Keeping chickens is so much more than it's cracked up to be, food writer Julie Biuso says.
Her clucky trio moved into “five star accommodation” in her Northcote Point backyard just over a year ago and the experience has been a revelation.
Julie is a food lover who was motivated by the thought of fresh eggs. But it's the chickens themselves that captured her heart.
“They are not just there as egg machines,” she says.
“They're incredible to hold and pat. It's like stroking a cat. I find it very pleasurable.
“They have really great personalities. I can understand why kids take to them as pets.”
Julie and her husband Remo are among the growing number of people keeping a few backyard chooks in urban Auckland.
The craze is celebrated in a new book, Urban Chicks, by author Renee Lang and photographer Trevor Newman, featuring 55 households including the Biusos, Labour politician David Cunliffe and Shortland Street actress Rachel Forman. It shares the stories of a wide variety of people keeping chooks, even in College Hill in sight of the Sky Tower.
Julie always wanted chickens but like many city slickers pictured moving to the country in order to have them.
That was until her brother who keeps animals in rural Carterton convinced her that her urban backyard had plenty of room.
So up went the posh hen house. “They have five star accommodation and they're
very happy with it,” Julie says.
In moved three very French-sounding hens Hortense, Henrietta and Clothilde.
All are brown shavers, known as good layers, that came from a chicken farm. There's a real thrill at hearing the distinctive cluck that means another egg on it's way, Julie says.
“To me there's no greater joy than getting an egg and it's still warm, how amazing is that.
"They're also entertaining because they are fairly scatty.”
Among the revelations for Julie as a newbie chicken owner is they don't eat everything. Hortense, Henrietta and Clothilde are partial to cabbage, corn and rocket but won't touch lettuce.
The chooks cause quite a stir during Julie's cooking classes at her home when someone excitedly spots one in the garden. But egg laying is a very private experience in one of two nests created away from curious onlookers.
A beautifully poached egg is a healthy use of your fresh backyard eggs but Julie is a big fan of fried eggs and is naturally quick off the mark with a great recipe.
She suggests serving fried eggs with fresh sage leaves, sliced garlic and a few chilli flakes sizzled in the pan with a sprinkling of shaved parmesan on top. Serve with greens gathered from the garden and crusty bread and you'll have some very happy brunch guests.
- © Fairfax NZ News