Monday, 11 April 2011

The Things I Gain #3 Chickens

I have made a big decision. It’s the biggest decision I’ve made since I signed the deed to my allotment.  I’m getting hens.
As a veggie I rely on eggs for protein (though I won’t eat the white unless it’s scrambled- eww) and even though I’ve often considered veganism, a dippy egg on a Sunday morning is just too much temptation. Obviously we always buy free range (who doesn’t in this day and age!?) but I have increasing doubts about what this actually means. After a couple of years, when the hens have reached their egg laying peak they end up in the same place as their battery sisters, albeit with a higher price tag. Free range and battery hens often come from the same place before they end up in the farm, a place where they cut their little beaks off and throw their little brothers out in bin bags. I don’t agree with intensive or large scale commercial farming- free range, organic or other. To live green we should take only what we need.  There are millions of disturbing websites out there that give you an idea of animal welfare standard, google “how free range is free range”, but not as you tuck into your fried egg sarnie! I want my dippy egg, but I want to know that the hen who laid it was a genuinely happy hen, I can’t think of anything more sensible than keeping my own.

So decision made. Easy. Or so I thought. There is so much to think about, it’s not a case of walking into a pet shop et voila free range omelette! First there’s housing- how many hens will I have? What will they live in? Wooden or plastic? Ark or coop? Build or Buy? Chippings or grass? To Eglu or not to Eglu? That’s before you even get to the hens! Do you want hybids or pure bred? Ex Batteries? Eggs, chicks or point of lay? Layers, brooders or table birds? Show girls or home girls? Bantams, pekins, sussex, red rangers, sussex reverse, dorkings.....

As with everything in life, I asked my dad. He was initially against the chickens on the basis that they would wreck the garden. A point I’m sure he is right about. But, after four solid days of badgering and chicken related harassment, he relented. He immediately said no to the ex-batts I wanted to get, raising the very good point that the poor loves have already had a stressful life without our crazy labradoodle chasing them aroung. He has also made the decision to go for an eglu. Controversial. They are expensive and plastic, I once saw them described as the ipod of the chicken keeping world. Dad was sold when the catalogue revealed them to fox and mite proof as well as super easy to clean. For the bargainous price of £380, an Omlet man will turn up on your doorstep with the house, the food and two little chickens to start you off. I want to choose my own chickens, I’ve got to get the chemistry right, this presented a problem- what comes first the chicken or the eglu? Panic over, I found a poultry breeder nearby who has chickens and eglus. Things are beginning to fall into place.
 So, this weekend we will bring home our new girls to their new plastic home in the garden and take another step towards being that little bit more green....
Only a few obstacles, what will Alf the dog think? And what will we name them? Front runners at the moment are Barbara and Margo (The Good Life) or Emmeline and Mary (as in Pankhurst and Wollstonecraft). Suggestions on a post card...

1 comment:

  1. We have an Eglu that we use for any birds we want kept seperate from the rest for a while (either young or poorly chickens). They ARE brilliant easy to look after and keep clean and will comfortably hold 2 or 3 medium sized hens or up to 5 Bantams.

    They do seem expensive at first but they last well, our little wooden 'Broody House' was bought at the same time and is falling apart already.

    Sue xx