Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Chicken coup

It's quite a regular occurance for me to come back from a night out having agreed to commit to something that in the cold light of day comes with all manner of complications. 

Because of this impulse I have, among many other things, been a rowing team captain, learnt the drums, promised to be a guitar teacher, travelled round Sri Lanka and been a step-dad to two (wonderful) girls. Ok the last one is an exaggeration, with a lot more than a night out involved before stepping up for parent duties, but the pattern is the same, I love the thought, believe I can manage it, I'm blinded by desire, it's always a lot harder than I expect, it never works out as I'd hope, but at the end I wouldn't change the experience for all the tea in, well, China,  the Indian sub-continent and Tesco combined.

Last night I agreed to keep chickens...

I have no idea what this will entail. I've been harbouring this desire for some time now but with a deep fear that I just cannot handle the feathers. 

In one of those 'it's a small world' moments, my neighbour in the top flat is in the rowing club and happened to sit opposite me for a Valentine's night meal for all the single rowers (if you've ever dated a rower, you'll soon know that there is only one true love - indeed one girl dumped her boyfriend yesterday on the basis that he complained she rowed too much. This may sound harsh, but it's not).

Anyway, what I wanted to explain was that my neighbour seriously wants to keep chickens and has the coop already. She has the desire, I have the space, so I blurted out, let's keep chickens!

So, come March I'll be having chickens, fresh eggs, and no doubt kittens too as I chase them round the garden in some mad dash to get them to return to their hut and lay me some eggs!

I know some readers are experts in this field so could you tell me, what are the golden rules?


Rachael said...

As you know, we have chickens! They are lovely things and believe it or not actually turn out to have their own characters. Eggs are huge and are a brilliant yellow, making baking so much more fun - cakes and pastry are very yellowy and much tastier, welsh cakes more eggy and you'll have the satisfaction that at least one of the ingredients are organic and home 'grown' (plus you will always have the perfect hangover cure of boiled eggs and soldiers on tap).

People say they're smelly, but really in comparison to cows or cats they aren't that bad. They put themselves to bed but they do like space, grass and muddy areas to have dust baths. They have a tendency to eat your seeds and dig up flowers and will always without fail follow you wherever you go. Also wherever there are chickens, rats will follow. Make sure any food is put away at night and kept in sealed containers.

Don't put a young cockerel with old hens, he will get hen pecked. We thought ours was gay for a while and he ran away from the girls at first but as he's grown up it turns out that he's not gay after all. He's now learning to cocker-doodle-doo and if you get a cockerel he will annoy your neighbours at all hours of the day…

There are good and bad points about keeping any kind of animal, either way you will love them and they will provide you with hours of entertainment.

lynbuglover said...

We keep some bantams, supposedly for pest control purposes. They don't seem that interested in eating things like, oh, gooseberry sawfly larvae, slugs, cabbage white caterpillars (even the pigs won't eat those!), but do seem to adore earthworms, ground beetles etc. Everything you want to keep, in other words. Oh, and flowers. We net our soft fruit early, not to to protect from wild birds, but to protect from the chickens - they will eat every blossom they can reach. And then jump to get those a little higher.

However, they are absolutely adorable, I can identify each one by its behaviour. They hand feed and make jobs like weeding much more enjoyable as they follow the weeder around, hoping for titbits.

Eggs? When they feel like it! We have two cockerels (brothers) and they have no difficulty getting along. They seem to share their harem, and are very solicitous.

They don't smell at all. They improve your life immeasurably, in my opinion. But, like all of the best things in life, don't expect a free ride.

Hapless gardener said...

Ah Rachael, thank you for all the advice, very much appreciated.

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

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I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.