Monday, 26 January 2009

Inside the chicken coop

When I started keeping chickens over 7 years ago, I never realised that my special brood would one day inspire me to write a book, sending me on a fascinating journey into the world of meeting editors and seeing my book for sale in Waterstones.

It's a well known saying that you should"write about what you know". Back then I knew nothing about keeping chickens and I certainly could not imagaine writing about them, but as my hobby grew, then so did my knowledge.

By developing a special bond with my feathered friends, I noticed how unique and individual they were. I soon became aware that I was adhering to their rules, such as letting them stay out longer if they did not want to go inside the coop at night, and constantly filling up their feed hopper every time they knocked it over.

In March 2007 'One Hundred Ways for a Chicken to Train its Human' was published by Hodder and Stoughton. I dedicated the book to Jupiter, my beautiful cockerel and to Mercury, Saturn and Venus, my sweet little hens, who without their amusing personalities, none of it would have been possible.

It just goes to show that any hobby or interest can be turned into something quite magical if you allow your imagination and creativity to have a free range.

A gift from the Gods


Jupiter came to me first. A stunning 'Buff Sussex' cockerel. He was a huge bird, beautiful and very sweet natured. Within days of homing him I felt that he should not live his life alone. I decided to buy three little hens to give him some company.

Jupiter with the new girls

Mercury, Venus and Saturn were introduced to him on a beautiful day in Spring and love certainly blossomed - in fact he went bonkers. He did what resembled the Michael Jackson moon walk when I released them into the run.

He was so happy and soon adopted Mercury as his favourite, although he was such an amorous bird, he certainly did not leave Venus and Saturn out of the love nest.


Home Eggonomics

Within just a few weeks the girls were laying eggs. It was an incredible feeling to open the hatch and see freshly layed eggs nestling in the straw. I soon had an egg mountain, so after weeks of eating omlettes and boiled eggs with soldiers, I had to start giving them away. But it paid off, I started a swap shop by exchaning my eggs for another item that was of use to me. So far I have managed to swap the following for half a dozen eggs:-

Bottle of wine
Bag of apples
A fire guard
Greens for the hens
Old News papers for burning
Bag of Damsons
Donation for a raffle prize (At Wrekin Writers)

So if you want some eggs - make me an offer!

Cock of the hoop

As part of Wrekin Writers, I get a great deal of inspiration and help from other members of the group. Simon Whaley, member and friend was having enormous success with his book ' One Hundred Ways for a Dog to to Train its Human' Published by Hodder and Stoughton. He sent me an email one day suggesting that I write something similar regarding chickens. After the initial shock of wondering if I could pull it off, I started to jot down a few ideas.

In November 2005 I sent an initial enquiry to Hodder and Stoughton. To my amazement, they replied and said they would be interested. In January 2006 they accepted my manuscript. I was invited down to London to meet the editor and we went out to lunch, it was an incredible but nerve racking experience. My book 'One Hundred Ways for a Chicken to Train its Human' was published in March 2007.

I was paid a small advance for publication of the book, half of which went on a brand new chicken run, complete with secure area and nest box. This meant that I no longer had to chase them around the run at dusk, they could go to bed when they wanted and get up in the morning when they chose.

I like to think they were happy, they certainly made the most of their posh new 'des res', whilst still roaming free on sunny days. Jupiter only died last year at the grand age of eight.

The book is dedicated to them. They inspired me to put pen to paper and on every single page, their funny little ways are captured in print forever.

The first 6 copies of my book

New Brood - New chapter


I now have a new brood. Blodwyn, Braith, Bethan and Branwen are fantastic pets too. They are very different to the previous ones - bigger and bolder but still very unique. They are developing their own characters and ensuring once again that I adhere to their pecking order.

They love to sunbathe with me and are already taking advantage of their right to roam - usually taking it a step further by flying over the fence to the neighbours vegetable patch.

They are a constant source of amusement and inspiration to me and I now look forward to the next chapter of life inside the chicken coop.

Pictures S Whaley/D Perry