chickens (or that’s how it started in my head!)

i know it’s very trendy to want to keep chickens at the moment but it really is something i’ve wanted for a very long time. stonehead makes some very good points about people keeping chickens on a whim so i was prompted to think about my reasons for keeping chickens.

how about some history…..

where i spent all my holidays growing up (so where i did my growing up) was in a small fishing village in the north west of spain, everyone there had their own chickens, usually 2 cows, every other household had pigs and many had rabbits. all of these were kept for food and all of these were kept with respect. cows were kept in their cow sheds over night and each morning they would be taken out to fields to graze, and they were of course also used to plough the land and prepare for planting. later they were used for the harvest. my brother and i grew up taking cows down to fields for various neighbours (the aunt we stayed with didn’t have cows of her own, plenty of potato & pea fields we helped harvest but no livestock) and dodging chickens in the streets. all the animals were free range and it would have been an alien concept to any of the villager to shut their animals in cages or barns, these animals were their food. the milk from the cows was sold collectively each day. the tanker would come to the top of the hill and each household would lug their milk up the hill. i never got used to milk warm from the cow but i loved it once it had been boiled and cooled down. no thoughts of TB or any other nasties crossed our minds, some of the villagers made their own butter and cheese but the majority of the milk was drunk or sold. all eggs, chicken, pork, rabbit was fresh, free range and if you didn’t have it it was traded. my aunt of course had to trade and this is what she did, she’d wash clothes, or tend children or trade for fish and barnacles and the like that my uncle had caught, or she’d trade harvest times. it was an idyllic childhood (outside of term time) spent chasing each other around fields, bathing in streams, riding cows and chasing chickens (erm maybe not terribly kind that bit…). i have memories of pigs being slaughtered, of watching calves born, even the occasional goat wandering around (can i add i hate goats, they scare me – maybe my brother and i chased one too many and got chased back or something, i’m not sure but i can’t stand them or their produce, my parents swear by it but all i can think of is horrid, hulking, stinky Billy Goats!! yuk, yuk, yuk) i remember picking corn cobs straight off the plant and eating them, stealing peaches from trees and my cousins lemon orchard – trees and trees of lemons. i also went fishing, not proper fishing out at sea with my uncle (well i did once, with a different uncle but i got scared so i didn’t do it again but my brother did, he loved it in spite of numerous mishaps such as falling in, sticking a hook through the palm of his hand and other such nice things!)  we used to go out with something akin to a big scythe on a long broom handle and sweep the sand for fish, i don’t know what they were, they looked a little like miniature eels and they were fried whole and absolutely delicious! we’d climb the rocks at low tide scraping barnacles – which i never got to try as they would sell for huge amounts.

 it really is no wonder i hate the rat race, the commercialism of the world i’m living in.

the friends i spent my summers with were the ones i admired the most. some had no running water in their houses, one only had lighting but no electric sockets, they all got off their bums as soon as school was out and worked the land with their families and neighbours. they all shared and they all understood how important the land and the animals were. they all grew up of course, some built their houses there, some stayed in their parents houses looking after them and some did indeed move away but they all go back and when they do they join in the harvest. some other things have changed since i was little, all the houses now have running water, they all have electricity too. the biggest change for me was the loss of the cows. the government decided it wasn’t worth buying milk from those that had less than 4 cows and started levying charges for keeping less than 4 cows, and inspected to ensure cow sharing wasn’t happening…. ie neighbours each having 2 cows…. i miss the cows, i even miss slipping in cowpats and having them thrown at me when i go. most of all i miss it for my children, when they go it all seems a little less untouched, more cars speed past the village of course, and they’ve modernised the old washer area (big communal area where all the women used to gather to wash their clothes) and even if they hadn’t most houses now have their own washing machine so it wouldn’t get the use it once did. with the loss of the cows came tractors. i remember when the first one was bought, i must’ve been about 12, the guy that owned it would go out and plough for everyone, it meant the cows used less energy farming and so produced higher milk yields, now there are at least 4 tractors in the village and it seems wrong to me – but of course it makes the whole farming thing a darn sight easier especially as most land isn’t attached to the houses but surrounding the village.

now, i shall get back to my point. i want chickens and i want them soon, and yes i did watch Jamie Oliver on the telly last night, but that isn’t what’s made me want chickens, i always wanted to grow up and have chickens, i wanted to live like my gran (without the hardship though of course!!) and survive to 98 through hard work and stubborness. if you haven’t seen chicken out then please do go have a look, and sign the petition. chickens should live as they did where i grew up (except maybe being chased by my brother and i..), they should be a part of life, not shut away only to be eaten from supermarket shelves. if we don’t think about where our food comes from it’s hard to care, but everybody should. it’s not good enough to say, as TESCO does that some people live on a tight budget. the guys i grew up with lived on exceedingly tight budgets and they cared about their animals. if you keep your own chickens, if you watch them hatching and you watch them grow then i think you should have learnt to respect them and i think it’s ok to kill them and eat them. i think it’s wrong to own them if you’re not prepared to care for them, 365 days a year – or make sure someone capable is available to do it for you if you need to be absent, if you’re not prepared to keep them safe and healthy but if you are willing and you do have the space then i say go for it. and while you’re at it try to rescue a few from battery cages, we will be.

i think my chicken post became a bit of a reminisce, a bit of a rant but i hope you get my point. i want chickens, not because of fashion but because they were a part of the best part of my childhood and they deserve respect, for that if nothing else. and i think everyone should think about the chickens… and the pigs and the cows too (but not the goats, yuk (of course i’m kidding goats deserve a nice life too…))


2 thoughts on “chickens (or that’s how it started in my head!)

  1. I am very jealous of your childhood you know, it does sound idyllic! I get the chicken thing as well, I am rather prone to whims, but I’m pretty sure wanting to keep chickens in the garden has gone beyond that now. I can see the practical benefit of knowing exactly where your eggs / birds are coming from, and how they’ve lived, and knowing you’ve given them a good life. You guys have actually got space for them as well, so it makes more sense for you to have some than for me to have them in Tooting (!) Much as I’d love to.

  2. We’ve just recently got chickens, and we’re loving them. One new option I’ve read about is a chicken rental business. They rent you a chicken ark and two chooks, and you can try them out for 6 weeks to see if chicken-keeping is for you. You can send them back at the end, or you can buy them out and keep them.

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