In this month’s Poultry People, Jeremy Hobson talks to professional racing car driver Freddie Hunt about his enthusiasm for chicken-keeping.

I know your father [the 1976 Formula 1 world champion, James Hunt] had an immense knowledge and love of budgerigars, but from where does your interest in chicken-keeping come?

To be honest I’m not entirely sure. As a family we’ve kept chickens on and off over the years that my brother and I were growing up. I love all animals and I find chickens fascinating. I can watch them for hours, scratching around, chasing each other and just doing chicken-type things. And I particularly like the pretty ones, especially bantams.

What breeds do you have now – and are there any ‘must-have’ breeds you’d like to acquire in the future?

At the moment I have quite an eclectic mix: one bantam cross (I’ve no idea what she is), a mature white Silkie, white, black and golden Silkie youngsters, copper blue Marans, Barnevelders, one Lemon Sablepoot and four Malaysian Serama (unfortunately, not totally pure-bred). Pure-bred Seramas are the definite ‘must-have’ for the future: it’s their size, posture and character that attracts me. They’re like little soldiers and I want little soldiers marching around on my lawn!

The noise and activity of motor-racing is a world away from the peace and quiet of the chicken run – what is it about chickens that most captivates you?

I guess it’s their character and innocence. They’re just such funny, splendid little birds! And they come in such beautiful colours. No offence to Dad but a budgie just doesn’t compare to them in character and beauty – well, not that I’ve experienced anyway. Plus budgerigar eggs are a bit small to eat!

The nature of your profession suggests you are very competitive – might you at some point in the future, consider exhibiting your birds at poultry shows?

The thought has certainly crossed my mind. I will see how it goes with the breeding to ‘standard’ in the future and if I think I have some particularly good birds as a result, I will look into it and maybe take the plunge.

Knowing your serious interest in wildlife conservation [Freddie is an active supporter of both the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation] have you ever considered breeding some of the rarer pure-breeds of chicken in order to ensure their survival?

No I hadn’t but now I most certainly will! To be honest, I wasn’t really aware that there were some breeds of chicken which are seriously at risk – now I am, finding out more is going to be my new and immediate challenge… I shall be straight onto the websites’ of both the Poultry Club of Great Britain and the Rare Breed’s Survival Trust.

Finally, have you any thoughts/words of encouragement for any readers’ who are as yet undecided about keeping chickens?

One of the main attractions of chicken-keeping must be that it is such a relatively cheap and fascinating hobby. Not to mention the eggs you get out of it. If you don’t want to, it’s not necessary to spend lots of money on fancy breeds in order to enjoy them or get good eggs. They are great to have in the garden and I find it very therapeutic and relaxing to watch them. Build a chicken run, buy a few youngsters and you’re away. Just make sure your run is secure from troublesome predators and vermin such as foxes and rats – and, sad though it is when it happens through a visit by a day-time fox to free-range birds, mishap, illness or just old age, always be prepared to lose the odd one.

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