When you think of a rural idyll chickens are always in the picture. Pecking around the garden, maybe a mother with a few chicks, nibbling corn out of your hand; it is an image of contentment. An image many people aspire to. And yes, if you look at my chicken pinterest board or my instagram feed I fulfil this image of contentment. I make no apologies for this.
But there is a reality behind the pictures. For a start chickens look completely different when they’re soaked by the rain. So if you’re interested in keeping chickens, do not be seduced by instagram and pinterest. Take heed of my advice.
- If you’re thinking of getting chickens be aware. It’ll become an obsession. Not just the birds themselves. Oh no. You’ll start looking at chicken coops on pinterest and in catalogues. You’ll drool over them. Take the catalogue to bed at night, furtively hiding it when your partner comes into the room. Chicken-coop porn. It is a thing*.
- Chicks are cute. You can hold them in your hand. You can stroke them. Aw, look at the little fella. Chicks may be cute but they still poop. And this poop stinks. If you keep them in a utility room or a cloakroom until they’re old enough to go outside, let me tell you this. It’ll stink. Your house will stink. Be prepared.
- Oh, we’ll just get three, you’ll tell your reluctant partner. Just think, fresh eggs every day. Poached eggs. Fried eggs. Eggs with soldiers. Think of the cakes! (That’ll be the clincher.) And three won’t be any bother. Until you get three. Then a few months later you’ve got eight.
- Or, you’ll start with six. And end up with twenty. True story.
- You’ll name them and take great care over their names. Then at number ten you can’t think of any more names. Or you name them then forget. Top tip: when one dies buy an identical one and call it the same. We have had four Barbara’s. The original one died, but Barbara Mark 1, 2 and 3 are all doing very well.
- Be aware: you won’t be able to eat their eggs at first. It’ll seem weird. Gross. You’re used to buying eggs off a supermarket shelf. Not actually taking them out of a coop that has come out of a chicken’s bottom. Ugh. But you get over it.
- At first you’ll be horrified by the poop. Then one day you find yourself filling a small plastic tray with warm water and fairy liquid and giving their bums a good wash. (Sometimes the poop doesn’t always land on the ground. It can collect in their bottom feathers. Then the next lot of poop sticks to that. And the next lot. Until you get a solid lump of poop. As hard as coal. But don’t fear. Warm water, a good soak (hold those wings down!) and a bit of gentle pulling and it’ll come off.)
- You’ll entertain thoughts of taking up knitting just so you can knit them cute jumpers like you’ve seen on t’internet for those very cold days. Don’t. That’s what their feathers are for.
- You’ll lose hours just watching them. And your day will revolve around their routines. Some of you will even call them ‘the girls’.
- You’ll find that not all chickens are the same. They have different voices. Different personalities. Some will rush up to you and tell you off for not feeding them on time. Others will come and peck at your wellies in an affectionate way. Others will take no interest in you at all. But you’ll lose your heart to each and every one. And, when the inevitable happens, you will be heartbroken….So you’ll just have to buy another.
- And one day you’ll wake up and think, lets get some ducks.
*Well, for me it is.