Keeping Chickens

I think that having chickens in my back garden has been one of the most rewarding jobs that I have taken on board. Each chicken has their own personality and adds a bit of character to the place – they also give me the perfect eggs-cuse to make a healthy breakfast in the mornings! It’s great to know my eggs are really organic.

The coop

The first thing to do is to make sure that you have enough space to keep your chickens – they like to roam about outside their house during the day. Getting the chicken coop is probably the most expensive part of keeping chickens – but once that is complete, it’s fairly reasonable to have them in your garden. If you are crafty enough, another option is to make a coop yourself from old pallets. Within the coop, chickens will need a nesting box. They also like to have somewhere to perch. To help keep your chicken happy and laying, make sure that they have straw in a dark area for them to relax and lay their eggs in peace.

Fencing

When shopping for the chicken coop I would also recommend that you look for fencing – you must remember it’s important to keep your chickens in but even more important to keep predators out. Don’t forget about the fox! Some foxes can jump as high as 5 Feet (1.5M) and so I have set my fence a bit higher than that. It is important to have extra fencing so that you can bury the wire down into the ground, placing rocks at the base will prevent foxes from digging. And lastly doubling up on the fencing at the bottom section will help to stop predators from tearing it. As an extra security measure for your flock of chickens, I use the FoxLights Predator Deterrent this is great way of deterring foxes without needing an electric fence. Take a look at how it works here.

Pick the chick

Next on the to-do-list is to decide how many and what chickens you are going to get. Chickens are sociable and need a buddy, you wouldn’t want them to get lonely! It’s best to have at least 4 or 5 chickens roaming around. This means that if you ever introduce new chickens they won’t be able to bully just one little chicken. When choosing the type of chicken, chicken suppliers have a world of information that they would be willing to share with you. A mixed breed chicken is best for first time chicken keepers; they are friendlier towards humans and so are great for families. They also lay approximately an egg a day, which is fantastic! Chicks that are 16 weeks old are ready to lay and they should already be vaccinated by your supplier. If you don’t want them to be flying around – make sure their wings are clipped. This involves removing a few feathers on either side to prevent them from wanting to fly.

Feeding time 

It’s important to ensure your chickens have a good diet – especially if you are going to be consuming their eggs for your breakfast. For the first few weeks, chicks (day 1 – 4 weeks) are happy to feed on chick crumbs and after that begin to introduce poultry pellets to their diet. From 18 weeks on, chickens are at point-of-lay age and should start feeding on layers pellets. Pellets are small and compact, they are made with the correct nutritional content for laying chickens. The other option is layers mash. Mash is more of a grainy powder and it also contains the best nutrition for laying chickens. Chickens need grit or oyster shells to be able to digest their food and produce eggs.  It is really important to make sure there is a plentiful supply of fresh water in a chicken drinker for your chickens.

Your Chickens Health & The Vet

 It’s quite easy to check for a healthy chicken:

  • Laying chickens will have pale legs and a bright red crown while non-laying chickens will have yellow legs.
  • Eyes – should be clean and beady.
  • Nose – should be clean and clear of mucous/discharge.
  • Body – should feel plump and firm.

If you have any questions or concerns about your chickens health bring make sure to bring them to the vet.

Maintaining a clean housing area with fresh bedding and using a housing spray can help keep chickens healthy. It’s important to keep an eye out for mite, lice, worms and bronchitis.

Feeding Chickens. Image source: iStock.
Feeding Chickens. Image source: iStock.

Great for the kids

 Keeping chickens can be a great learning area for kids. It gives them small chores to complete daily and teaches them responsibility with having to collect eggs, make sure that there’s a supply of water and feed, and rounding up the chickens in the evening. For smallies they can even keep track on a chart of how many eggs are being laid.  Chickens can be an easy pet to look after in comparison to a puppy.

Fresh eggs every morning
Fresh eggs every morning

Some eggs-tra tips:

  1. If you are living in an estate – be conscious of your neighbours. They might not fancy being woken by a cockerel at the crack of dawn!
  2. If you don’t want lots of little chicks – then don’t keep a rooster. That way you will know that your eggs won’t be fertilised.
  3. Feeding the chickens leftover greens will help to reduce the cholesterol content in their eggs.