Friday, June 19, 2009

What's the pecking order down under?

EVERY morning, Sharon Faire and her family wake up to the sound of clucking chickens in their Wahroonga backyard in Australia.

Her two sons, aged three and five, to feed the hens the kitchen scraps from the night before. It sounds like idyllic rural life, but "backyard poultry" has never been more popular. The old days of keeping a few chickens and a vegetable patch appear to be making a comeback.

"The kids are absolutely in love with the hens," Mrs Faire said. "They are really having the best time, they're so much better than cats or dogs."

The Faires are among the many families who have opted for backyard poultry as part of a return to sustainable living with the emphasis on fresh and healthy food.

Norm Black runs Planet Poultry, which helps families set up their own chicken run in the backyard. He says inquiries have increased tenfold over the past 18 months.

"The whole movement is driven from urban areas. It's phenomenal," he said. "There has been a massive shift in the mindset of people recently. Since the downturn, people are going back to basics.

"In the past, people have sought instant gratification … but people now seem to be getting more pleasure from the simpler things in life."

Mr Black has noticed his clientele becoming more varied. "I've sold chooks and coops to merchant bankers, doctors - people from all walks of life," he said. "I even got a call from a guy in Bondi the other day who wants to keep hens on his unit balcony in Campbell Parade." The number of hens sold has risen sharply and Mr Black has also noticed a demand for more lavish coops. Clients are now more interested in his "penthouse packages".

"We've brought out a deluxe penthouse package by popular request but it seems people want more, so we're launching a coop called the Taj Mahal, which … is going to be very grandiose."

Mr Black has also fielded some unusual queries, from the woman in the eastern suburbs who asked if her chickens would prefer their coop to have an ocean view, to the elated financier who called with the news that one of his hens had just laid the first egg.

"Some of the feedback is hilarious," he said. "But it's great to see. People are really getting a kick out of sustainable living."

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald