Fresh eggs really do taste the best!! When we visit our friends in the Netherlands who keep chickens, having a fresh egg (or two!) for breakfast is the best, their eggs are just delicious! We also have friends in our village who have chickens and we can hear them busily clucking and I know they are very productive. It comes as no surprise, when I get to the back of Richard Sudell’s ‘Practical Gardening and Food Production’ which was first published in the 1930’s and republished many times, that there is a whole chapter, a long chapter entitled ‘Why Not Keep Poultry?’
I am sure Mr Sudell’s book was a great aid to families during the war, making the best of their gardens to supplement their rations, and certainly in the time of real austerity after the war, it was invaluable, and no doubt contributed to many fine meals, and healthy families. My mum gave the copy I have to my dad for his first birthday after they were married, and I can remember often seeing it open as he used it for our garden. We weren’t well off, but we always had plenty to eat because of a garden full of vegetables – and fruit!
Back to chickens. Sudell’s style is to keep everything very brief and to the point; he’s a master of the clear, informative, economic sentence. The calendar section on gardens throughout the year, has a wood-cut heading, two photos, and telegram style sentences covering topics of weather, monthly work, food plots, fruit garden, flower plots, general maintenance, and under glass… so for him to devote twenty-three pages to everything about poultry shows its importance.
A new laid egg from your own hens. What a joy this brings to the novice poultry keeper. You get all the pleasure and excitement added to the very considerable profit that a few chickens will bring you, if you turn over a few square yards of your back garden to intensive poultry rearing.
‘Intensive’ doesn’t mean poor creatures packed in cheek by jowl, he’s advising six to eight hens in a 10×6 foot area which would include a small hen-house.. He does include ideas for keeping a larger flock, but his idea is for the ordinary person with a small garden or back yard, who would feed the birds mainly on scraps, and only a small outlay on bought in chicken feed, using the eggs themselves, rather than someone trying to make money.
Within the ideal design of chicken house there should be a sun parlour! Obviously there are other features you would expect:
- food troughs
- water supply
- grit box
- dry mash hopper
- dust box
- litter (straw, saw dust etc)
In the edition of the book I have there is a section on Wartime Restrictions; what hadn’t occurred to me was that rationing might apply even to the food for domestic animals – these applied both to the “large” poultry keeper, and the “little man”, the latter who must; under wartime conditions, do without corn and only have up to twelve birds, fed on strictly rationed balancer meal.
Wartime Restricitons: The intending poultry keeper must as the very first step, make himself acquainted with wartime restrictions imposed by the Government. Those very essential details are obtained on written application to the Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Lytham St. Annes, Lancs….
I don’t think we will be keeping chickens, lovely though the idea is, and as appealing as fresher than fresh daily eggs are!