In a new series, Land of Dope and Tories will review a publication from the weird and wonderful world of specialist magazines. This month: Your Chickens.
Tagline: ‘All You Need To Know About Keeping Chickens at Home’
Who is this magazine for? Now, the first thing to be clear on is the name. What we don’t have here is a copy of You’re Chickens; a monthly periodical to help aid the recovery of hallucinatory battery hens.
Your Chickens sets out its editorial stance on the very first page with the stand-first: ‘When chickens become family’. This is a magazine for souls who hold their own flesh and blood relatives on a similar level of affection to flappy, animated throw-cushions. We’re talking serious chicken devotees here. Or people with smelly, erratic family members.
However, throughout the magazine there is an uneasy balance between speaking to those cold, heartless bastards who see their chickens as little more than breakfast-shitting machines, and those who truly believe in the way of the chicken. The former no doubt bring in most of the magazine’s revenue, but it’s clear where the writing team’s heart lies.
What did you get for your £3.50? It would be misleading to describe Your Chickens as a thick tome. Weighing in at 58 pages for the February 2014 edition, this is a single or double toilet visit at best. That said, what it lacks in heft is more than compensated for by the number of different font colours deployed.
You get seven or eight short feature pieces, a kid’s puzzle page, a regular column or two (including the brilliantly-titled ‘Chicken Nuggets’ news-in-brief section, and a separate column written ‘by a hen’), and the obligatory letters page. There is also a Reader’s Wives-style ‘Chick Pix’ section, which is absolutely not packed with fowl-based erotica.
Features: There’s plenty to enjoy here. ‘Cockerel’s secret life with a harem of hens‘ is as steamy as you’d expect. And the article examining how so many of the influential chicken-keeping ‘movers and shakers’ were inspired by their grandparents was fascinating, not least for the unexpected revelation that there are ‘movers and shakers’ in chicken-keeping.
My favourite though, was the piece entitled ‘Mummy, can I have a pet…’ which tells the highs and lows of a chicken keeping family in Northamptonshire. After six year old Abigael gets over her initial suspicions of keeping four pet chickens instead of rabbits (‘I don’t know what chickens do.’), a Tarantino-esque scene unfolds as Sherbet pegs it and the other three start eating her lukewarm remains. Fortunately, Abigael isn’t too bruised by this. Mum Sally then gets angry because the brood is destroying her tomato boxes. But all’s well in the end, with Abigael concluding the article: ‘Now I’m pleased that we got our hens, because I now know what they do!’ (Yeah, cannibalism and shitting up your mum’s garden mostly.)
One of the slightly unsettling things that crops up regularly in the magazine is the description of chickens as ‘girls’. When the feature stories actually include young girls. confusions between human and chicken abound.
Adverts: Christ, you can buy a lot of stuff for chickens. About a third of the mag is adverts.
I thought you could just shove a load of chickens in a shed and let them get on with it, but no. There’s a bewildering array of coops on offer, plus space-age egg incubators, feed, electric fencing, stuff that kills ‘red mite’ (which I imagine is a bit like Marmite), tube feeders, wet pluckers, and, ahem, ‘humane dispatchers’.
Advertising techniques vary here, but you’re basically looking at a lot of Office 97 clipart, Comic Sans and tag lines like ‘Healthy Chickens. Happy You.’
Letters page: The chicken-keeping world is not one riven by ideological debate sadly, or at least, there’s no signs of internecine struggle on the letters page.
Correspondence tends to be on the vague side (‘My hens are brown and really skinny. Is that normal?’), which receives amusingly passive-aggressive replies from the experts (‘It’s very hard to bring my extensive knowledge of Warren-type birds without knowing the breed or age.’)
Chickens are tasty. However, I have no desire whatsoever to keep them, unless for some reason I didn’t want to see my sister for quite some time. So the chances of me buying this magazine again are pretty slim.
Putting that to one side, it’s hard not to like Your Chickens. These are people with a lot of love for their birds. The writing is clear, and doesn’t lapse into fowl-based jargon too often. And the letters page covers off questions about how to stop these stupid birds crapping all over their nest boxes. Good luck to them.
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