Happy Hens is an original concept, created by Yvonne Sutherland and inspired by stories of early New Zealand. A career as an art teacher and a love of history led Yvonne into this thriving business with its growing export markets.
From personal studies of colonial history and interviewing older local residents Yvonne learned that the early pioneer women, who were responsible for the kitchen gardens of New Zealand, chose their hens as much for their decorative qualities as for their egg production. Her own grandmother kept the big Black Orpingtons and as a child, Yvonne loved to collect the large brown eggs.
Originally all Happy Hens were hand-moulded, but as demand increased, Yvonne had to teach herself the slip-casting method of production.
Yvonne expanded both her New Zealand and overseas markets by participating in the big Craft Shows and retail Gift Trade Fairs in Australia, Singapore and New York. As exports increased, Happy Hens won a New Zealand Export Award in 1989 and was a finalist in the American Express New Zealand Tourism Awards (souvenir category). Happy Hens have become a firm Dunedin icon and have been taken all over the world as official gifts by local and national politicians.
In 1984, about the same time Happy Hens were first being made, Dunedin was establishing connections with its sister-city in Japan, Otaru. Initially the links were mainly trade links. When Yvonne realised various Dunedin items were being sent to a trade expo at Otaru, she became determined that Happy Hens would also go. When she presented the hens to the businessmen involved, he agreed, and that was the beginning of Happy Hens exports. Since then Yvonne has visited Japan five times and visited the shop in Otaru where Happy Hens are sold.
After establishing the Happy Hens export markets, Yvonne has set about creating designs for a growing list of products including ceramic tiles, china, kitchen linen, clothing, cross stitch kits and greeting cards.
Today, the Happy Hens product list continues to grow as does the world popularity that is the Happy Hens phenomenon.