With your TV schedule and London based work, how do you have the
time to keep hens and who looks after them?
I am well organised and have a loving family. So long as they are fed,
watered and you shift the house regularly, they're happy. That’s the
chicken, not the family.
I think the main benefit of keeping hens is the placid beauty of the birds.
They can get frisky, flighty and even funny; but, in the main, I just like their
gentle pecking about and grooming. Very 'chillaxing' as the PM says.
Looking after them is a collective effort. In fact, the current flock were a
gift from our 20 year old son Freddie – an Orpington trio and a silkie trio.
Favourite breed – posh bird or ex-bat?
Buff Orpington. Beautiful, big birds and also reminiscent of an important
by-election! My first was called Derek – my youngest son misheard me say
This is Eric!' – for Eric Lubbock, who won the Orpington by-election all
those years ago.
We have six at the moment. Over the years, and depending on the
exertions of the foxes, it has varied...
What inspired your passion for hen-keeping?
I had an old uncle my parents used to take us to see and he and my aunt
kept bantams at Mortimer, near Reading. I just loved watching them and
see them run around; I think I always thought 'One day…'. I now live on a
farm and can indulge myself.
Your garden – hen-free or hen-pecked?
They live in a split level house with a reasonable area to roam free. We
used to let the flock have the run of the farm but that made it too easy for
foxes and we also have dogs. They do not mix too well.
Having been spoilt by fresh eggs at home, are you a free range
No, I am not a fanatic but when they lay, it is one of the most satisfying
and tasty breakfasts imaginable – runny eggs and 'soldiers'. Can't beat it;
though Mrs S is more of a poacher and scrambler!
British farmers – good eggs or bad eggs?
Some of my best friends...etc! It is a tough life but vital to our national
economy and to our glorious countryside. I do what I can to support
them and British farming. We also have a brilliant agricultural college in
Hampshire, Sparsholt, who do a terrific job and I do an interview session
for the Dean at Winchester Cathedal's Harvest Festival service. Farmers
are always included.
The ITN canteen – eggciting or foul?!
We don't have a canteen. Our local sandwich shop, The Larder on Gray's
Inn Road, Holborn, is good and I am pretty sure do free-range eggs.
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