High on the Saddleworth hills, the Oldham family have created an inspiring kitchen garden which provides a wealth of rich flavours for the kitchen and larder. This column, written by Andrew and Carol, follows their journey throughout the year
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YOU KNOW you have chickens when… It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but in this case, it’s when you find yourself discussing if hens eat Pak Choi with complete strangers at the supermarket.
Keeping chickens takes over your life in all sorts of peculiar ways, but when three feathered friends appeared at Pig Row one blustery evening late last year none of us were prepared for their impact.
Little D insisted on naming them and so we now have Mrs Cluckerbuck, Bertie and Gene Simmons.
However not everything has gone as easily as coming up with suitable monikers, and there have been more than a few ruffled feathers so to speak.
One week after they arrived an avian flu prevention zone was announced across the UK so dreams of our birds frolicking amongst the daffodils were quickly put to bed.
As they entered an extended stay in the coop at DEFRA’s pleasure our ‘hen’ Gene Simmons, named after the male singer of the rock band Kiss, turned out not to be female but a cockerel. Are you keeping up? No wonder he is confused.
Meanwhile our other cockerel Bertie grew to huge proportions, seemingly doubling in size each week.
Mrs Cluckerbuck looked more and more worried, but not as worried as Little D who was caught peeping into the nest box. Bertie taking his chance while the run was being cleaned had sneaked out to have a strut around. Six pecks on his bottom later, Little D pronounced Bertie for the pot.
There have been lots of upsides of course – the eggs are wonderful. It’s a cliché but you really can’t beat your first egg, or five as it was in our case, as her Highness had hidden them everywhere.
We save our eggs up each week for a blowout Sunday breakfast treat, and it’s true you can taste the difference.
Chickens are also lovely and soothing to watch, scratching around and going about their chicken-y business; fighting over weeds in the garden and feeding each other little titbits they’ve found.
They are quite easy to look after, not as smelly to clean out as we had feared and the manure once composted is fabulous in the garden.
It’s safe to say we are smitten, so we’ve torn down the dilapidated potting shed and now we have more new girls coming to join us. This has meant extensive changes to our henhouse, a much larger run and a whole new zone of the garden. We shall be outnumbered two to one, but do we care? Nah we don’t give a cluck!