Our Agony Aunt Meg Mason dishes out somewhat questionable style and decorating advice to would-be DIY renovators
I live in a fairly urban area, but I’ve heard it’s OK to keep chickens. I’d love to try it, but what’s your opinion on the pros and cons?
Such a coincidence that I’d pick up your note as I stamp the mud off my Hunters and come inside with an apron-full of fresh eggs supplied by my own roosting pair, Yoko and Katsu. So there, I’ve outed myself as a lover of the city chook but you’re wise to consider the arguments for and against hen husbandry, since they are legion. When you say ‘fairly urban’, Tony, I wish you’d indulged me with more detail. Are we talking urban as in a neat bungalow on a grass plot, but quite near an arterial road and a big-box Offificeworks? Or urban as in a metre-wide terrace house with a handkerchief courtyard, backing onto the central rail terminus and permanently shaded by a humming cell phone tower? I’ll assume the latter, because if you’ve got any grass at all, you’d have gone ahead already and ordered a flflat- pack coop and sourced a pair of year-old silkies from a reputable breeder with free shipping. In truly gritty settings, my foremost concern is that having any sort of livestock outside and more particularly their feedbox, is liable to attract… I can’t say it… other kinds of livestock. Oh Lord, you know – the truly free-range variety. All right, fine, I’m talking about rats. And you won’t feel nearly as smug bypassing the egg section of the supermarket, side-eyeing the sorry customers paying $8 for a dozen cage, if you’re going home to your very own biblical plague. You’ll need to be more rigorous with your wire fencing than your average penitentiary to make sure there’s no coming or going. There are cats, foxes and the neighbour’s kids to keep out as well.
Also know that most councils will ticket you for keeping a rooster in a high-density neighbourhood since apparently, city dwellers would rather wake up to their iPhone’s Marimba than a lusty cockerel. There will also be regular mucking out to do, although bagging up all that rich, organic manure and on-selling it to the balcony gardeners in your area can offset some of the cost of keeping hens, as long as no-one filches your honesty box.
Of course, you’re looking at free omelettes in perpetuity, but aside from the material benefits to brunch, chickens are just so lovely to sit and watch with a cup of tea. Their pecking, brooding and clucking, their puffing-up of feathers and absolutely idiotic way of walking is a balm to the urban soul.
So I’d say give it a go, Tony. It’s possible to rent chickens and a basic coop, so you can try your hand as the smallest-possible-scale poultry farmer with no cash down. If it all turns foul, I’ve attached a recipe for an absolutely fool-proof cassoulet.Talk about eating local.
I’m now an interior designer and my friends are asking for free advice, which I’d be happy to give, except it always seems to be at dinner parties etc, when I’m off-duty. How can I decline without offending them? Cassie, Fairy Meadow, NSW By reminding them that had you recently become qualified as a dentist, they wouldn’t ask you for a quick set of crowns, or an obstetrician, a freebie caesar before everyone else arrives. A polite no and the latest issue of this very mag in your hands flung in their direction ought to do it.