Meet Phyllis and Mabel!
There has been a hen-shaped hole in our lives for a couple of years now, after Marmalade, Chick Pea, Speckley and two un-named but loved Japanese hybrid chickens were taken by Mr Fox one night. I'm not particularly attached to animals - the hens were there to provide us with food - but I was rather upset at having lost them, especially as I'd forgotten to close the door to their nesting box that night...
We have a small, urban garden, that is packed to the rafters with food producing projects. As well as a couple of raised beds, there is an orchard (tiny), greenhouse (smallest available) and a stack of pots, troughs and buckets currently growing everything from squashes to tomatoes to celery to artichokes. When we moved, we also inherited a dog run (the previous owner had a guide dog) which has served as our chicken space since, although it now has a much higher fence and cover over the top. It's not enormous, but it's enough to house the coop (an Omlet Eglu that was kindly gifted - recommended for ease) plus space for foraging and clucking and dust bathing, all favourite chicken activities!
I am a vegan so the production of eggs is pretty inconsequential to me, but it's a joy to have a ready supply of fresh, ethically produced eggs for the children, and it's got us out of a 'yikes, I forgot to buy tea!' kinda moment on many occasions. Eggs are the cornerstone of a nutritious and quick meal. Add bread, beans, bake into a frittata or an omelette and you're away in no time at all!
Phyllis and Mabel happened by chance. A little. We'd only gone to have a look at different types of chickens, maybe ask advice, but our excellent local breeder was a fair journey and as we were all set up already...
The chaps at Durham Hens were brilliant. We wanted chickens that weren't too large, were good with kids, friendly and easy, and they recommended the Copper Blacks. The hens were all kept in really clean and pleasant surroundings, and they've been checked and vaccinated so we know there are no horror stories to come.*
Phyllis and Mabel are 'point of lay,' that is imminently about to produce their first eggs. In fact we got our first only a couple of days after bringing them home, and now both are laying one (little - this is normal for young 'uns) egg each a day.
If you're looking to make your diet more sustainable, you could do worse than get yourself a couple of hens. They make charming pets, they're easy to look after, make light work of any kitchen scraps and reward you with super fresh food. Battery and caged hens are kept in the most appalling conditions, so by choosing your own, you're ensuring at least a few birds have a better life. And there will never be a shortage of willing helpers to look after them if you go away! It's probably not a cost saving, all things considered (the Eglu's for example are expensive and feed can often be difficult and expensive to find in a town) but I can wholeheartedly recommend them. If you're not sure, or lacking space, why not club together with a few friends and buy community chickens?!
*I have, this evening, removed a chicken's head from a gap between the fence panels, stuck as she tried to reach the greener grass on the other side! I hope this'll be a one off...
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.