Time to shed that macho image, Mr Entwistle

HOW do you measure the success of a smallholder? By how much they manage to produce to feed their family each year? By how many gallons of pea-pod burgundy they can make? By how many acres they have?

Nope, none of these. I reckon it’s by how many sheds they own.

Not acreage, sheddage. The number of sheds they can pack on to their patch.

Not so many that Matt Damon could recreate that Tangier rooftop chase from The Bourne Ultimatum, leaping from felted roof to felted roof, just enough that you can keep a good variety of stock and have space to spare for unexpected new arrivals.

I found the ‘spare shed’ was a great asset when I started keeping poultry.

There will always be those super-cheap pullets no-one was bidding on at the poultry auction that you couldn’t resist.

Or those hens ‘gifted’ to you by a friend who doesn’t want to keep them any more.

Or, as a pal discovered, the one that you find near a chicken farm cowering in the hedge, hiding out, having escaped Chicken Pie Day.

The one you race back home for, grab an box and dash back to scoop up (hen and new owner both doing fine, by the way).

As a woman, I have had to fight for my sheds.

Men naturally presume that they, based purely on their gender, are the automatic owners of any new sheds which arrive on the smallholding. They believe it is their genetic right and inheritance to be IC sheddage.

New sheds which suddenly arrive without their prior knowledge are regarded as fair prey. My husband ungraciously refers to my shed collection as ‘Soweto’, but that doesn’t stop him trying to take advantage.

If you don’t fill it immediately with turkeys/ferrets/rabbits/quail/hens etc you will open the door, a wildly struggling stag turkey under your arm, only to find it full of frippery. Man stuff. An old lawnmower, blunt shears, cardboard boxes full of empty beer bottles waiting to be recycled and a dozen half-empty paint tins.

As soon as the new shed arrives (whether it’s beautifully flat-packed on the B&Q lorry, or in bits ‘to be recycled’ in the back of a mate’s van), put it in place, stand it on blocks (there’s nothing our rodents friends like better than a shed on the ground to make a nice, big home under) and fill it with creatures of your choice.

If it needs creosoting/re-felting, do that later. The important thing is to fill it and claim it, pronto.

There’s nothing like a squawking chicken flying in your face when you open a door to put a man off trying to stash his old motorbike magazines.