OK, so we’re not quite there – we still have a fortnightly supermarket delivery – but with daily fresh eggs from our (rather naughty) hens Isla White and Princess Layer, plus a glut of rhubarb and leeks from the allotment this week, I’m feeling semi-self-sufficient! Ellie Tennant allotment home grown rhubarb leeks allotment tipsSome advice for first time chicken owners: White Leghorns are great layers of pretty, white eggs but they are also nervous and essentially bonkers. Speckeldy hens (Coucou Marans) are good layers, too (of brown, speckled eggs) and are friendly, curious and clever. When you first bring your hens home, they will be so freaked out and traumatised by the journey that they will sulk in their nesting box for days. Don’t worry. Just make sure they have access to food and water and they will soon forget the drama and grow braver. Mine were petrified of humans for the first few days but were pecking food from my hand and letting me stroke them within a week. Bribe them with food every time you visit them – a handful of rice, an earthworm (!) or a cabbage leaf and a soothing ‘tut tut’ noise will soon put them at ease. I kept them in their coop for a week so they got the idea that it was their ‘home’, then let them roam free. If you’re going to let them free-range, be prepared to lose some plants. My alliums are basically gone. And get ready to pick up / hose away poo every now and again from your patio. (By every now and again I mean, like, every day.) Apart from that, they’re amazingly low-maintenance. They peck about, eating slugs and bugs – and when it gets dark, they sensibly put themselves to bed, so all I need to do is lock the door behind them in the evening. how to keep chickens

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