Petrolhead Jack Gratton
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”