Myself and my husband Alan run a 140-acre farm just two kilometres from Wicklow town. At Ballynerrin farm we have 5,000 free-range birds along with sheep and tillage too. Alan has 26 acres of tillage; straw and oats so that keeps him busy in the summer months. I have my own purebred Belclare ewes and ram. I love sheep since I was a child as we had them at home when I was growing up. Mam and Dad had a mixture but I just grew to love the Belclare. The ram is a docile animal so he doesn’t get wicked with you when he is out with the ewes. The ewe is an easy lamber and they are just generally hassle free.

I am a farmer’s daughter, from Priestnewtown, Delgany. It was a very quiet area when I was growing up, a few houses along a road and Mam and Dad’s farm in the middle of them. It is very different there now, as everywhere is built up. My parents had free range hens the same as me. So, I grew up with the knowledge of feathers.

When I left school, I went to Warrenstown college in Co Meath to complete my Green Cert. I then went on to specialise in poultry management at Athenry, Co Galway for a further two and a half years till I was qualified. From there, I turned my attention to the food industry and became a food inspector, till one day I decided to produce my own food.

Food provenance

All the eggs are picked, graded, boxed and labelled here on the farm. We all play a part on our farm. Alan does deliveries between his work and the kids, Chloe (11) and Alex (9) are the right age for picking eggs! We are lucky because when we go away on holidays, my mum can step in to help as the hens lay seven days a week – they don’t take holidays.

I am very proud to have the Wicklow label on my eggs; when you’re out and about in the shops, it’s lovely to see your name on something you produced. Having the Wicklow label is something that builds trust between our customers and us, the producers.

The poultry industry has had a lot of challenges in the last few years. My free-range birds are still housed at the moment as the threat of bird flu is still about, but the flu this time is not as bad as last year. Our birds got back outside in April last year but we had to put them back in again after a few months. The reason we have to put the birds in is because if an infected bird stops to have a drink or rest and happens to leave a dropping in the field and then one of my lovely hens steps in it and brings it into the flock, the virus could spread through them all unbelievably quickly.

Avian flu is a dreadful disease to get into any poultry unit, a producer’s worst nightmare. All units have to have their bio-security at 100%. What this means is, if you are going to visit my yard in the morning your car will drive through a disinfectant bath at the entrance. I will then turn on the jets so your car gets disinfected all over. Once you get out of the car, you must stand on concrete and I will give you protective gear to put on, you then dip your feet in disinfectant and then I will give you protective boots to put on. Once we go inside, you will have to stand in more disinfectant. Cleaning, disinfectant, prevention; that’s what it is all about. Thank God my bio-security is top notch. It is exactly the same as what people went through at the time of foot and mouth but for us, it is every day.


You do notice a difference when your birds are housed, because they love to get out, especially in winter because it’s colder and they love that. They don’t like the sun too much; it burns their heads and they don’t like that. They also eat and drink more when they are inside and not out picking at the ground.

They are like all of us; we don’t do too well when we are cooped up inside, sure we don’t? They are such grazers! They are great for keeping grass down. They are as good as the sheep for keeping the grass down, people don’t realise this.

I also love to row with the local rowing club in Wicklow town. It’s a great team sport and lovely to get out in the evening for a change of scenery. We row in the sea, it’s great to be out there with your team, we are a team of five. The cox and four rowers. The cox is the person who sits in front and directs us out to where we have to start. I just stick to the summer rowing; I have enough to be doing the rest of the year!

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“I used to always say ‘I wish I grew up on a farm.’”

My Farming Week: Fionn Sherlock, Sherlock Farm, Bray, Co Wicklow