Chickens!

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Chickens were first mentioned on this blog back in May 2008 when I was in the midst of an art lull and had started edging into Mad Project Stage.

Here’s what I originally wrote:

So… last night I decided that I wanted to own chickens. I’m doing up the garden, I want to grow more vegetables and our family is interested in environmental things like micro generation of power (we have solar panels that heat our hot water) and getting off-grid as much as possible. So a couple of urban chickens producing lovely fresh eggs wasn’t that out of left field – food yards instead of miles, it would be great!

Actually, I originally thought that both chickens and a beehive would be the way to go but apparently I’m learning because I recognised that bee-keeping was probably a bit beyond me and discarded the idea before enthusiastically announcing it to my bemused family. But I honestly thought that the chickens were perfectly reasonable. One little chicken ark and two chickens – how hard could it be? My family kept chickens when I was a teenager so I know how to look after them – in theory. What could possibly go wrong?

Yes, well… apparently, my family did not share my wild enthusiasm for this wonderful idea and I was told in no uncertain terms that there would be no chickens unless egg prices went through the roof or the fall of civilisation seemed imminent.

Somewhat to my surprise, my family came round on the chicken idea without any further pleading from me. So back in January, ‘get chickens’ became one of my ten goals for 2009.

After a spring and summer spent concentrating on the garden, it was time to decide whether I was up to challenge of chickens. I borrowed several books from the library and immersed myself in the details of chicken-keeping. Hours were spent online pricing up chicken coops, feed and accessories and weighing up the various options. Finally I decided that I could probably manage it as long as I bought a plastic Eglu. Apparently chicken purists often frown on these but I love the funky design and more importantly, because of my health I needed something that was lower maintenance and easier to clean than a wooden coop.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I placed an order online for a green Eglu, two chickens and a bag of Layer’s Mash. The chickens were supposed to arrive on the 6th October but earlier this week, we got a phone call from Omlet (yes, that’s really the name of the company) saying they were delivering in our area this week and would we like our chickens this Friday?

Why yes, yes we would!

The friendly and helpful man from Omlet arrived promptly and installed the Eglu and run in about 15 minutes. While he was doing this we read the handy chicken instruction manual. He told us all about feeding and watering them using the ‘glug’ and ‘grub’ containers – they actually have this embossed on them; it really is Chicken Keeping for Dummies!

Finally it was time to meet the girls and they were brought from the van in a cat carrier. He showed us how to hold them and how to clip their wing feathers (you do this once a year, so that they can’t fly away). We practised picking them up and marvelled at how incredibly soft their feathers are. After further instruction on their care and plenty of reassurance that we could call their chicken expert or ask on their online forum if we had any problems, we were alone with two somewhat bemused chickens.

We spent the rest of the day totally engrossed by them.

Chickens 01
Kirsty Hall: Pepper And Ginger, September 2009

Here’s Pepper. She’s a Mrs Pepperpot breed and is the older of our two hens, although she’s not quite fully grown yet. She should be laying in a week or two. She’s the more wary of the two but she’ll come close to humans if there’s a treat involved!

Pepper 01
Kirsty Hall: Pepper, September 2009

Ginger is a Ginger Nut Ranger. Hmm, are you seeing the theme with the names here? I’d just like to point out that I was not responsible for the somewhat literal naming. I had planned to give them old-fashioned Victorian style names but was over-ruled. I don’t mind though, Pepper and Ginger are good chicken names.

Ginger 01
Kirsty Hall: Ginger, September 2009

Ginger is a couple of weeks younger than Pepper, so she looks a lot more like a dinosaur! Her comb is still quite tiny and she’s a fair bit smaller than Pepper. She’s got at least three weeks of filling out to do before she’ll be giving us eggs. Despite being smaller, she’s often the more assertive and braver of the two and she’s more likely to come close to be petted.

I’m finding there’s a lot to be learnt from chickens. They are sort of Zen – they’re very ‘in the moment’ and their movements are often so slow and deliberate that they remind me of Buddhist monks doing Walking Meditation. When I’m near them, I often slow down too. This afternoon I sat on the lawn feeding them bits of cooked rice from my hand and I felt deeply and completely at peace.

