We’ve enlisted the help of writer, blogger and hen lover Emma Stone to guide us through the process of raising happy and healthy chickens.   

In recent years keeping chickens has become quite popular. Many families want to become more self-sufficient and chickens provide both eggs and meat. Chickens aren’t only used as livestock but also as domesticated pets. Some owners buy from poultry farms, re-home battery hens or even choose to hatch. There are many reasons and ways to get started.  

I own two small flocks and they provide my family with tasty fresh eggs every morning. A few years ago, I spoke to a lady who said there was never a day when she felt bored collecting eggs from the coop, and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes if I’m outside early enough, the eggs are still warm. If I’m even earlier, then I will hear the hens singing their egg song. Chickens like to announce they’ve laid an egg and sometimes the flock will join in, too. You definitely can’t beat a fresh egg. My hens’ eggs have regular fans that now only buy fresh eggs since trying them. One couple insisted having our eggs the morning of their wedding which was wonderful. Imagine making your favourite homemade baked treats or your traditional cooked breakfast that bit more special – lovely!

One of the fantastic things about keeping chickens as pets is learning each hen’s individual character. I think both of my flocks are mischievous, but one hen is curious whilst another is shy. I can pick up some of my chickens but most are flighty and it takes an extra effort such as bribery (mealworms work a treat!) to entice them. It’s easy to spend hours watching their antics. The most entertaining and fun thing to watch in my opinion, is when a chicken takes a dust bath. When I first saw this at a poultry farm I was alarmed and thought perhaps the chicken was ill; the hen was on her side with one leg kicking wildly at the soil, with her head rubbing against the ground and a wing spread out wide. I now know that chickens do this for various reasons such as trying to keep cool, as well as helping control parasites. Definitely worth a quick YouTube search if you’re curious!

Fortunately for friends and family, an interest in chickens is a great subject when needing to shop for a gift. When I was browsing White Stuff’s website, I saw a chicken print on a lovely jumper (the 'Chicken Jumper') th
at I instantly bought as a treat to myself. It was interesting to see a mature and quality chicken design on an item of clothing. Of course when I spotted a chicken print on the Lanark skirt, I was more than happy to succumb to my passion for both chickens and the White Stuff brand.

Emma in the 'Chicken Jumper' and 'Lanark Skirt'

I’d always recommend researching different breeds if you’re thinking of keeping chickens. Generally each breed has certain personality traits. For example: the Amber is great around children because the breed is quite tame and (with enough attention) is great at being handled. My two young nephews love the chickens and one hen in particular is well behaved when the boys gently touch her feathers.

Keeping chickens comes with responsibilities such as ensuring that they each have enough space and access to shelter, food and water. It’s also worth considering what would happen if a chicken needed medical attention (I’ve found my local vet to be fantastic with chickens). I read many books to make sure I knew enough about what owning poultry entailed. However, I never appreciated how many questions I’d have after the chickens settled in and I now understand the value of experience. It’s now easier to search forums and groups online in order to ask questions, but it’s also a fabulous way to meet new people and keep up-to-date with the latest information.

One day I plan to merge my two flocks together and the dream is to include a cockerel. There’s also the opportunity that I could even hatch my own birds from the flock. Keeping chickens has been very rewarding so far an
d the future promises to be quite exciting!

Follow Emma on twitter: @thefusionseries