Brendan and Samantha Soden and their four children, James (12), Niamh (11), Ciaran (10), and Aoife (9) are poultry farmers in Co Cavan producing 50,000 free range eggs daily. This family farm is also run with the help of grandads, Eugene, working full-time, and Gerry, working part-time, who ensure all the jobs get done. With nearly 55,000 hens producing eggs daily, the Soden family have their hands full.

What kind of farm do you have?

Samantha explains that this is a poultry farm for free range eggs that has five houses, including a rearing house where the chicks come in at one-day old. Brendan has been working on this farm since he was 19. James, Niamh, Ciaran and Aoife help out on the farm at the weekend and during their school holidays – when they get the work done early, they go out for the day.

Everyone has their own job to do. Big brother James tells me: “Ciaran and I do house one by ourselves.” It can take them up to an hour and a half to pick and package the eggs. Aoife, who enjoys playing games on her phone, admits “we get take-aways” sometimes as a reward for their hard work.

Ciaran’s favourite subject in school is maths, while James is excited for secondary school where he hopes to learn “about countries”. He also can’t wait to drive the tractor.

In addition to hens, there are also some cattle on the farm, but Niamh tells us that Milo – the new kitten who was rescued by the family in one of the fields – “doesn’t like when the cows are around.”

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Niamh has four of her own cattle that she is raising, but she tells us it wasn’t easy to persuade dad Brendan to buy the calves “I was going onto daddy for ages just asking and he eventually got them.”

Her favourite thing about them was looking after them as calves. “When they were in the smaller shed, it was better to go over in the evening and feed them,” she says.

She hopes to keep them “for another year or two” before she sells them on to the factory, as they are one year old now.

Niamh had started this cattle rearing adventure with her grandad, but has since taken the reins of the project, explaining: “Granny thought he would be the one feeding them and doing everything for them, but it turns out he has only fed them once”.

Niamh even had jackets she used to put them in when they were smaller, but assures me that “they wouldn’t fit them now!”

The great outdoors

All four Soden children enjoy the outdoors and family day outs to different playgrounds around the country when they get the work done in the mornings.

“I think it was early this year we went out for a walk – we walked up the back of the hill and walked into this little opening that led into the fields behind granny’s house and then we eventually made it back here.”

As the children are now old enough to go on walks around the fields exploring, she adds: “I prefer being in the countryside than being in the city”.

James, Niamh and Ciaran all have an interest in GAA and play for their local club.


The Soden family were all involved in the recent poultry protest, in which farmers from across the country wanted action on the price they were getting for their eggs. “The last one is the one we got very active in – I have had enough. Its common sense you can’t have something made for nothing,” Samantha explains. Niamh highlights the importance of protesting: “It’s very important to protest so you can get what you need – if you don’t get what you need you go back out and stand again.”

“People are giving out saying ‘it’s their own fault’, but they can’t really be giving out because they don’t know what it’s like not to be getting whatever they need,” says Brendan, adding that the support from consumers was “very good”.

The Soden children are great helpers on their farm, Samantha tells us: “We are extremely proud of them – it’s not something you expect them to do. They never complain. They give out, but usually about each other’s quality of work”.

Brendan adds: “They would be a good help – if you wanted them to come over and give a hand cleaning out slats they would.”