What It’s Like Raising Chickens In Your Backyard
A few years ago, Shane Joshua started keeping chickens in his back garden. He’s had a flock of chickens in Acton Town for a few years now, so we caught up with him to find out what it’s been like and whether he’s got any advice for people looking to follow suit and keep chickens of their own.
1. You’ve had chickens for a few years now. Where did you get them originally?
Shane: We got the girls from a breeder in South West London. It’s worth finding a reputable breeder - ours was recommended to us by some friends who got their chickens from them a few years back, as they seemed to breed hens which were used to being around humans so they were well suited to being pets.
2. Are they just like having any other pet?
Shane: Not quite. Ours always stay outside, but we do have a bit of fun with them, particularly in the summer months. We let them follow us round outside when we’re doing gardening, and the kids will pick them up and play with them sometimes!
One thing we like to do is put corn feed in a tin can and shake it, and they will literally come sprinting from the other side of the garden - it’s a bit like watching them race each other!
3. You’ve got a dog too. What does she make of them?
Shane: Yeah, we’ve got a dog, Stella. They have a fairly harmonious relationship, the dog just follows them around and likes to sniff them. She’s interested, but the chickens pretty much ignore her and just go about their business.
4. What do you do when you go on holiday? Don’t chickens need looking after?
Shane: We get someone in to come in and feed them. We used to have a friend who also had chickens in her back garden and had space in her coop, so she used to take them for us if we were away for a couple of weeks - it was like sending them to a chicken hotel! Otherwise we just get friends and neighbours to come over and check on them.
5. What do your friends make of your chickens when they come over?
Shane: A lot of people are interested, they’re surprised that we’ve got chickens in London. A lot of my friends come over and they want to head straight down to the coop and check them out. It’s always an interesting topic of conversation.
6. Do your kids lend a hand looking after your hens?
Shane: Ha! The kids don’t muck in with looking after them - it’s hard enough to get them to set the table! My son is a little bit younger, so he’s more interested - if they’re out in the garden he’ll play with them and let them follow him around. My daughter is a bit too old and a bit too cool for chickens these days.
7. Are you and your family all still eating chicken then?
Shane: Unfortunately, we are all still eating chicken at home! But it does give you second thoughts, it does feel a bit weird when there’s chicken on your plate and you’ve got the girls at the end of the garden. Who knows, maybe we’ll stop eating chicken one day!
8. How often do your chickens lay eggs?
Shane: Every single day. They’re meant to stop laying over the winter months, but ours seem to have laid pretty much straight through winter so they’re laying all year round.
9. Do the eggs taste different?
Shane: Yeah, definitely, definitely. The whites are thicker, the yolks are creamier - you do notice a difference. I didn’t think I would do, but I do.
10. What do you feed your chickens?
Shane: We feed them pellets and corn feed - you can get them from most pet stores. If there’s any fruit or veg that’s past its best we give them that too - the other day they had a melon that was past its best, they were living the dream!
11. Do chicken coops need a lot of cleaning out?
Shane: We clean them out every other day, but it’s quite a quick job. We’ve got a composter, so all their poo goes in there along with any other biodegradable stuff from the kitchen, and it makes great compost.
Are you planning to raise your own chickens? Let us know in the comments below!