Poul­try Peo­ple

Jeremy Hob­son talks to small­holder, chicken keeper and thriller writer Shaun Baines

Your Chickens - - Contents -

A thriller writer talks about his chick­ens

What first got you in­ter­ested in chick­ens – and did it co­in­cide with your move to ru­ral Scot­land? Coun­try liv­ing and chick­ens go hand in hand. We ac­tu­ally started with keep­ing bees, which we still do, but they are con­sid­er­ably less cud­dly than chick­ens.

What breeds of chick­ens do you have? We be­gan with Wel­sum­mers, which are beau­ti­ful, if flighty birds. We then bought Barn­evelders, who are calmer and more self-as­sured. Each gang have their own cock­erel named af­ter char­ac­ters in Black­ad­der: ‘Speck­led Jim’ runs the Wel­sum­mers, ‘Lord Flash­heart’ heads the Barn­evelders. We keep them sep­a­rate, oth­er­wise it’s like watch­ing the Jets and the Sharks in a feath­ery dance-off.

Your soon-to-be pub­lished book is a ‘crime thriller’… what is it about the genre that ex­cites you? My first book is due to be pub­lished by This­tle Pub­lish­ing in June, though my short sto­ries are avail­able in an­tholo­gies. It’s based in my na­tive North East and I wanted to write a story about the streets I grew up on. I’m nat­u­rally drawn to the darker side of hu­man na­ture, which alarms my mother no end. The thriller genre lets me ex­plore this with­out hav­ing to break the law. It’s as ex­cit­ing to write as it is to read as I never know which crime is about to be com­mit­ted next. I’m cur­rently writ­ing the se­quel and could be con­vinced to in­clude a chicken or two.

Do any of your cur­rent flock of chick­ens pos­sess any sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics to the type of peo­ple you write about in your book?! I pre­dom­i­nantly write about the ten­sion be­tween criminal gangs, so with two dif­fer­ent tribes of chick­ens, there is a cor­re­la­tion. Most of my char­ac­ters are con­flicted in some way, but there is noth­ing con­flicted about a chicken. They know ex­actly what they want, which is food and then more food. But the ma­jor dif­fer­ence is I’m more likely to hug a chicken than a gang­ster. Not af­ter the last time, any­way. Do your chick­ens help you fo­cus on your writ­ing in any way? I love watch­ing them take a dust bath. It’s a joy­ful sight. Af­ter a long day writ­ing about ne­far­i­ous deeds, it’s the per­fect way to re­lax and it takes all my self-con­trol not to join them.

Bear­ing in mind where you live, have you any spe­cial tips about hen keep­ing in a cold cli­mate? We don’t let their drink­ing wa­ter freeze over. If they can’t drink, they won’t eat and that’s what keeps them warm in the cold weather. They have plenty of let­tuce and fruit to keep them hy­drated and we also keep an eye on their combs and wat­tles for signs of frost­bite. It once got down to -13C so the cold can be a dan­ger – for the chick­ens and me.

Is there any­thing con­nected with chicken-keep­ing that you know now – and wish you’d known at the out­set? Never leave your kitchen door open. Chick­ens love to ex­plore and think noth­ing of mak­ing a perch of your ap­pli­ances. Like me, you may have to get rid of a toaster af­ter a chicken puts more than bread in it!

MORE: Fol­low Shaun on Twit­ter @Lit­tle­haven­farm

Thriller writer Shaun Baines

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