Chef Clodagh McKenna shares why she loves raising chickens
Irish chef and food writer Clodagh McKenna shares the joy of raising chickens on her sustainable homestead
Irish chef and food writer Clodagh McKenna certainly isn't alone in her love for having chickens in your own backyard; it's a pastime that is seeing a huge surge in popularity – Meghan Markle, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Garner all get their eggs from the coop, not the grocer.
'We're spending more time at home, which means we have more opportunity to raise chickens,' says Andréa Childs, Editor of Country Homes & Interiors magazine. 'But we're also seeking a better connection with the food we eat – when we are keeping chickens ourselves, we know that they are happy and healthy. That's got to make the eggs taste better!'
Here, Clodagh, who has embraced backyard farming with enthusiasm, shares what's happening at her sustainable plot, Broadspear, introducing us to 'The Girls' – her 14 characterful hens.
Why I decided to raise chickens
'This month marks our one year anniversary with our hens, or as we like to call them – our Girls! I had always dreamed of keeping my own hens; the idea of having my own fresh eggs every day and living in a more sustainable way is the focus of our life here at Broadspear. It’s been a fast learning curve ever since they arrived. But it’s like anything, you learn as you go along, ask for advice and quickly get into a routine.'
Meet 'The Girls'
'We have 14 hens in total that live in a lovely fenced area, sheltered by cherry trees, just beyond my kitchen window so I can keep an eye on them. There are two wooden coops perched on stone carved mushrooms that they cuddle up in every night, that we had made in Dorset. We have four different breeds – Burford Browns, Olives, Old Cotswold Legbars and Dekalb Whites. The eggs are a mix of beautiful brown, white and olive green.
'The Girls have become members of our extended family – I absolutely love them, and each one of them has a unique personality. Tina (the boss and named after Tina Turner for her unique strut), Goldie Hen, Yolko Ono, Saoirse, Henneth Paltrow and Eggy Pop are a few of the big personalities in the coop!'
My raising chickens routine
'My morning routine starts with The Girls. I wake up and pop on my wellies and head out to let them out of the hen house. As I walk closer they can hear me coming along and start to yelp with excitement (well, I hope that’s what the screeching is).
'Once they are all out and foraging, I gather the eggs (we are getting about nine a day at the moment), bring them back into the house, wash them and cook up a few for breakfast. Then it’s back out to the hens to clean out their house and get them set up for the day. All the hay from the roosting area gets put into our composting pile, and we replace it with fresh dry hay for the day and night ahead. Feed and watering cans are cleaned then filled and set for the day.
'At Eastertime, I use some of the eggs to create my Easter tablescape. You can see in the pictures how I have styled it and here is a step by step so that you can create it too.'
How I decorate my Easter table with my own hens' eggs
'To create this Easter table, I layered two natural linen colors: sage green as the main tablecloth and then a biscuit-colored table runner down the center. I flooded the runner with bud vases filled with blossom, white aluminum flowers, white hellebores and peach tulips – flowers that are in season.'
'In between the flower vases I placed a mixture of all different types of eggs from our Girls. Sage green candles and candlestick holders were interspersed between the flowers and eggs.'
'I used white pottery plates and traditional white napkins. On top, I layed a beautiful little nest with quail eggs which added such a special touch to the settings. To make these, I collected approximately 30 small malleable twigs and shaped them into a nest, using wire to hold them together.'
Andrea has been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since her first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. She went from women's magazine Options to Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for sister title homesandgardens.com.
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