The coop has been up for some weeks; the ‘Keeping Chickens – For Dummies!’ books are well-thumbed. We purchased building materials ages back, taking care to measure carefully and get exactly the right length of wire needed; the ground had been cleared and the chickensdirect websites bookmarked.

It is good to live off the land like this. Once I get a couple of chickens I will practically be Ray Mears.

It is possible that there have been longer building projects – the cathedral thing in Barcelona, perhaps, or the last Olympics. But it is important to get these things right. Plus we had been hinting to Len the Fish for ages that he might come round and ‘give us some advice’ which is code for ‘do all the work for us’. As it is, he agreed to turn up to help for the couple of hours that it would take us.

By day two of construction, I am feeling a bit down. Short Tony has disappeared to buy more wire, and I have been struggling for ages to hammer the same small staple into a piece of wood. Meanwhile, Len the Fish is erecting, wiring, twisting, hammering, digging, measuring and fixing.

“Thanks ever so much for your help again Len,” I mumble. I am embarrassed. “If you ever need some… ummmmm… humorous writing done, then just…”

I tail off lamely. It is shameful. Len the Fish is brilliant at everything practical. What he doesn’t know about practical things isn’t worth knowing. He has given up his entire week to do our fencing for us, and I have cock all that I will ever be able to offer him in return, apart from a pint, which doesn’t count as he will buy me one back. Despite being so powerful, I have about two practical skills in the world: I can use a patent type markup system that sends instructions via a modem to a plant in Watford that then couriers back your typesetting at twice a day intervals if it is before 1991, and I can name the local newspaper that covers each town in the UK, apart from the ones that I have forgotten.

“A pint. Just buy me a pint,” he replies, not asking me about Exeter, or Mansfield, or Leigh-on-Sea, or even giving any indication that he requires humorous writing services. I return to the single post that I have insisted on putting in myself.

“Huge gales forecast for tomorrow,” he says, not entirely reassuringly.

By dusk the run is complete. A happy home for six chickens, that we will probably purchase some time in the year 2163. Mrs Short Tony’s car draws up and she steps out.

Her jaw drops. “It’s a bit… bigger… than you claimed it would be.”

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34 thoughts on “We build a chicken run.

  1. Richard says:

    You could let Len The Fish have the first egg, I’m sure it’s something he’ll appreciate unless he’s a vegan.

  2. Damian says:

    Hey, you’re number 42 – both your rank and the meaning of life. (If is the meaning of life rank?)

    See here:

  3. JonnyB says:

    They are not in any particular order. Otherwise I would be fifth.

    Richard: he is not a vegan. But the problem is that everybody else has chickens as well. I may have to sell them on here, using paypal.

  4. Damian says:

    We got Trinny & Susannah from Perfect Poultry in Surrey. (Trinny is a Cotswold Legbar with a long and elegant neck, and Susannah is a rather more common bird!)

    Perfect Poultry delivers nationally, but I recommend going to collect your bird so you can experience the true eccentricity of the place and its owner. (Although I should say that he thought we were completley bonkers too.) He is very patient with urban types who actually don’t know much sbout chickens.

    Try to make sure your chicken wire runs down to the ground, then flat along the ground for eight inches or so – it helps prevent the foxes from digging under.

  5. Gimli says:

    “It’s a bit… bigger… than you claimed it would be.”

    Now there’s a first.

  6. Now that all the easy work is done, you must square your shoulders and be prepared, once the feathery denizens are ensconced there, to be able to take an over-eager cock into your hands and show it who is the boss.

  7. Katy says:


    Technically a county, I know, but don’t tell me they’ve got more than one local paper.

  8. nuttycow says:

    What are you going to name your chickens. I would suggest “Soup”, “Roast” and “Onastick” for starters.

  9. More Richard Briers than Ray Mears, surely? Which would make the LTLP Felicity Kendall, I suppose. Lucky for you if so. She was a notoriously soft touch. Any normal woman would wrap you in the chicken wire and dump you in the village pond.

    If you know a reliable source for humorous writing, by the way, why not let them write your blog every now and then? Would make a nice change of pace…

  10. Z says:

    I suggest borrowing a broody hen from neighbours (assuming they have a cockerel as well as hens) and she can hatch the clutch of eggs and look after the chicks until they’re old enough to leave her. A hen with chicks is so happy and the Toddler would love them.

