Poul­try Peo­ple

Petrol­head Jack Grat­ton

Your Chickens - - Contents -

How long have you been keep­ing chick­ens and what made you first de­cide to keep them? My wife Paula and I have had chick­ens for about 11 years — ever since we moved to the coun­try­side here on the Hamp­shire/West Sus­sex bor­der. We first got them be­cause we loved the idea of hav­ing our own fresh, nat­u­rally pro­duced eggs. It wasn’t long be­fore we re­alised that not only did we en­joy their eggs, we re­ally liked hav­ing them around and we dis­cov­ered what char­ac­ters chick­ens can be; so much so, that ours used to fre­quently wan­der into the house.

What breeds did you start with? We had ex-com­mer­cial res­cue hens — the Rhode Is­land Red type — and then a friend phoned and asked if we wanted a cock bird which was sur­plus to re­quire­ments. He even­tu­ally died of old age, but we had also ac­quired a Silkie ban­tam cock and be­cause the eggs were fer­tile we thought we would have a go with an in­cu­ba­tor. Some of the birds we have now were the re­sult.

You say that your chick­ens come into your house. Does this mean that they free-range? They used to. They cur­rently have their own house and run, but we orig­i­nally let them out into the gar­den. Un­for­tu­nately, we have foxes around and one got our cock­erel dur­ing the day, which is why our chick­ens are now in the run most of the time. They are al­lowed to come out only when we are around to ac­tively keep an eye on them.

You are the chair­man of recruitment busi­ness Ma­jor Play­ers, you have a keen in­ter­est in field sports, you love play­ing squash and are known as a petrol­head. Isn’t hang­ing out with chick­ens tame by com­par­i­son? No. While one on­line ar­ti­cle de­scribed me as al­ways hav­ing “loved mo­tor­cy­cles, horse­power, speed and cars”, an­other said that I had “the at­ten­tion span of an eight-year-old who can­not tol­er­ate any­thing re­motely bor­ing”. Apart from the pos­si­ble wor­ries of a fox, chick­ens are re­lax­ing and stress-re­liev­ing. Our chick­ens are real char­ac­ters and great to watch. We have a young one in the run and my wife has a photo of that one sit­ting quite hap­pily on Sum­mer, our youngest daugh­ter’s head.

With your busy life­style, how do you look af­ter your birds? My wife looks af­ter them fre­quently — and ob­vi­ously our youngest daugh­ter loves them and spends a lot of time with them. She is the one who hatches them in the in­cu­ba­tor. Now my fam­ily says that I only work two days a week and spend the rest of my time pur­su­ing my hob­bies. Be­ing a chair­man of var­i­ous com­pa­nies, one of our chil­dren used to think that I moved chairs around for a liv­ing.

What is the story of your ducks? We started out with a cou­ple of Call ducks, but the fe­male died sud­denly not long af­ter we bought them. The drake seems to have en­cour­aged wild ducks in and has since mated with them. The fe­males lay any­where around the gar­den and are quite suc­cess­ful at pro­duc­ing off­spring in wild nests.

Jack Grat­ton finds chick­ens “re­lax­ing and stress-re­liev­ing”

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