Chickens make great pets: true free range eggs are miles ahead of anything you’d get at a supermarket, they’ll eat your kitchen scraps, they’re relatively low maintenance, and kids love them (raising them from chicks is a good way to go here, but you need to have a “rooster plan” if the chicks aren’t sexed, and you’ll need heat lamps to cater for them while they’re small. Otherwise, talk to your breeder or the person who raised them about their temperament). It’s a way to have a little piece of farm life in your backyard.

Different councils have different restrictions around how many chickens you can have, and how far your coop should be from your neighbour’s property; most of them will have handouts and be really willing to help you. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to have two hens (but make sure you check with council): they like company, so it’s better not to have a lone chook. A healthy bird should produce up to six eggs per week.

You don’t need a fancy hen house; an old kids’ cubby house or a tent made out of recycled pallets will more than do the trick, just make sure they’ve got shelter from rain and sun. They’ll also need a nesting box with a bed of shavings, a perch (they like to climb and flap around), something to drink out of (a bird feeder is great if you’re going to be away for a few days), and some dirt or sand to scratch about in. In terms of food, you can buy pellets (and probably should if they’re laying hens, as these mothers need to eat for two!) but they love vegetable scraps – they lose a lot of calcium when they lay, so make sure you crush up the eggshells and include it in their food (in the wild, birds will eat their own shells).

If you aren’t sure what breed to get, ask around: they all have different qualities. Araucana hens lay eggs with green shells and tend to make wonderful pets if they’re hand reared; ISA brown will produce a lot of eggs and have great temperaments.