Garden hens rule roost in suburbia

UK - The chicken has crossed another road. It has gone from being a rural necessity for poor families to becoming the latest chic accessory for the middle classes in the suburbs.
calendar icon 16 April 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

Keeping hens is one of the fastest growing pastimes in Britain. As many as 500,000 homes, 2% of households, are estimated to have their own fresh supply of eggs.

In the new pecking order hens are just as likely to be found behind £5m homes in London’s Chelsea as in tied farm cottages in Cornwall.

The Prince of Wales has a 17ft-high chicken house with a tower modelled on a Saxon steeple. Others have opted for designer coops in the colours of iPods. Poultry experts put the new feathered fashion down to everything from distrust of supermarkets to people seeing how easy it was for reality television contestants to care for chickens on the Big Brother programme.

A desire for organic food, fuelled by health concerns over factory farming and scares over issues such as genetic modification and salmonella, mean that many people now see growing their own food as a viable alternative.

With fears of a bird flu epidemic out of the headlines, thousands of families who had put off buying birds are setting up their own do-it-yourself egg production.

Tom and Barbara, the often derided couple in the 1970s BBC sitcom The Good Life, have new-found credibility. Nothing in today’s good life quite beats a fresh, golden-yolked egg for breakfast from your own chickens.

One of the more revolutionary reasons for keeping hens is a people-friendly chicken coop, the Eglu, designed by four students at the Royal College of Art in London. It has replaced the traditional wire-mesh henhouse with a home made of colourful plastic and complete with a fox-proof run. It can be moved around the garden to help to spread its impact on the lawn.

The Eglus sell for £395 and come complete with organic feed and a pair of hens from two designer breeds, the Gingernut Ranger and the Miss Pepperpot, which have been bred to be friendly to children and to lay six eggs a week.

Source: TimesOnline

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