This post is to sing the praises of the idea behind having, as one book put it, ä few hens at the end of the garden”. Myself and Mrs Llama have kept chickens for nearly 5 years now, and I confess it’s brought us hours of delightful entertainment watching them bathe, lounge around the garden and get excited when we offer them tasty treats. They’re pets that also help feed us with a steady supply of tasty eggs – on the occasions when our hens haven’t been laying I feel almost a traitor going to the shop and buying some OTHER hens eggs.
Chickens are also a boon for the home composter, in that their waste goes into the compost, enriches and helps break down the other matter in there much faster. Not quite hot composting, but certainly our heaps are much warmer since we had hens. The garden crops they’ve helped feed as a result have also been a whole lot healthier and lush too. Problem with slugs or other bugs? These may as well be chicken-crack for the way they wolf them down with delight.
Chickens can be mildly terrifying, and I’m not talking about a giant cock* with his dangerous spurs. If you don’t believe me, why not lie down on your back on a summer’s day and watch as the hens run towards you. If like me you’ve seen any dinosaur movie, your mind will rapidly flee to thoughts of velociraptors. And rightly so, given the hens common ancestors. They are winged lizards, and were they any bigger I suspect they’d probably try and eat us.
One of the claims you’ll often hear about hens is how they’re so much cheaper to raise and get eggs, than buying eggs yourself. I guess if you had hundreds that might be true, but then the economic argument was never the reason why we took them on. We had a big garden that lacked a certain something – and hens have added a true sparkle.
Yes, when it’s raining like today it is more of a chore to feed and water them, and yes there have been nights we’ve worried about how they’re fairing in gales, frost and snow. And our first hens even had to live through half the garden catching fire! And yes, there is the end of life experience to go through too. It broke me a lot emotionally to dispatch my first sickly hen, and it never gets easy. But it was better to send them off than watch them suffer,
*Or Rooster if you’re a Yank…but you know, I think I prefer the British word 😉