Our Agony Aunt Meg Ma­son dishes out some­what ques­tion­able style and dec­o­rat­ing ad­vice to would-be DIY ren­o­va­tors

Inside Out (Australia) - - Q&a - Tony, via email

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.

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