When people ask me what’s the secret of successful gardening, I often reply ‘think of your garden like a pet’. Just as you’d take your dog on a daily walk, rather than on just one 30 mile walk a month, so a garden benefits from regular attention. All too often, the people I see struggling with gardens or allotments are those who do a huge marathon one weekend, exhaust themselves and don’t venture out again for weeks.
Anyway, analogy over… I’m about to put my theory to the test – by reversing it. I know I can look after plants, but what about animals? Yep, I’m getting pets; chickens to be precise, and I’m very excited! The last month has been spent hammering, sawing, sanding and above all scavenging the materials for a hen house on a budget. By using old pallets and a big bit of acrylic that was part of an old sign, I’ve got change from a tenner:
Why chickens though? They’re a bit trendy at the moment, but there are some very good reasons for keeping chickens at home. Firstly, obviously, there’s the wonderful, tasty fresh eggs. Anyone who’s ever poached a freshly-laid egg from their own hens will know what I mean. Secondly, chicken manure is great fertiliser and if you put it on your compost heap it will enrich the final product enormously. Thirdly, hens are great company. They’re naturally inquisitive and often have lovely characters – it’s heartwarming to go into the garden and be welcomed by the patter of small feet and gentle clucking as they run over to greet you.
I’ve put my name down for three ‘ex-batts’ (ex-battery hens) from The British Hen Welfare Trust. Pickup date is the 18th May. The BHWT advises that they often arrive with next to no feathers, pale from a life in a cage with no daylight; but within weeks of re-homing they regrow their plumage and start enjoying life to the full. I can barely wait to give three of these poor creatures a new life under the apple trees.