Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Hens in the City - moving the urban chicken

Keeping chickens is an adventure - well it might be! Just follow how well or badly we do. This blog started in Urban Chickens http://blog.urbanchicken.org.uk/as Honor Oak Hens however I am by my own admittance bloody useless on even vaguely technical blog sites so reverted to Blogger however thanks to the enthusiastic folk at Urban Chicken.

From a book titled "Keeping Chickens" by John Walters and Michael Parker I quote the following "Laying hens are returning to back-gardens ........... Reasons for return are varied and range from fears that the price of shop eggs will go through the roof to a feeling that a back garden flock is the only way to get really fresh eggs. There is also a desire for a profitable hobby which will break they hypnotic hold of the TV screen. You maybe surprised that the book was published in 1976.

Actually you are probably not surprised. Chickens have been popular for a long time and although going through the normal cycles of popularity and more people than ever seeming to be in an urban situation, the hens in the city seem to prosper be it in town gardens, allotments or in fact anywhere that a run and housing can be placed.

So how did we end up with five chickens in a back garden in South London?

Firstly keen gardeners that having filled the garden with tree ferns, bananas, gingers, a pond with a thriving community of goldfish, frogs and newts and vegetables in pots, we expanded into an allotment. Three years down the line and lots of hard work from a patch of weeds and brambles on heavy clay, it now produces everything from globe artichokes to kohl rabi.

We had pondered on a dog or dogs however, working the hours we do, goldfish seemed to fit the bill better though we did want something "more". Importantly something that gave back as well. As lovely as the goldfish are, their input into the home apart from swimming seductively around the pond on summer evenings, is somewhat small. It also needed to fit in with the garden and our philosophy on "home-grown".

Following much discussion (months of discussion in fact) we decided that we should keep chickens. Not the most obvious choice we thought for a town garden (how wrong we were, there are loads of you out there!) however we looked at housing, checked with neighbours, pored over books, websites and pictures and in May took the plunge and ordered our chicken house and decided on the breed of chicken.

After scouring the internet we found some well priced chicken runs. We eventually settled on a large ChickenShack. Duly ordered I have to admit we did have a few problems as the packaging seemed somewhat inadequate so some of the panels were broken. Saying that the company were excellent and the parts were replaced promptly and without any hassle.
Chickens - we decided on hens only for obvious reasons and for those of you who haven't kept cockerels before it really is obvious (noisy buggers). Sussex bantams were the selected breed and we ordered three, one each silver, buff and light. And how exciting waiting for August 23rd when we could go and collect them.

But things never quite work out as planned. Little did we expect that we would be the happy owners of two Silkies! Bred by accident, two chicks from what was thought to be a clutch of infertile eggs (they needed the hen as a broody for pheasant eggs) they were in need of a home and who better that somebody who had a nice new chicken shed that was empty (well it was at the time).

So on August 22nd Harriet and Lottie arrived from North London.

Odd story because Harriet is absolutely normal Silkie colouring. Lottie is decidedly not! She did start out the same as Harriet, however by ten weeks she had started to lose the blue skin colouration and was turning a lovely turquoise shade. By the time we bought her home she was yellow with a pink tinge. We have contacted lots of Silkie people about it but no conclusive answers over her condition. There is no chance of cross breeding as the only chickens the breeder kept was Silkies and they are both from the same clutch - the male is old though hence they though the clutch would be infertile as his fertility rate of late had been very poor. Lottie is in excellent health, eats for England so is just our lovely little oddity.

And then August 23rd arrived. Harriet and Lottie had settled in overnight and were enjoying the run so off we went to Alton in Hampshire to collect the bantams.
(to be continued......)

1 comment:

lucienne said...

Darling, i can't believe you have EXACTLY the same coop as me! any eggs yet? not got my hens yet, but its only a matter of time.....