From egg to dead
: small-scale chicken keeping in modem Britain

  • Eva Zoubek

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In course of the last ten years there has been a strong increase in the number of chicken keepers who keep chickens on a small-scale and for non-commercial reasons in the gardens of their homes. The aim of this thesis is to explore the practice of chicken keeping and to understand these keepers’ motivations, attitudes, and the relationships they have to their chickens. I adopt an ethnographic approach based on one-off visits and extended stays with chicken keepers, auto- and virtual ethnographic methods and semi-structured interviews. I discuss the architecture keepers use to protect and to contain chickens and the boundaries they draw between human and chicken spaces. I discuss instances when chickens become matter-out-of-place and consequently the identities they are assigned (e.g. vandal or cheeky visitor) and ways they are classified as animals, often between the pet-livestock distinction. Enskilment processes and skilled sensing are essential aspects of the practice of chicken keeping and are discussed while considering all human senses when engaging with and knowing how to keep chickens. Keepers get to know intimately, some as named individuals, others as members of a small flock, the chickens they live with. On the other hand, some chicken keepers are mostly interested in the productive qualities of their chickens and in the practice of producing food at home. I relate material on the attitudes and motivations of keepers to literature on the back-to-the-land movement, nostalgia for the countryside and the idealised imagery of the rural idyll. I suggest that chickens represent a symbol for the idealised rural idyll and that the keeping of chickens is a way for some small-scale chicken keepers to live the rural idyll without giving up the conveniences of modern British life.
Date of Award18 Jun 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorGarry Marvin (Supervisor) & Jonathan Skinner (Supervisor)

Cite this