VET’S VIEW: Chickens are not just egg-laying machines

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THE other day I was reminiscing about Julie Andrews with my sister.

No, not that Julie Andrews, I mean the chicken, of course!

It was one that our mother used to own, and she had got that name because after laying an egg, instead of making the usual loud clucking noises she used to utter a crooning sound as though she was trying to sing.

Chickens come in all shapes and sizes and if you think they are just egg-laying machines, then think again; they all have their own personalities and it’s worth thinking about what you want from your birds.

Some of course are primarily for egg production, and if that’s your priority a commercial hybrid will probably be your best bet. They can be bought at around four months of age, vaccinated and ready to start laying.

Some breeds are more ornamental.

You wont get many eggs from a Belgian Bantam for example, but they can look very pretty strutting around the garden with their feathered legs.

If you are not sure what to look for, local agricultural shows are a good place to start.

The forthcoming spring garden show at Ardingly (May 3 and 4) has a poultry section and there’s even a best-looking chicken competition.

As with all living creatures you plan to keep it is important to make sure you know your pet’s environmental and health requirements.

The Government agency DEFRA has some useful information on its website, and you can also get advice on health and husbandry from The Chicken Vet at www.chickenvet.co.uk.

So if you’ve been thinking about keeping birds in your back garden, now is a good time to start.

Beware of noisy cockerels that might upset the neighbours, but if you’re lucky your birds might start singing to you.

• Peter Brown, of Northdale Veterinary Practice, writes the Herald & Gazette’s Vet’s View column. A local man, whose family history can be traced back to the 1700s in Worthing, Peter took over the practice 26 years ago. What was a one-man operation is now a thriving six-vet practice.