Our daughters named the chickens. The 4yo wanted to call hers the above, but we managed to talk her down, it being a mouthful and all. It wasn’t as if daft names weren’t to be expected. Our cats – also named by the girls – are officially called Daffodil Rose Petal Leaf and Michael Woof Woof. Although informally now known as Daffy and Mickey, which most people think is a nod to Disney, and we’re tired of correcting them. I should add that the cats are both boys. Or were pre-operation, at the time of naming. Anyway, the chickens are called Ginger Head and Cherry Treat, which sound slightly like porn stars, but we think they got off relatively lightly.
We’d been idly talking about getting chickens for a while. We’d had them once for two weeks six years ago, when we lived in central London for a Times piece I wrote on urban farming. And we’d loved them, even though they once commando-ed into the sitting room, pebble dashing the cream carpets with squirty chicken poo.
So recently one Friday evening after a playdate, that involved wine, I found myself the owner of a secondhand green Eglu, that I “won” on eBay for £200.
The next day we all piled into in the car and headed to the darkest depths of south London to pick it up. It wasn’t until we got halfway there, that we remembered that Eglus are massive, so my husband and eldest had to jump out at the Wandsworth roundabout and make their own way home. It was a good job they did. It took the seller an hour to dissemble and Tetris it into my boot and another week of it languishing on our kitchen floor before my husband had the energy/courage to put it up.
Now it nestles under the cherry and fig trees at the bottom of our garden, camouflaged almost.
Four weeks in it is like we’ve always had Cherry and Ginger and I can’t tell you how much we love them. My 6yo summed it up by saying that it was great having two different sorts of pets – the cats to stroke and play with and the chickens to watch and relax with. And it really is incredibly distracting in the nicest possible way, sitting in the garden or on the sofa at the end of the kitchen in the evening with a glass of wine, just watching them peck and potter around their coop or in the garden.
We chose a hybrid chicken called the Gingernut Ranger, because they are smaller than a normal hen, and good layers. We were rewarded with our first egg – a two incher – after about three weeks and have had one a day – progressively bigger – ever since. There really is something miraculous about a chicken producing an egg. Every day. Respect to our feathery friends. I know it is hackneyed to say it, but is has brought us all closer to nature in a completely Good Life kind of way.
Although they are officially free range, in truth we thought we’d let them out more than we do. Foxes are a chicken-eating menace. I once pulled back the curtains on a Saturday night to find a skanky-suited fox, sitting calm-as-you-like on the window sill. He didn’t flinch when he saw me, just gave me an insouciant gaze – a kind of vulpine WHATEVS – before wandering off.
The chooks seem unfazed though and are happy enough pecking at their toy mirror, eating vegetable scraps and digging in the dirt.