  11. JonnyB says:

    Katy that is one of the ones that I have forgotten. Or Caxton is yet to reach them.

  12. JonnyB says:

    And there are enough broody hens around here, thank you very much.

  13. Megan says:

    Gimli stole my joke! Damnit. I lose an hour thanks to daylight savings time and some short, axe wielding fictional character nips in and totally anticipates my bon mot. What really grates though is he did it better than I would. Stupid Monday.

  14. GingerBollox says:

    How is your pole holding up against the “Huge gales”?

  15. Huge Gale – is that Big A’s wife?

  16. tim relf says:

    So, all you need now are the chickens and then it’ll be ready for the fox to come visiting!

  17. Jayne says:

    Is it so big because you’ve got a top secret bunker underneath, from which you wield all your power? Much like Blofeld but stoking a chicken instead of a cat…

  18. Jayne says:

    Or even stroking. Although stoking a chicken sounds more interesting.

  19. JonnyB says:

    Hullo tim relf and welcome. Do not worry. I have put ‘no foxes’ notices everywhere.

    My bunker is in the shed. The chickens are just a diversion.

  20. JonnyB says:

    CHICKEN RUN UPDATE: still standing, despite gales.

    I did mean to take a ‘before’ photo though.

  21. hfactor says:

    do you have an Eglu? Its the des-res of choice for a chicken about town. It’s like the differrence between a townhouse in Windsor and a council flat in Egham. Egham – geddit? Oh never mind.

  22. thud says:

    I’m a builder and I’ll be damned if I’m going to build for chickens….as hfactor says…eglu’s are the way to go.

  23. Pat says:

    So will they be free range? Hugh and Jamie will be tickled pink.
    Re’Petite Anglaise'(who is on your side -bar)
    I am reading it at bed- time only – to prolong the pleasure.

  24. NAGA - Shaken, Not Stirred says:

    ‘I return to the single post that I have insisted on putting in myself.’


  25. Just make sure this Len isn’t caught talking to your wife.

  26. guyana gyal says:

    Sausage making machine. Chicken run. Life sure is hotting up. Soon you will all be so self sufficient, you will put supermarkets out of business.

  27. Damian says:

    Hfactor and Thud, ours is an eglu. I prefer to think of it as the Apple iMac of chicken accommodation. (Although what chickens would want with an iMac is beyond me.)

    I can certainly attest to its fox-proofness. We have had foxes standing on the top of it drying to dig through the mesh, pulling at the sides, trying to tear the mesh away. Even trying to dig under. So far the foxes have only managed to frighten the chickens and tear the canvas sun shade.

    Bastard foxes. Bring back hunting, I say. I’d gladly join the Hackney Hunt. There could be hundreds of us, hooded and tracksuited, hurtling through London Fields and Victoria Park on our scooters and small motorcycles, pit bulls speaking as they run, pillion passengers cradling their pistols (some replica) and sawn off shotguns ready for action.

  28. Fanto says:

    What with all the rabbits, chickens and discarded pieces of kebab, I can see you being overrun with foxes and whatever else decides to pop to Chez Johnny for a snack if you’re not careful.

    If there are concerns about the chicken run now, think of the problems you’ll face trying to explain away an impromptu menagerie. It would be enough to drive anyone to drink.

    Or weightwatchers.

  29. Duck says:


    re Gimli’s comment.

    There’s still time for you to add:

    “It’s a bit… bigger… than you claimed it would be.”

    Were they looking at your head then?

  30. ell says:

    it’s never a good idea to enter a coop if one is wearing sandals and happens to have brightly painted red toenails. The little bastards damn near pecked my toes off my feet before I got out of there.

  31. Eddie 2-Sox says:

    A friend of mine from our allotments had seven chickens stolen last week…it wasn’t you was it?

  32. Seven, you say.

    Interesting. A chef friend of mine had seven extremely fresh cluckers with him yesterday morning. Delicious they were too.

  33. Oli says:

    If you need help eating the eggs I will do it without charge. Im just that nice.

  34. JonnyB says:

    Eglu. Pah! Townies! This is a… er.. a bit bigger than planned lavish accommodation run.

    Hullo Blazing Saddle and welcome!!!

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