We have been talking about keeping chickens for… oh, probably 23 years. Ever since we bought our house, and saw that the deeds allow us to keep 12 chickens and a cockerel. I mean really, if the deeds of your house state it, it’s almost a moral obligation, isn’t it?
But we’ve never got further than talking – until this year. Finally, the children are too old for a ‘play area’ in the garden, and while we discussed what to do with the rather tired and sorry looking patch, the idea of chickens came up. Again.
So we got in touch with the fabulous people at Omlet, and they were possibly even keener than we were on the whole backyard chicken idea, so we went for it.
And last Wednesday was the day – The Chickens Were Coming!
We had opted for the Eglu Go UP coop, and four hens to start with – two Gingernut Rangers and two Miss Pepperpots.
Omlet can deliver and set up coops which are within a two hour drive, so we had none of the hard work to do – we simply sat back and sipped a mug of tea as the flat-packed coop took shape before our eyes. But that’s not because they’re tricky – it’s a straightforward process that only took over an hour because we kept disturbing the construction with questions and conversation.
It’s a properly brilliant design which makes keeping chickens a simple, easy thing to contemplate. If we’d known about them before, we wouldn’t have waited 23 years to get them!
We have the Eglu Go UP coop, which is for up to four hens. We’ve also got the 1m run extension attached to give them a little more space as they’re at capacity.
The skirt around the edge is the anti-fox device. I thought foxes dig down, which apparently they do; but only straight down. So they’ll go to the wire, and try and dig beneath it. Adding a few inches of skirt outsmarts them – apparently a fox will never consider backing up a foot before he starts digging. Not so clever now, are you Mr Smart Fox, huh?
So before we really expected it, a coop was set up, and a crate full of gentle noises and shufflings was sitting by our feet.
We lifted them out one by one, and were shown how to clip a wing to prevent them heading straight back to Omlet HQ – who knew it was SO easy? No different to giving them a haircut (also – you feel like a real chicken keeper when you’re trimming feathers…). The children gathered to meet the new members of the team before we let them explore their new home. Even though they’d had a long journey, and must have been pretty fed up, they didn’t make much fuss as they were handled, and graciously accepted the admiring strokes and cheerful greetings before they got to stretch their legs.
The ridiculously cute ladder proved to be a bit tricky initially, and only one Miss Pepperpot worked it out accidentally. She’s neither the boldest nor the cleverest, she was just being pecked so hard by Miss BossHen that she leaped as high as she could in sheer panic and landed at the top of the ladder with a lovely dark (safe) coop at her disposal. She promptly hid…
And so the LittleStuff Four moved in – and have mostly been christened finally. Want to meet them?
Of course you do..
(you have no idea how hard it is to get all four chickens in one photograph…)
Up front we have Henghis Khan. Boss hen and total Mean Girl. She belongs to Boy, who’s slightly proud of her Head Chicken status, but disapproves strongly of her bullying ways. He’s had a few talks with her on the subject.
Behind her is the sweeter natured Miss Egsa. 8yr old Bear’s personal hen, who of course is a big Frozen fan. Elsa, Egsa – totally works, right? It helps that she’s the most vocal, spending much of her day ‘singing’ (mumbling to herself) as she scratches about.
Eyeing the camera from the far side of the wooden perch is the first Miss Pepperpot, with pretty ginger sprinkles in her black back – currently going by ‘Nameless‘. No.1 son can’t settle on a name that out-clevers his younger siblings, so until he does he refuses to name her. She’s smart this chicken, though – she spent quite a lot fo the first few days eyeing up the perimeter of the run, checking for weak spots we think. Plus she was the first to figure out the ladder all by herself.
And finally, up the back there, raising her head so you can’t see her beauty, is poor Oprah Henfrey. She was the first to be named by 12 yr old Jolly; as he said “she’s a strong, independent black hen, and she doesn’t need a man. You get an egg, You get an egg, you ALL get eggs!”
Only we don’t. Because poor Oprah has been the victim of Henghis’ sharp beak, and has been bullied mercilessly. She’s got a pretty poorly bald back, but is slowly growing in confidence as the pecking seems to have stopped finally. But there has yet to be a single egg from her – and who can blame her?
See? Henghis = MEAN.
They’d been scratching and exploring the run for an hour or so when we wandered out to admire them with a mug of tea in hand, and look – our Very First Egg. They hadn’t figured out the ladder yet to make it up to the nesting box, so apparently tucking underneath it was the best they could do.
Inside the coop is their quiet space – one corner is a nesting box, and the rest is the roosting bars. Nameless is busying herself with egg business, and beautiful Oprah was just taking some quiet time out when I opened the back door under her bottom and photographed them. Rude.
Next week we’ll do a guided tour of the coop for you – and fill you in on the Mean Girl vs Oprah saga.
The Chicken Run is in conjunction with Omlet, who provided the Eglu Go UP coop for us, a superb hen house for up to four birds which starts at £299.