There’s been something of an animated discussion in our house recently on the subject of eggs. Or more precisely, whether or not to put the chicken before the egg.
We’re a fairly organic pair, my wife and I, with a deep sense of connection to the land. So a hen-house seems like the perfect next step in my estimation …… I just need to convince the rest of the committee.
Imagine that early morning stroll across the lawn, basket in hand, to the coop where our Leghorns are laying. Through the breaking light I’d grasp a half-dozen eggs, and return triumphant to the kitchen ready to prepare the most marvellous breakfast omelette.
It’s part-Daniel Boone, part Anne of Green Gables, and (for now) all fantasy!
But the idea of chicken-rearing is taking of. In fact it’s big business. A quick online search will reveal a half-dozen local firms who lease coops and chickens. If you’re really committed, then a henhouse is a simple construction for even the most modest of DIYers.
In Australia the laying population is mostly comprised of Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds and Rhode Island Whites, breeds that will each lay up to 300 eggs per year. And nothing could be fresher or more natural.
For your garden there are pros and cons. On the positive side of the ledger chickens control most garden pests including caterpillars, slugs and beetles. They’ll eat your scraps, fertilise the garden and also voraciously eat Onion Weed and Wandering Dew. On the down side, their instinct is to scratch. They’ll dig and dig, searching for food, which means than any plants unprotected by a 1 metre fence are likely to be lost along the way. Problems with mice and other rodents are best controlled by feeding chickens in the mornings, so that they have all day to consume the scraps before night visitors come!
There are a couple of rules, however. Henhouses must be situated at least 4.5m from any dwelling, kept clean and only a appropriate number of hens may be keep in each coop. Roosters are a serious no-no. Unless you’d like the neighbours to start playing Pantera at full tilt each daybreak, then the idea of avoiding cockcrow seems pretty reasonable.
A henhouse is the easiest way to give your family a sense of the land, and a real concept of where their food comes from. And what’s the worstcase scenario if it doesn’t work out? Coq au vin? Hardly a downside, eh?
Mushroom and tomato omelette