Pets can be great stress-busters when you’re an Army family. Gaby Oakes tells us how keeping chickens fits perfectly with military life…

HAVE always been passionate about animals as a registered veterinary nurse, so when I met my husband, Tim, he quickly became accustomed to the kittens, puppies and occasional ferret that arrived as temporary house guests in need of TLC. It therefore came as little surprise when I showed an interest in keeping chickens.

Chickens make fantastic pets; great for children and very adaptable to Army life. Provided they have a secure coop and run, they can be kept in most types of garden and need no more maintenance than rabbits or guinea pigs, with the added bonus of fresh eggs.

After lots of research, I bought three hybrid hens, which come in lots of pretty colours and lay around 300 eggs a year each – plenty for a family of three.

Community attraction

It’s never long before news of our chickens spreads around the patch and we have a stream of visiting children (and adults) wanting to feed the girls and look for eggs. My son, who is two, has grown up with the girls and is very much ‘chief chicken wrangler’.

When we moved from Wiltshire to Hampshire last summer, the girls stayed in ‘The Hen Hotel’ for a few days whilst we settled in. My husband was amazed that such places exist, but a quick online search shows that there are numerous places that offer chicken boarding should you need it.

Tim deployed for three months two days after we moved house and having the chickens was a great way for me to make new friends with the neighbours. The offer of fresh eggs always goes down well and I quickly became known as ‘the crazy chicken lady’. We are never short of offers to look after them if we go away either.

They provide entertainment and a welcome distraction from Tim’s constant deployments. I think pets are so important for children living the Army life, providing continuity and a way to make friends in ever-changing surroundings. I wouldn’t be without my girls.

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