I also realise that while free-range is better, the chickens are still crammed into pens and don’t lead a natural life. The best solution seems to be raising them yourself. And its a trend that’s taking off around the world, with my neighbour recently installing a coop and a couple of chicks.
There is an interesting article at The Guardian on the pros and cons of this trend, and what it actually takes to be an at-home farmer.
Billy, seven, brings me a book. “Have you seen this?” It is a well-worn copy of Keeping Chickens, with colour photos and illustrations on every page, several of them featuring attractive children shot against beautiful blue skies. On the table in the open-plan living space of his north London family home, the book falls open on a chapter headed “What to consider”.
“Ask yourself whether you are interested in keeping chickens for profit, self-sufficiency, or purely for pleasure,” go the instructions, before advising readers to check with neighbours and the local authority before going ahead. If bylaws don’t allow chickens in the garden, “think about moving house”.