The Truth About Keeping Chickens
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 a wonderful 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.
There is a reality behind the pictures. It's not so much fun when the bitterly cold rain is coming sideways but the chickens still need looking after. When you're slipping around in the mud, longing for a warm fire but you have to de-ice their water and throw them some corn to keep them warm.
On the whole keeping chickens is a joyous affair. But beware for the changes in your life and how certain things (like 'farmyard smells') just won't bother you any more. These are the ten things that happened to me and may well happen to you, too. You have been warned...
You'll become obsessed
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 and take the catalogue to bed at night, furtively hiding it when your partner comes into the room. Chicken-coop porn. It is a thing.
Adding to the numbers will just happen
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! 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 run out of names
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 3 and 4 are all doing very well.
Eating their eggs will seem weird
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. They come in boxes with dates stamped on them, don't they? You're not used to taking them out of a coop where they've been laid just minutes before out of a chicken's bottom. Ugh.
But you soon 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. Try not to gag.)
Cute chicken stuff
Your friends and family will send you articles about knitted jumpers for the chickens for the colder days. You think about making one. Briefly. Then remember that's what their feathers are for.
But even so you seem to have accumulated a lot of chicken birthday cards and ornaments. Where does it all come from?
Let's hatch chicks
Chicks are cute. You can hold them in your hand. You can stroke them. Aw, look at the little fella. It is an exciting, magical journey to see them hatch, grow and develop.
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.
Chicks also come as male or female. Sometimes you might hatch six eggs and five of them are boys. Which means cockerels. And fighting. And crowing. You need a back-up plan if this happens.
Where did the day go?
You'll lose hours just watching them. And your day will revolve around their routines. Some of you will even call them 'the girls'.
They have personalities
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. You'll know who is behind you just by their voice. 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....
Adding to the flock
So you'll go out and buy another. Then, one day you'll wake up and think, lets get some ducks.