Local Food Comes Home To Roost

Knowing where your food has come from and choosing to buy local and in-season produce is back in fashion. Many in Girton go further by growing their own vegetables, either in their garden or on an allotment, but some don’t just stop at vegetables and keep their own chickens or other livestock.

There’s a lot of coverage in the press at the moment of the Celebrity Chefs’ campaign to improve the welfare of chickens by persuading the public to refuse to buy non-free-range birds and eggs. What some people have discovered is that you can very easily be self-sufficient in eggs with just a couple of chickens, and as you care for them yourself they will be among the happiest chickens in the country.

Happy chickens have few basic needs: something to eat and drink, somewhere safe to roost, somewhere to lay eggs, and some shelter from the weather.

Chicken feed costs around 50p per-chicken per-week, and they’ll be happy to polish off many of your kitchen scraps too. In return, they’ll provide you with five or more eggs per week (less in winter). Although there will be other costs such as their housing and vets’ bills, the eggs will be far cheaper (as well as being far tastier) than you’ll get in the supermarket.

Purpose-built chicken houses will provide shelter and a place to roost and lay eggs, but an old shed could be easily adapted to this purpose. During the day they can either be truly free-range and allowed to scratch around your garden, or if you have plants you don’t wanted pecked and want to keep them safer from foxes, a wire run should do the job.

Although chickens are robust and hardy creatures, they can also make surprisingly good pets (so I’m told!) if you get them when they are young so they can be tamed. They also make an excellent way for children to learn how to care for animals and where their food comes from.

I have long harboured a desire to keep chickens in our garden, and I’m hoping that this will be the year that it happens. If so, I’ll try and follow-up to let you know how we get on.