Eggplant and parsley grown on balconies, urban orchards and honey produced on rooftops? There’s nothing new under the Parisian sky, where the real novelty is raising egg-laying hens on one’s terrace. While it’s true that real luxury is being able to afford the purest, best ingredients, most people can afford to eat a fresh egg every morning: all you need is a balcony and you’ve got enough room for a mini hen-coop. Maximum taste for minimum space.
The trend for keeping urban hens has really blown up over the last year in America and the UK: there are at least 200,000 homes in London with chickens and hens in the yard. And this has nothing to do with country estates where we would expect to find livestock, but normal, simple city dwellings, perhaps with a small backyard. Michael Clark, the president of the Poultry Club, has always believed: “There’s no better way to combat stress than by having a drink after work, watching them peck around in the garden!”
Contributing to the overwhelming enthusiasm in France, is the book J'élèverais Bien des Poules! (I’ve Raised My Chickens Well) by Michel Audureau: it was published last month in France and is already considered a veritable bible for anyone interested in the matter. On March 8th, the second volume of the book is set to be published, which focuses on how to raise hens in your own garden. Need more proof? The mania for fresh eggs in Paris has caused a 50% increase in the sale of baby chicks from specialized stores. In only a few months, one of France’s biggest chain stores dedicated to the home and garden, Truffaut, has sold 20,000 chicks and hens, while Eco-poule has made and sold more than 30,000 mini hen coop kits at the price of 200 euro each.
The chickest hen coop, however, comes from England: it’s called Eglu and was designed by Johannes Paul, James Tuthill, William Windham and Simon Nicholls. It’s a sort of colourful chicken house made from recycled materials, that one can set up in a backyard or a balcony. The mini-coop, which features a little door and window, costs 295 pounds.
If the idea of eating freshly-laid eggs every day tickles your fancy, but you’re not sure about the idea of keeping feathered pets? You can always “rent” a hen, together with its coops, and see how it goes. In Australia, for example, the site Rentachook offers the chance to rent one for six weeks for just 80 euro. At the end of this period, you can either decide to return it, or if you liked the experience, you can keep the hen for another 21 euro and the coop for another 266 euro. In Italy, you can rent hens and coops for a month from the farming company near Bergamo, Gallina in Affitto. Or, even more simply, you could choose to “adopt”: for the same cost of raising a hen, the company will send you fresh eggs every week.
These are tough times for chefs and restaurant professionals around the world, but there has never been a better time to seek advice and help around a number of topics affecting hospitality workers. Here's a round-up of some of the most useful resources for chefs.