Diary of a novice chicken keeper - Week 1

Parenting lesson 1 learnt: A chicken is not a dog

I leapt at the chance to be a part of the chicken rearing world. Why? Because our eldest, for quite a while now has been pleading with us to get a dog. The 10 chickens were a surprise to satiate his dog yearning.

"But mummy, I asked for a dog." I explained how great his new chickens were. "You get 10 pets instead of just one.""Your pets lay eggs, dogs don't.""Your pets, sort of look like they have small dinosaur feet." - This comment received a raised eyebrow.

Parenting lesson 2 learnt: Giving responsibility to children can bring about positive behaviour

"Why do our chickens have red bottoms mummy?' "Some of the chickens pick on each other and peck the other chicken's bottoms." (I'm not sure if this is true but it seemed feasible) Now my husband would say he's hen-pecked (don't believe a word of it), but one of our poor chickens was receiving an absolute battering from her peers.

So Valerie (she's our "Go-to" lady with regards to poultry consultant) kindly re-housed the aptly named "Pink bottom" to the next stable to receive some much needed R&R.) This meant that tonight, our son had to feed twice. Feed the 9 chickens in one stable and then prepare a separate meal for poor old Pink Bottom. He got on with it without any help and as he tucked her in for the night he said, "Get well soon Pink Bottom." It's times like these that I think our eldest is a complete angel and almost forget that sometimes he tries to wee on his younger brother's head in the bath....

Parenting lesson 3 learnt: Chickens can apparently fly

My son and I were going about our chicken handling responsibilities when a small head popped over the door. "These are my chickens" my son said, before the other little boy had even spoken.

"How many do you have?' asked the onlooker. My son looked at me. "10, we have 10" I replied....."So why are there only 8?" A look of panic flashed over my son's face. I calmly replied "Oh no need to worry, chickens can fly (again, I'm not sure this is strictly true) and sometimes they like to go exploring!" (The intrepid explorers were found later, in a nearby watering hole.)

Parenting lesson 4 learnt: Those around you can make you feel inadequate...if you let them

So I've mentioned Valerie earlier. She's our onsite Dr Dolittle (or Dr Doesloads) and she's truly gifted at caring for animals of all shapes and sizes. She has re-homed chickens before. And the farm is proud to have Stanley the cockerel and his 5 lovely ladies. But the problem is, Valerie's glossy coated and plump chickens live next to our chickens.

Now our chickens were one step away from having their necks wrung. They're old in chicken years and wouldn't make it on the front cover of Poultry Monthly, that's for sure. "If only our chickens looked like Valerie's chickens...one day." I said staring wistfully  across the farmyard. "But mummy, our chickens are great, they have bitty feathers." This is what I love about children, that when they have a sense of ownership, they are loyal to the end. "You're right Laurie, our chickens are great."

(That said though, we're still going to Mole Valley tomorrow to stock up on a load of chicken enhancing feed to enable them to hold their heads high amongst Valerie's beauties!)

Parenting lesson 5 learnt: Death

And it was all going so well..... Today the chickens had turned on 2 weaker members of the group and upon checking them mid-morning, 2 chickens lay dead being pecked by their peers. I was worried how our son would cope with this. "What's wrong with those ones?" He asked "They've been pecked by the others, and now they're dead.""We can plant them and they'll grow again.""But they're not like seeds. Although everything they're made of will go into the ground and help the seeds to grow." That was enough for him as an explanation, for today anyway. This was another jigsaw piece added to his understanding of life and all it entails.

Egg Count: 23 (4 smashed by younger brother)

Peck count: Lots on the victims, just a few received by us.

Chicken Count: 8, RIP the other 2.