There has been talk of chickens in our house this week. The dearly beloved has got it in to his head that it would be nice to have a few bantams at the bottom of the garden for a ready supply of wholesome eggs. Nice idea, I agreed, but before we rush out and spend £400 on a henhouse, I suggested we do a little research. For instance, did you know that you might need planning permission to put a chicken coop up in your garden? And that contrary to popular belief it is actually against the law to feed your birds on kitchen scraps?
It turns out it is not the cheap route to rural idyll that we – by which I mean he – anticipated. Once you’ve bought your house, there’s extra wire to create a run, the ongoing costs of buying chicken feed – which it turns out doesn’t cost chicken-feed – and then you need somewhere pest proof to store it. There are also supplements, worming preparations: the list goes on. And has he considered what he would do if he found a dead bird, or worse still, a headless one? It could happen; indeed, I’d go so far as to say it’s bound to.
The idea was mooted of putting some chooks (as we poultry farmers refer to them) up at our allotment. But someone has to tend to the birds twice a day, everyday, regardless of the weather, what’s on the telly or, importantly for us, what shift work is being done. I’m happy to support this enterprise, but my husband sometimes starts work at 6 in the morning and finishes at 10 at night, so I foresee some logistical difficulties.
Then there’s the tricky problem of the rats. I’m not one of those soppy girls who runs a mile at the sight of a mouse, and my spider removal strategies are legendary. But rats (shudder), no thanks.
I suggested that the best thing would be to chat with a friend who is an experienced chicken-keeper. She was happy to oblige and arranged a visit so we could have a proper hands-on look at the job. It was at this point that my husband started coming up with excuses of his own as to why it wasn’t perhaps for us – meaning him – after all: ‘It’s a huge commitment, and I’m not sure we can justify the expense. Do we really eat that many eggs? And could we bear to send them off to be, you know, despatched, when the time came?’
I gave him a long, hard look: ‘You’re scared to pick them up.’ He didn’t reply.
But we have decided that, for now, we will buy our eggs from the local farm shop and let someone do the rearing for us.