Why chickens are the answer for me


When we moved to Helensville, I didn’t realise how much of a selling point it was that our house came with a chicken coop. I was a naïve townie. It was all about the bath and the 360-degree trees and the Mackenzie hills, and the generous number of local cafes.

We have four brown shavers, and one heritage chicken – a beautiful bluish-grey matriarch who no longer lays, affectionately named Bluey.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I love them. It’s not because they’re functional – although they are.

It’s the way they plonk on the ground and stretch their wings to sunbathe. How they take up space when they fluff their feathers to have a dust bath. And the persistence of their feet moving – forwards and back, forwards and back – to release worms after a wet day. I love how they turn lunchbox leftovers into beautiful golden yolky eggs.

I love that they’re prehistoric. Pre-capitalism. Pre-Covid. Industrious miniature dinosaurs who show what’s possible when we rest as hard as we work. The inherent strength of a female collective. I love their colours and how they force me to be present.

I love that they make me feel silly, as I’m so attached and obsessed with them. “Chicky, chicky, chicky!” I call in a singsong voice as I round them up several times a day.

I love how much they need one another, and this interdependence is not a source of embarrassment or shame, but of survival and friendship.

It’s not all romance, though. They add drama and gritty realism with their pecking order. But once that’s established, things settle down and there is a harmony and enviable group spirit.

I have bipolar and having chickens has worked wonders for my mental health.

Each day, between 9:30am and 2:30pm, I collect three or four eggs from their nest box. In the kitchen, I make a ritual of cracking the eggs into the pan – thanking my chooks for their bounty and their hard work – laying an egg doesn’t sound easy.

I reward them with pellets, porridge and peas, food scraps and pasta, which they top up themselves with foraged weeds, grubs, and seeds.  They reward me with their sounds and the way they waddle and fly and hunt for goodies in our garden.

Once my hubby caught two chickens living it up in our lounge – sitting on the sofa, looking like they were watching TV. If we leave the ranch slider open, Bluey will run in and steal cat biscuits before we shoo her out.

I love that I have more eggs than I need and can offer them to neighbours. I love bringing over a dozen eggs to my mum and dad for babysitting our daughter, and for family dinners. Or taking a dozen away with us on a camping trip. I could sell them for some pocket money, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I don’t really want to.

I know how precious these eggs are right now, and how precious the girls are that laid them.

I love how the coop is at the bottom of the garden, at the bottom of a hill.

And no matter how depressed I may be feeling, how anxious I am, or how little sleep I got the night before, I know I have to walk down to their coop several times a day to give them water and food and collect their eggs and let them have an elongated run around the garden and bask in the sun.

I love that their needs are simple, but daily. Tending to them draws me out of my anxiety and the heartache and helplessness I feel around national and international disasters, and back into the moment. It brings out my maternal instinct in the most down-to-earth, immediate way.



I can’t stop the flood waters or the tears or the loss of life, but I can support their life in this moment. They build up my reserves and give me the energy I need to stay hopeful and give back.


I love that they thank me for their bed and breakfast with eggs. This protein means I eat a good meal to start the day. After the pill hangover I experience most mornings, I feel nourished and ready to take on the day.


I love that eggs are tangible and practical aroha – vital ingredients for baking and the warmth you can share with a cake or a slice or a muffin. When I crack eggs into a bowl and whisk them and fold in flour and cream sugar and butter, it’s my small way of saying, “I love you. I’m here for you. My heart breaks with you.”

Chickens bring neighbours together. When one chook runs out of the gate, and a neighbour comes and fetches her and brings her home, it makes me blush, but it also gives us a laugh. When others talk over the fence and say, “We’ve got some food scraps, would your chooks like them?” It starts conversations and friendships and even lifelines.

I know not everybody can have chickens. I know it is a privilege and one I take seriously.

For me, chickens are one of the highlights of living semi-rurally. They are brilliant for my mental, physical, and social health – literally bringing me out of my shell and helping me feel grateful and content.

If you can have chickens, I highly recommend it.