Martin and Hayley Waker, from Westbury in Wiltshire, are typical of a young family who keep a few chickens in their back garden. This is their story.
Keeping chickens was something we always said we would like to do, but only after we had done enough research. But, best laid plans and all that… a family member decided they no longer wanted their chickens, and we took them on. Luckily, they came with a house, food, bedding, and all we could need to make them happy in their new surroundings. All we needed to do was fence off an area of the garden for them to be safely enclosed when our dogs were about.
We never realised how much fun owning chickens could be. It’s really nice to wake up in the morning and hear them chattering in the hen house. They follow us around, and our two boys love them. Our five-year-old son had been on about having a small pet, but our lifestyle didn’t really allow it as we are away from home most weekends. Now the chickens give him the responsibility of owing a small pet, but also we don’t feel bad about asking family to pop in to feed the birds and collect the eggs when we are away. It means the chickens get looked after, and our family can have lovely fresh eggs if they want them.
We recently went to a country fair, and there were chickens for sale. After a lengthy chat with the very helpful staff, we decided to add two more hens to the family. We were a little worried about introducing them to the two we already have, but we were assured that, if we followed their advice, all would be well. We haven’t looked back. The new chickens, Pepa and Penny, are already really sociable and love nothing more than a cuddle.
Since having chickens, we have gone from a family who didn’t really eat eggs to a family who can’t get enough of them. Nothing beats a nice fresh egg, so we are really pleased our new hens started laying in a few weeks.
We would recommend chicken keeping to anyone. They are cheap and easy to keep, not to mention productive, and are such a lovely way to introduce young children to pet ownership. Our chickens have a large fenced area of the garden, but they do come out for a scratch around. We have learnt, however, that we must keep their wings clipped as our neighbours were getting regular chicken visits! They do enjoy scratching around the flower beds, and like nothing more than a shower in the pebble pond. If you really love your garden, chicken keeping might not be for you, but for us the pleasure we get from them, and watching the children interact with them, is far greater than a few holes in the flower beds.
I think our next step on the chicken keeping ladder will be to buy some fertile eggs and hatch them if we ever have a broody hen. We would love a cockerel in the garden too, but this isn’t a road we can go down as there are local authority restrictions. We would much rather hear a happy cockerel than some of the noises your hear in an urban community – but we must think of our neighbours.