A family’s chicken keeping adventure on the north coast of Cornwall

When we moved down to Cornwall in autumn 2008, we took over a large garden. Our chickens have been a great success. They are rescue chickens of a sort, for when we took them from my brother-in-law it was his sanity we were rescuing. The family dog had been making itself sick by eating their droppings, more often than not over the dining room floor, so the birds had to go.

As our garden has no fences or hedges to keep foxes out, we had first to construct a range for them. Having never built anything like this before, my wife and I are very proud of our efforts. But did we go a bit over the top? Our neighbour Terry, a fellow chicken keeper, saw our range and said he thought we were keeping lions!

Mr Fox has been a bold visitor over the last couple of years and took one of Terry’s chickens during his first week of owning them. All the same, we cannot say our range is any better protected. People say foxes are cunning, but are chickens any less so? It took just a few days before they found a way to escape.

We let them out each day to wander around the garden anyway, hopefully feasting on the masses of slugs that feed so greedily on my plants. There are also lots of shrubs to scratch around. We have been amazed at how easy chickens are to care for, and what wonderful garden companions they make. I find it so relaxing watching them going about their business whilst my little girls simply adore them. They often find their way into the house as they genuinely believe they are part of our family. Confusingly, they both have two names as my girls could not agree what to call them. They therefore go by both the names of the girls’ aunties and, even more confusingly for standard egg-laying hybrids of brown and white, my youngest’s favourite colours, Pink and Yellow.

Nothing can be better than wandering into the garden, enjoying the views over fields and woodland or simply listening to the bird song, and picking eggs from the hen house. It is such a thrill to pick one’s own eggs; I can’t explain that, but am sure everybody who keeps chickens feels the same. And, of course, nothing beats the golden colour and taste of a fresh, free-range chicken.

Apart from this, they are the perfect pets – and require no walkies during the wet, stormy evenings we sometimes get on the beautiful North Cornish coast. Hopefully, the freshly manured vegetable beds will be equally productive next year, the fruit cage will go up and the bees we plan to keep will be as generous with their honey as Pink and Yellow have with their eggs.

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