Because I’m chicken obsessed that’s why. Every morning I put on a cardi over my pyjamas, pull on my wellies and trudge out to the chicken coop. I pop their food inside, open a little door and out they come with a squawk, delighted at the start of a new day.
It has been over three weeks since we got them and it isn’t getting old.
I can honestly say that the afternoon I spent at Mini Meadows Farm in Northamptonshire was one of the best I’ve had in some time. Ben, the owner, talked us through the basics. We learned how to keep the coop clean, how to clip the chickens’ wing and how to cover them in red mite powder. We held them and we stroked them. I took copious notes which I haven’t referred to since, because – do you know what? Chicken keeping is easy. Ben actually said in a few weeks we’ll be wondering why we needed to do the course. And he’s absolutely right.
You need a chicken coop with or without a run (we have one with a run but they free range around the garden), wood shavings, a feeder, a container for water, red mite powder, food (Layers Pellets) and a few afternoon treats such as corn. And that is pretty much it. There are other things you can get as well. I have a recommended disinfectant to give the coop a thorough clean once a month and a droppings tray which is covered in wood shavings that I clean out every few days. The wood shavings mean the droppings just, well, drop off. Easy.
Then, of course, you need chickens.
We went for six hybrids which should lay all year round. We bought from the same farm as the course. If you are going to get some yourself buy from a recommended breeder* as they’ll have been fully vaccinated. The birds will be Point of Lay which means they will be about to start laying or will have just started. They will be around eighteen to twenty weeks old. Hybrid chickens will start laying from twenty to twenty five weeks, once they’re settled, although the eggs may be a little odd at first.
We picked them up the day after the course, getting six different types of hybrid. And yes, we’ve named them. Dora, Barbara, Hermione, Henrietta, Nelly and Agatha. Some lay brown eggs, some white. And we also have one that might lay a light blue egg. In the last two weeks two of them have started laying – huge excitement. Picking up a just-laid egg is a wonderful experience. Each chicken was £15 although the Columbine Hybrid was £25 (she of the light blue egg).
I can’t wait now for the rest to start laying. As someone online commented, it’s like a present has been left for you every day.
*I say a recommended breeder because the rise in popularity for keeping your own chickens has led to the equivalent of puppy farms in the chicken world. September’s edition of Your Chickens magazine talks about the rise in chicken ‘sharks’, offering a buyer’s guide and seven-point checklist. If you’d like to keep chickens (go on, you know you want to!) The Poultry Club of Great Britain is a great place to start.