3 lies you believe about having your own egg farm
Seize the means of production and everything will be wonderful, said Karl Marx. The fool.
I was a critic from the start. When the family counsel sat down about a year back to discuss whether we needed our own chickens, I represented the interests of cleanliness and predicted, amongst other things, that the next pandemic would start in our backyard. I was wrong about that, but not much else.
There have been pros, of course. Eggs for example, on a good week. I realise everybody says this about home produce, but they’re not just any old store eggs either -the yokes are deep yellow and sometimes an egg will even come with two yokes, which I'm advised is not a result of the chickens getting into the shed next to the enclosure and ingesting old chemicals. It's entirely natural.
Also, there's those days when you look glumly out the kitchen window and see a foolish head poking out underneath the enclosure, looking around – a sight so hilarious you’ll smash the dish you’re washing.
However, owning a mini egg farm isn’t all you imagine it is. Here's 3 things you've got wrong in your dreamy mind:
1) YOU JUST FEED THEM KITCHEN SCRAPS AND THEY'LL TURN THEM INTO A DOZEN
Salmonella, a Light Sussex.
In fact, they will eat 70% of the food scraps you feed them, but that won’t be a balanced or stable diet, so you’ll need to buy some chicken feed, which they’ll only eat 30% of, and leave the rest for the rats. This mean you will need to source more expensive chicken feed, and some rat bait which you must put somewhere the chickens won’t find. Considering chickens can find the neighbour’s rose garden, this isn’t easy.
What will then happen is Boss Hen & her favoured cronies will gobble up this expensive chicken feed and leave nothing but a bloody neck for the ones with low self-esteem. You will need to develop an egalitarian feeding strategy.
They’ll then start laying eggs, but forget to encase them in a shell, which means another trip to the Chicken Feed people, who by now have opened an account for you, to get some shell grit.
At this point, they’ll decide they don’t want to lay eggs anymore.
2) CHICKENS ARE LOW MAINTENANCE AND GENERALLY HEALTHY
It feels like an eternity since I first stood up and thundered against the idea, but I think we’ve had chickens for a year. In that time, one has died from an unknown condition, and all of them have got scaly mite disease and required costly treatment.
They’re also prone to mental health issues; a strange brooding depression that will make them angry at everyone and sit firmly on their eggs, refusing to eat or move. Of course, you’ll pick them up and get the eggs, but they’ll make their thoughts known on your flesh.
When it passes, they will follow you lovingly and disobediently out the coop like nothing ever happened between you.
3) IT'S ROMANTIC TO LOOK OUT THE WINDOW OF A SATURDAY MORNING AND SEE THE CHICKENS FORAGING ABOUT IN THE GARDEN
Barrie, aka Boss Hen. She's a good layer, but pretty evil.
Hashtag country living, and all that. However, it won’t matter how big and well-planned your backyard is, they’ll choose the vegetable garden to scrounge in, the path to poo on, and you will never find where they've laid the eggs.
Hence why our chickens now have their own dedicated run. The trouble is, the treatment prescribed for broodiness or bullying is often time in a big paradise with a vegetable garden and a path.
Farm life is romantic right up until the goat gets loose and eats the tractor lines. And until one sheep - that's all it takes - finds a hole in the fence and eats something mysterious up in the forbidden meadow and consequently, the whole flock is bleating for the vet at 4am. You don't want a farm, not even a suburban backyard one.
You want a generous neighbour with a farm.