8 May 2012

Too “Chicken” for Chickens?

Just recently, my mind has been once again drawn to the thought of keeping chickens.

I don’t know why, but the idea of keeping my own hens and having farm fresh eggs has always appealed. It was one of the “To Do’s” on my list of life changes that would occur once we had moved to the countryside and were living our bucolic dream.

There are several predictable things that most ‘ex-Townies’ assume are bound by law when they embark on a new life in the countryside.
First off, you ‘must get a dog’ – well we did that – and he’s absolutely gorgeous – a Jack Russell Terrier called Byron. We couldn’t imaging life without him, and to be honest, I can hardly imagine my life before he arrived. That part of our life has been renamed “B.C.” (i.e. Before Chaos!)

Another ‘law’ is to master the art of baking. Well….let’s just say that I do bake…a lot! But the words ‘Master’, ‘Art’ and ‘baking’ do not sit comfortably in the same sentence when applied to my creations. Suffice to say that my cakes usually taste as they are meant to – I think – but winning a ‘Best in Show’ rosette at the village fete is something that will probably never happen. (Alas bribing the Vicar doesn’t work – his pantry is already literally heaving with ‘generous gifts’ of Women’s Institute homemade rhubarb and potato wine – I checked…he uses it to run his mower…)

Growing fruit and vegetables is another ‘Must Do’ for country living. We have apples, plums and blueberries, and I have attempted pumpkins and broad beans with varying degrees of success. However, this is the year that I turn ‘serious’ with my vegetable growing. This, my friends, is the year that I install my raised bed, formal potager! (But more of that in another post…)

But it must be said that the greatest prize of them all, the “piece de resistance” of country life and a true testament that one has evolved into a true country dweller – is to keep chickens!

I arrived at Hill House with all guns blazing amidst plans for intricate chicken houses, runs and feeding stations. Two years down the line and not a cluck. The children are becoming increasingly agitated that their dreams of pre-breakfast egg collecting will never materialise. We’ve even decided on names for our ‘fantasy chickens’ in advance – Mrs. Cluckington, Dame Eggna and Penelope Pluck…

So what’s stopping me? I’ve bought and read numerous books on the subject. I’ve studied the internet for the most attractive (and yes practical, hygenic AND secure) hen houses and runs, and I’ve scoured the ‘Land of Blog’ to find out other peoples perspectives on keeping chickens and the pros and cons, the successes and disasters etc…

I think that ultimately, I know that once I commit – there’s no going back. I know that beyond the initial throws of excitement in the first few weeks, my early morning helpers are unlikely to hold fast to their offers of poop clearing assistance. I’m thinking – “will I want to be looking after chickens in the depths of Winter” (my chicken thoughts always start in Spring!)

And what about the chickens themselves – will they destroy my beautiful lawn, will the dog think that Christmas has come early and enjoy the delights of Mrs. Cluckington for lunch. Will they encourage rats. Will they be noisy, smelly, diseased – or Heaven forbid – will they die!?

Or perhaps I’m just not a natural ‘chicken keeper’ and should stick to Waitrose…

Any thoughts?

Images courtesy of; 1) Madonna by Tim Walker for Vogue; 2)Chicken coop William Sonoma; 3)Elizabeth Hurley by Jonathan Bookalill; 4)Kate Spade Home; 5)Marina Hanbury for Tatler; 6)Duchess of Devonshire by Bruce Webber; 7)Julien Clary’s garden for The Telegraph; 8)Cecilia Dean for Harpers Bazaar; 9)Madonna for D&G; 10)The Guardian – Alamy

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