knowledge, care and joy. Kay plays confidently with formal structures and bravely challenges her innate lyrical responses  in these strangely romantic, innovative and celebratory poems.”

Elizabeth Ashworth


“It's clearly  the work of someone who knows her hens, bringing knowledge and unsentimental experience into play - not as a background but a part of almost every poem. It is a very varied collection, the more notable because of the unifying title. An intriguing and deserving collection, and I'm very pleased to applaud it on its way.”

John Cassidy






9781909357792 HK amend

This is a book for poultry and poetry lovers alike. Based on detailed personal observations of hens and their owners, Helen Kay  uses a variety of poetic forms to address key themes.Birth, death and the pecking order are all parts of the hen’s routine in this sometimes funny, sometimes poignant pamphlet collection.    


17. The ancient Greeks valued the beauty of the cockerel which was a symbol of bravery


It’s written the dying Socrates

gifted a cockerel to a god.

Its white wings mapped the air.  

A scabbed comb crowned

its stabbed head. Its beak,

a forked V, could not speak.


We’re told the ugly fella, wise

beyond time, would not betray

the grain store in his skull.  

While his senses snook away

to the stone sides of his cell,

he thought to thank Asclepius,

chose a cock, whose cry        

could make a dawn sky heal,

to be cut up and handed out,  

the raw remains scrutinised,


or did cock, scraping the soil,

require Socrates as sacrifice

to the god of the spoken word.

This done, he convinced Crito

to assist in his own demise.  

Then Plato hatched his lies.