I would think a bucket of soapy water would be ok for cleaning, as long as your set up is quite small and you don't get too bitten by the chicken bug!
I would recommedn starting with hybrids which tend to be quite hardy and placid, you can google your local supplier, they all have different names but for a white egg layer you need a leghorn hybrid, probbaly called something like a white star, then go for a brown or black bird for brown eggs, like a warren, ISA brown etc or a grey bluebell, then you could have dark brown eggs from a maran hybrid like a speckledly, or blue eggs from a cream legbar hybrid. Hybrids tend to cost £15-20 at point of lay.
Hybrids are quite placid so well suited to being penned. I'd recommend enriching their environment with treats, perches anjd dust baths to alleviate boredom.
Red mites tend to come from wild birds (esp droppings) so keeping your chooks in a roofed run will minimise that issue.
I had an Eglu, the original one, and was quite happy with it as it cleaned up nicely and was ok to move, but a fox broke into the run eventually. There are some good wooden houses available too, and my chooks are currently living in a 6x4 wooden garden shed with home-made run attached. I think my eglu did let some water in. I like the forsham ark which has the sleeping quarters above the run, easy to clean and chooks don't get rained on in the day! OH made me a copy for a fraction of the price. I thought about a cube but seemed too £££ for what it was.
We tend to give our chickens lots of veggies. They love compost and will turn it over pretty well. they also scatter everything everywhere. If they only go out for a hour I don't think you'll have to turn the chips too much for poop. they do poop on everything, though.
we have an Araucana which lays green eggs, orpingtons lay brown, and Leghorns which lay white eggs. they all seem pretty hardy. the Arunacana doesn't lay as many eggs as the orpingtons or the leghorns.
I am a novice, and I think they are all about the same for care needs. I didn't find any breeds harder to raise than others, but I don't have any "fancy" breeds either. I did get breeds that would do well in the cold, though, as it gets very cold here and we don't have a heat source for them.
Grass is the cheap option, but I chuck in cabbage or lettuce if I can't let the chooks out to free range.
We let the hens out when we get up - so approx 7am. They put themselves to bed when it gets dark.
If you have a supplier in mind, talk to them about what hens are available and what hens they would recommend for a beginner. All our hybrids lay brown eggs so I can't really suggest anything. You might struggle to get hens at this time of year, the place I get hens from doesn't have point of lay available between December and march.
It is a big financial commitment, but then all eglu products seemto sell well on eBay if you decide it's not for you. It's definitely more work than I expected, the chickens are more work than my cats by a long way.
Noted regarding the dust bath: A deep tray filled with compost and sand is intended here.
I believe theres a supplier near me (West Midlands). I wanted different coloured eggs so I can keep tabs on who's laying and who's not. But not essential.
The cube would allow room to grow...It does seem more of a commitment though. If I dont take to chicken keeping for whatever reason, I'd be more gutted at having to sell the great big Cube, than sell the smaller models.
We use wood chip in the run. I don't poo pick - I turn over the wood chip every few weeks, remove any obvious clumps and sprinkle santiser around, then totally replace the chips every 3/4 months. You need a roof on your run to keep the wood chip dry otherwise it turns into a slimy smelly mess.
Could you grow grass in trays for the hens, or alternatively give them fresh greens?
You need to provide a means of dust bathing - my hens prefer the flower beds but a cat litter tray with a mix of mud and sand works fine.
Red mite - no idea where the come from, but try are a nightmare. I took over the hens from my sister and they came with red mite in the coop. There is a pink spray called something like total mite kill that works well.
Can't help on eglus as we have a wooden coop, but the classic did look quite small for three hens. A lot of people get the chicken bug and end up buying more hens, the classic wouldn't give you that possibility. Also you are not supposed to introduce a single hen to your flock so if one of your three died you'd either need to stay at two or get two more.
Have you found a local supplier for your hens? I have hybrids, just choose what was available rather than chasing about for a particular breed/ egg colour.
If anyone can spare the time to answer my questions, I'd be very grateful!
Back garden is entirely paved, with no grass areas or soil areas. I'm intending to lay down wood chip over the paving, as I've read this is adequete enough for chooks to scratch and rummage around in. How many times will I need to poo pick around in the chippings? How often to clear all the chippings and replace with new? How easy is it to see the poo amongst the chippings? I'm worried unseen poo will sift to the bottom of the floor/underneath the top layer of chippings and will fester, be trodden in, become a hazard etc.
I do not have access to a garden hose. Will this prove a problem when completing a thourough deep clean of hen house? Will a bucket of soapy water be adequete enough for the job? Will this prove a problem when I have to wash the paving slabs down during the Big Clean?
I shall keep three chickens for the (hopeful) intention of a heavy weekly supply of eggs collectively. I'd like white eggs, brown speckledy eggs and lastly, eggs of a different appearence. Can I have recommendations for birds who offer these?
My birds will be kept in their run for the majority of the day, allowing free ranging for an hour or so under supervision. Can I have recommendations for birds who are happily suited for these conditions/ bearing in mind the birds who will give me the desired coloured eggs mentioned above?
Red Mites are a prolific problem for chickens..Where do they come from? Soil?Grass? Shrubbery? Are red mites already present in gardens? Or do they arrive on the chickens when collected from the farm?
I'm still undecided on which Eglu to buy for my chooks. My last choice is the Cube. Too big and daunting for a first timer like me, and I've read several complaints regarding severe draughts via gaps, and leaking. I love the idea it's chest height and that cleaning would be done at that level.
It leaves me choosing between the other two Eglu models..The Classic appeals slightly more because I can clean the roof easier because it detatches from the base. The Go doesn't, and it would seem I'd need to Hands n Knees it, and crawl half way in to clean the inside top and sides. What are the deciding factors that swayed your choice to your particular model (of Eglu)?