WE’RE planning a new addition to the Ettienne family.
Readers, however, should be immediately aware that it will not be a human delivery. Joyful though parenting is, at the ripe old age of 40-plus I do not plan to go down that route again. In fact, as a new career beckons I simply would not have the time.
So, the new arrival will be of an avine variety and my nesting instinct has already kicked in.
When the idea was first mooted to keep chickens a la maison Ettienne I held up my hands in horror. While I love them in story books and had hens, chicks, and ducks on the farm I played with as child, I can’t say I’m actually that keen on the overall live package.
I think it is the feet and beaks I find most offensive but I am warming to the idea and my best laid (excuse the pun) plans are now well underway.
Children’s book publishers Ladybird have a lot to be responsible for. The Little Red Hen and Chicken Licken were among my favourite stories. I still have the books at home and maybe that is where my fascination developed.
It was really the large consumption of eggs in our house which made hen keeping seem a “cracking good idea.” While eggs are not among my favourite foods – I wouldn’t want to eat a fried egg to save my life – the men of the house can eat them in abundance.
Poached on brown toast (don’t forget the vinegar in the water), fried in breakfast sandwiches with ketchup or scrambled for a quick supper, they love them all and generally I cook them.
Free range eggs are an expensive luxury so in days of austerity producing our own eggs from happy hens running free seemed an economically sound idea.
As for everything we do, the project has been well researched. Land has been staked out and fencing is to be purchased and put up to ensure Fantastic Mr Fox doesn’t make an appearance.
Hen huts, chicken coops and houses have been viewed on the internet to ensure the hens have a really comfortable home from home where they are happy and eggs abound.
The price range is astronomical with some chicken mansions costing in excess of £300. Happy hens are one thing but living on a Grand Designs scale is unnecessary.
It would seem that the current trend of ‘growing your own’ and Good Life living, including hen keeping, has prompted a surge by enterprising companies to cash in on the avine revolution.
It was really a trip to a friend’s mother-in-law’s Farnley Tyas smallholding that prompted the chicken revolution.
One lovely Sunday morning we spent more than an hour surveying her flock and getting some top tips from this avine font of knowledge.
From feeding to breeding and clipping to ‘clocking’ (if you don’t know what clockers are they’re the hens that sit on eggs to hatch them, but which they have not produced – surrogate sitters really!) she knows it all. What an asset to have and to be able to refer to in future days. Thanks Jean.
In true female fashion names and colours are on my list of to do boxes to tick for the hens. With no racial malice whatsoever, we’ve all decided that white ones are not for us, but the plump brown ones (back to little red hen again) seem popular. The ornamental breeds all cock-a-hoop with feathers and fancies don’t really appeal. Just everyday hens who lay lots.
Henny Penny and Henrietta have already been suggested for names. Others gratefully accepted. Eggs for sale later.