Clucking nuisance - Spear's Magazine

Clucking nuisance

I have properly joined The Good Life. Joining our happy zoo of dog, horse, ponies and peacocks are now five hens.

I have properly joined The Good Life. Joining our happy zoo of dog, horse, ponies and peacocks are now five hens. Five happy hens each with a name, as nominated by the children, each a different colour – gingery, speckled, freckled etc – and each, remarkably with a different character.

From our sink we can watch them wandering around the garden, pecking at the ground, rooting round for things to eat. They hop up to the window and my wife passes them breadcrumbs.

I’ve built them some five-star accommodation for the nights, they have a big run and live in part of an old barn.

And for most of the day they are allowed to roam the garden, popping back, amusingly, after lunchtime for a kip in their straw.

Two of them have started laying the most perfect, beautiful, rich and tasty eggs. Soon I hope the rest will follow and we’ll have a production line going.

Seeing them roam free does make you wonder what kind of life hens lead in battery farms. As I said they really do have different characters, some are more forward going than others, some more curious, more adventurous. Others shy, cautious.

Of course it wouldn’t be practical for everyone to keep hens but if you can it’s well worth the effort. There’s something wonderfully peaceful about seeing them clucking about and every new egg discovered is a treat.

But here are the downsides. You have to remember to shut them up or the fox will gobble them. Which is yet another chore to forget. Wherever they roam they shit. Think for a moment that you can nip outside with bare feet on Sunday morning, then think again. There is something particularly horrendous about getting chicken shit between your toes when you are hungover. Likewise on your head when you think you’ll lie down on the lawn for a snooze.

Every bench and outdoor chair has now been shat upon. You can’t sit down without checking for their revolting, sloppy green turds. Their shit stains the paving stones in the yard.

My children think it might be fun for the chickens to come into the house. But I don’t relish the day when I have to check the sofa for signs of defecation before I sit down to watch the telly.

Still, the eggs taste good. And so they should be as my wife feeds them Alpen. The household bills for feeding the animals is rising like inflation in Zimbabwe. But when swine fever hits we’ll be able to barricade ourselves in and live on omelettes.