Over the years at Donaldsons Vets, just as with clothes and cars, we have noticed clients’ choice of pet goes in and out of fashion. There is no doubt that recently one of the “it” animals has been the laying hen.

Hardly a day goes by without a feathery bundle appearing in the waiting room, usually in a battered cardboard box. This has resulted in most of the vets having to browse through their old college notes, for what previously was rather a specialist area of veterinary medicine. A few of us in the practice have even taken it to heart and acquired several of these creatures to see what all the fuss is about.

There are several specialist poultry suppliers in the Huddersfield area and one can choose from a wide variety of breeds of various sizes, colours and shapes. If you are of a more charitable bent then ex-commercial birds are often available and will usually give several more years of egg production in the more relaxed atmosphere of a garden.

Keeping them does not require as much space as you might think; a simple wire-netted enclosure may suffice, but of course can be more free range if you have a larger open area. Prepared hen feed is cheap and readily available, and a lot of kitchen vegetable waste is eaten with relish. There is no doubt that keeping hens can soon become a way of life and one packed with amusement. Whether it’s their interactive chuntering, or the comical canter when they sense the possibility of a tasty meal as you approach, the unsurpassed flavour of a ‘home grown’ free range egg is a truly special treat!

There are of course disadvantages to keeping poultry and one has to be ever vigilant for Mr Fox, although this is not insurmountable as long as the coop is solid and the fences high.

So if after a capital outlay on buildings, birds and food you are prepared to have a regular supply of fresh eggs equivalent to the cost of gold plated Faberge examples, then the humble hen may be your next “must have” pet.