Don’t let chickens ruffle your feathers, says expert
When Anne Perdeaux turns 60 next month, she’ll be celebrating a year of amazing achievements – becoming a published author, losing four stones in weight and planning for the holiday of a life-time.
Anne, who lives in Upavon, wasn’t looking forward to hitting the Big Six-0 but as she’s reflected on her six decades, she realises that the last 12 months have been among her proudest.
“This year I’ve achieved some life-long ambitions. Losing four stones was amazing and I didn’t go on any specific diet to do it. Getting a publisher to agree that my book deserved to be on the shelves was incredible. I’d always wanted to be a writer but wasn’t sure it would ever happen and now it has. And to top it all we’re planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy and Venice and I can’t wait to go,” she said.
Anne lives in Upavon with her husband Martin after moving to Wiltshire in 2001 when Martin took up a new job. Anne has a grown-up son James, 35, who lives in Kent.
“I was originally from Essex. We moved here with Martin’s job and I’ve worked throughout my life in various part-time and administration jobs.
“When I came to Wiltshire, I didn’t know much about the county. It’s absolutely beautiful here. I love the fact I can go out of my front door and walk for miles.”
However, Anne’s secret passion for writing didn’t emerge until she decided to get some chickens for her garden.
“When I was married to my first husband we lived on a farm and there were chickens who, to me, were nothing but a nuisance. I didn’t dream then that I would one day become educated about this bird.
“Some years ago, after moving to Wiltshire, a neighbour was moving and they had chickens which they needed to rehome. They had 12 in all and, on a whim, I said ‘we’ll take four’.
“On the day we went to pick them up, they hadn’t managed to rehome any more so we took the lot.
“At the time there were very few publications or books on keeping chickens. Over the weeks I became intrigued by them and started to take real notice of how they behave.
“I just thought of chickens as being wrapped in film in a supermarket or creatures which laid eggs. I soon realised they are fascinating birds.”
Anne realised that chickens have a strong social structure – the term ‘pecking order’ holds true among groups of chickens.
“In a group of hens there will be a chief hen and if a cockerel comes along, he will immediately become the head of the group. They all have personalities and they will play games with each other. For example, a cockerel will often crow as if he has found a good tidbit on the ground to encourage hens to come over – but really he has an ulterior motive!
“One thing which intrigued me in the early days was when Martin raised the henhouse off the ground about 18 inches. He didn’t have time to make a new ramp that day so he piled some logs up to the entrance.
“Mainly the hens, who had been watching him, got up the logs into the house but a group, including the cockerel, couldn’t work out how to get into the house. In the morning a group of them were sleeping on the doormat as they had not worked out how to get into their home.
“This taught me that chickens tend not to like changes to their routine and that some are definitely brighter than others.”
She started writing small articles about her chickens for niche publications including Your Chickens magazine.
“I decided it would be good to write an absolute beginners’ guide to keeping them. I managed to persuade a publisher that it would be a good idea.”
Anne’s book, A Family Guide to Keeping Chickens – how to choose and care for your first chickens, has been published by How To Books and is available in major bookshops, some local book and farm shops and online.
Anne said: “I wanted to write something which was very clear and easy to follow for someone who had never kept animals before. It’s easy to make mistakes but, if you know what to do, chickens are very easy to care for and look after.”
One of Anne’s biggest mistakes when she first got her chickens was not to plan preparation of the chicken house. Therefore, her top tip for anyone thinking of getting some chickens is to plan their accommodation properly.
“We were just too last minute and ended up trying to put up the chicken house on the day that we were meant to collect the chickens.
“We ended up in the dark, in the pouring rain, trying to transfer the chickens into the hen house while trying to ensure we hadn’t lost any of them. It’s a very good idea to be organised before the chickens come home.”
While writing her book, Anne became concerned about her weight. She realised that as she was getting more mature, her waistline was expanding.
“For a long time I was very active and my weight was never an issue. But I began to realise I was leading a more sedentary lifestyle.
“I didn’t want to turn 60 and feel fat but I absolutely hate diets. So I found a book, ‘French Women Don’t Get Fat’ read it and followed its guidance. I’ve managed to lose four stones in weight and I feel fabulous.”
Anne’s top tips for losing weight are: eat smaller portions but buy the best food you can afford; don’t deny yourself food, just eat smaller amounts; make lots of soup; drink lots of water and take up walking.
“I still walk about for about 40 minutes every day. It’s easy to do and it’s enjoyable. You meet people, you interact with your environment and it’s now a normal part of my daily routine.
“I’ve almost forgotten that I’m about to turn 60. This isn’t a rehearsal, you’ve just got to go for it.”
- Anne’s book can be found online at http://amzn.to/1dT9lnM
- She’s holding a book signing this Saturday, between 10am and noon at Plank’s Farm Shop, The Old Potato Yard, Lydeway, near Devizes, SN10 3PU.
- The book which inspired Anne to lose weight is by Mireille Guiliano – French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure – www.frenchwomendontgetfat.com
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