But they can also be amusing. I especially like when they put their heads on one side and give me a quizzical look. They have definite characters and opinions about things (slugs good, cats baaad!) They’ve already learnt that if I come up to the run, it can mean that treats are in the offing: slugs proffered on a garden trowel were squabbled over enthusiastically and quickly devoured. I just love the idea of turning the bane of my garden into delicious eggs!

They fit in well with our rather ramshackle garden. And I love looking out of the kitchen or library window and seeing them placidly going about their chicken-y business.

Eglu in garden
Kirsty Hall: Eglu in garden, Sept 2009

Having bought them for practical reasons – fresh, organic, ethically produced eggs with low food miles, droppings to accelerate our compost bin and a handy slug-disposal method – we were all quite surprised to be so enchanted by their actual presence. But they are lovely and my family, originally so resistant to my Grand Chicken Plan, are utterly charmed by them and go out to visit them often. Even the teenager has been observed inspecting them.

And Chiana thinks we’ve bought her The Best Present In The Worldtm Because, as we all know, everything is for the benefit of the cat!

The Chicken Menacer
Kirsty Hall: The Chicken Menacer

The chickens aren’t quite so enthusiastic about her!

I am an artist & purveyor of obsessive projects based in Hebden Bridge, England. My work involves the accretion of large numbers of small objects - pins in fabric, knots in string or hundreds of envelopes - to make sculptures that deal with fragility, loss, repetition, obsession and time.

30 thoughts on “Chickens!

  1. This is so, so cool! I love that Eglu – have never seen one before. What a perfect enclosure for just a few chickens. What a fun day it will be when you cook up your first eggs!

    And the look on your cat’s face is hilarious.

    [Reply]

  2. This is so, so cool! I love that Eglu – have never seen one before. What a perfect enclosure for just a few chickens. What a fun day it will be when you cook up your first eggs!

    And the look on your cat’s face is hilarious.

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Hi Sister Diane, I’m liking the Eglu very much – it was designed specifically for urban gardens; the idea is that it’s easily maintained & comfy for the hens but pretty to look at. I think it’s a stunning piece of design and so far everything works really well.

    The novelty of the chickens has not worn off yet for either us or Chiana. She’s out there menacing them at the moment but they seem to be getting used to her now.

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Hi Sister Diane, I’m liking the Eglu very much – it was designed specifically for urban gardens; the idea is that it’s easily maintained & comfy for the hens but pretty to look at. I think it’s a stunning piece of design and so far everything works really well.

    The novelty of the chickens has not worn off yet for either us or Chiana. She’s out there menacing them at the moment but they seem to be getting used to her now.

    [Reply]

  3. This is so, so cool! I love that Eglu – have never seen one before. What a perfect enclosure for just a few chickens. What a fun day it will be when you cook up your first eggs!

    And the look on your cat’s face is hilarious.

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Reply:

    Hi Sister Diane, I’m liking the Eglu very much – it was designed specifically for urban gardens; the idea is that it’s easily maintained & comfy for the hens but pretty to look at. I think it’s a stunning piece of design and so far everything works really well.

    The novelty of the chickens has not worn off yet for either us or Chiana. She’s out there menacing them at the moment but they seem to be getting used to her now.

    [Reply]

  4. I enjoyed this very much. Your chickens are beautiful. Look at how soft their feathers appear!
    Funny- we have wild chickens all over the island, and once I discovered my cat and a chicken lying right next to each other in the garden, sunning themselves contently, oblivious to their supposed positions in the food chain!

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Hi Stephanie, according to all the books I’ve read, cats quickly learn that chickens fight back! Their claws and beaks are quite sharp. They don’t do so well against dogs and foxes, although apparently some dogs will happily co-exist with them.

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Hi Stephanie, according to all the books I’ve read, cats quickly learn that chickens fight back! Their claws and beaks are quite sharp. They don’t do so well against dogs and foxes, although apparently some dogs will happily co-exist with them.

    [Reply]

  5. I enjoyed this very much. Your chickens are beautiful. Look at how soft their feathers appear!
    Funny- we have wild chickens all over the island, and once I discovered my cat and a chicken lying right next to each other in the garden, sunning themselves contently, oblivious to their supposed positions in the food chain!

    [Reply]

  6. I enjoyed this very much. Your chickens are beautiful. Look at how soft their feathers appear!
    Funny- we have wild chickens all over the island, and once I discovered my cat and a chicken lying right next to each other in the garden, sunning themselves contently, oblivious to their supposed positions in the food chain!

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Reply:

    Hi Stephanie, according to all the books I’ve read, cats quickly learn that chickens fight back! Their claws and beaks are quite sharp. They don’t do so well against dogs and foxes, although apparently some dogs will happily co-exist with them.

    [Reply]

  7. Hi Caroline, yes, they love slugs. They’re also very keen on dandelion leaves. The cat can’t actually get into the Eglu, much as she’s like to. Although supposedly chickens can deal with cats. Apparently what usually happens is that the cat has a go and the chickens retaliate and then the cat leaves the chickens well alone in future. Chickens have fairly sharp claws and beaks.

    [Reply]

  8. Hi Caroline, yes, they love slugs. They’re also very keen on dandelion leaves. The cat can’t actually get into the Eglu, much as she’s like to. Although supposedly chickens can deal with cats. Apparently what usually happens is that the cat has a go and the chickens retaliate and then the cat leaves the chickens well alone in future. Chickens have fairly sharp claws and beaks.

    [Reply]

  9. Hi Caroline, yes, they love slugs. They’re also very keen on dandelion leaves. The cat can’t actually get into the Eglu, much as she’s like to. Although supposedly chickens can deal with cats. Apparently what usually happens is that the cat has a go and the chickens retaliate and then the cat leaves the chickens well alone in future. Chickens have fairly sharp claws and beaks.

    [Reply]

  10. I’ve wanted to get chickens for a little while now, too. But I’m afraid my husband would never go for it. But after reading your story, maybe…just maybe…someday it will happen. Good luck with your new feathered friends!

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Thank you Meredith, I hope you manage to talk your husband round some day, they really are a lot of fun.

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    Thank you Meredith, I hope you manage to talk your husband round some day, they really are a lot of fun.

    [Reply]

  11. I’ve wanted to get chickens for a little while now, too. But I’m afraid my husband would never go for it. But after reading your story, maybe…just maybe…someday it will happen. Good luck with your new feathered friends!

    [Reply]

  12. I’ve wanted to get chickens for a little while now, too. But I’m afraid my husband would never go for it. But after reading your story, maybe…just maybe…someday it will happen. Good luck with your new feathered friends!

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Reply:

    Thank you Meredith, I hope you manage to talk your husband round some day, they really are a lot of fun.

    [Reply]

  13. From one artist/poultry fancier to another I can relate to this. In the past month we have got 3 new hens,( one of whom survived a mystery illness and is now off the lay) a vege garden and the shell of my new studio. And, I admit to having a brief tortured moment on the couch on Thursday. But I agree we artists have full and productive lives and are hard working and driven,

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    We certainly are driven, Susan – I don’t think there’s any other way to be an artist really! So what kind of chickens do you keep?

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Hall Reply:

    We certainly are driven, Susan – I don’t think there’s any other way to be an artist really! So what kind of chickens do you keep?

    [Reply]

  14. From one artist/poultry fancier to another I can relate to this. In the past month we have got 3 new hens,( one of whom survived a mystery illness and is now off the lay) a vege garden and the shell of my new studio. And, I admit to having a brief tortured moment on the couch on Thursday. But I agree we artists have full and productive lives and are hard working and driven,

    [Reply]

  15. From one artist/poultry fancier to another I can relate to this. In the past month we have got 3 new hens,( one of whom survived a mystery illness and is now off the lay) a vege garden and the shell of my new studio. And, I admit to having a brief tortured moment on the couch on Thursday. But I agree we artists have full and productive lives and are hard working and driven,

    [Reply]

    Kirsty Reply:

    We certainly are driven, Susan – I don’t think there’s any other way to be an artist really! So what kind of chickens do you keep?

    [Reply]

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