If you’d told me only ten years ago that I’d be obsessed with chickens,
I would have laughed out loud. That just wasn’t me. I'm a city girl,
born and bred in Liverpool, England.
I liked my garden intact, thank you very much. I liked the flowers blooming nicely and I liked the peace and quiet of reading a book in the early evening sun with a glass of wine in my hand and my dog by my side.
I knew nothing about chickens, or smallholdings, or growing my own veggies. It just didn't compute with my heels and workday suits. Compost was something I bought at the garden centre and chickens were something nice on the barbeque.
I have a number of certificates from various different universities in the UK, France and Spain. But this one is my all-time favourite.
I undertook a course at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (UK) in chicken welfare and behaviour. I didn't do it for the certificate - I did it so I could provide my flock with the best care.
But it's nice to have it!
(I did two courses at Prince Charles' residence, Highgrove House, too - but he didn't give me a certificate).
My only contact with chickens was my mother. Evacuated from the city to the country during the second World War, she was sent to a chicken farm where she and her brother, at the tender ages of six and eight, were set to work …
No, I can’t even begin to say it … set to work … wringing the poor chooks' necks.
Honestly. No kidding. If she were here, she would tell you the tale herself. It left an indelible mark on her life.
And to tell you the truth, it wasn’t a great start for me in terms of wanting to raise happy chickens, having a mother who used to wring their necks.
Things were not looking great.
And then, everything changed.
(It was, naturally, early retirement. I'm not old. Well, not very).
I left a job I had really grown to dislike and my husband Mike and I made a life-changing decision.
We would leave the rainy skies of England behind and move to live in Italy.
Which we did. But not to a city - oh no. We fell in love with a tiny village in the heart of rural Le Marche, which no-one has ever heard of. (It's in central eastern Italy).
Our village, seen from our orchard.
Not only did we fall in love
with the village - we fell in love with a valley just behind the
village. And with an old farmhouse. Which had a lot of land.
And I'm not talking a nice, manageable, serene type of garden. Oh no.
This is seven acres of madness. It has an olive grove. An orchard. An enormous field. Another enormous field. A smaller field. A woodland where wild boar live. And a piece of land we thought would make a good golf course. Except neither of us play golf.
And it also has - yes, you guessed it - chicken coops.
a long time I ignored the chicken coops. After all, we had an olive
grove to get to grips with. As far as I was concerned, olives were
things that came out of a jar, or possibly from a bin at a local
farmer's market. And olive oil was very nice - from a bottle.
But from trees? Really?
then, when we had learned all about olive trees, and fruit trees, and
raising vegetables (from the ground - ha!) I started to look at the
chicken coops. This is some years later, you understand. Four, to be
I had a lot to learn.
I realised that these were not just any old chicken coops. They were stone-built, terracotta roofed chicken coops. With beams. Wooden beams. Old wooden beams. And oak doors. Real oak, not plastic oak.
The coop's terracotta roof - dirty and broken, but salvageable.
They were full of cobwebs, of course.
But they had a lovely outlook, which made them very desirable chicken
coops, in my book. Any chicken would be proud to live there.
So I cleaned them up. And then I bought chickens.
I'll admit - it was scary. I had no idea what to do with chickens. What will they
eat? Do I need to entertain them? Will they get bored without a
I needn't have worried. They didn't like T.V. And they eat more or less anything they can get their beaks into.
My plants are not my own any more!
No more nice flower beds. They like to eat them. No more quiet evenings sipping a glass of wine in peace. They like to cluck. No more high heels. They sink in the mud.
I love it.
Love the noise (it's actually very soothing, once you get
used to it); love the fact that my chickens make me laugh. Wasn't
terribly keen on the eating the flowers part, but found ways around that.
And there was more.
All the stress I'd felt at work went. Just like that. And it's never come back, all those years on.
I love the fresh eggs, love knowing that the food I eat
is grown in my very own garden, from soil fertilised by my very own
hens, love how much my chooks appreciate the occasional treat (ask my
husband about that - he would say the very regular treats).
I love spoiling my chooks with treats!
I want to share my knowledge about raising happy chickens with you - to invite you into my world, because it's a happy, (c)lucky world.
And it's a world that you can have too.
(Well, you might not want to move to Italy. There are frustrations).
But you might like to know something about how you can keep chickens too.
Perhaps you're feeling you'd love to, but you don't know what they'd eat. Or how to keep them entertained. Or whether they'll be bored without T.V.
Perhaps, like me, you're retired and you need something entertaining to fill your time - you think a few chickens might be the answer, but you're not sure where to start.
Perhaps you'd like your children, or grandchildren, to learn more about what healthy food is, and where it comes from (and it's not the supermarket).
you'd like a way of giving your family good quality, fresh,
Or perhaps you're not able to keep chickens yourself just yet, so you just dream of the day when you can keep your own flock. That's a good dream to have.
If any of those things ring a bell with you, you're in the right place.
Because I've been there. I've learned. My chickens have taught me. So have my chicken-obsessed contacts all over the world.
know it sounds corny (and maybe just a little demented), but chickens have
added so much to my life. Health, laughter, and a lot of friends.
It's not hard. It doesn't matter where you live, or whether your home is a castle or a caravan. It doesn't matter if you're very rich or struggling to make ends meet. It doesn't matter if you're seven or seventy.
I've been there. I know what it's like. I'm not an expert - I don't pretend that chickens have been in my family for generations. They haven't.
But I do know about them now, enough to help you if you'd like to give it a go.
So come on in. Let's do this together. It's fun, it's healthy, it's not difficult.
And I know you'll love it as much as I do.
Just click on any of the pics below to go to that page. Enjoy!