Advice wanted on starting to keep chickens

(21 Posts)
TalkingTree Fri 29-Mar-13 19:10:07

I would love some advice from all you experienced chicken keepers. I really want to start keeping chickens, but I have been holding back from taking the plunge. We have a good sized suburban garden, but we often see foxes there. Should I invest in lots of fox proofing, or would the frequent presence of foxes be so upsetting to the chickens that it would be unkind to keep them at all?

If I do decide to go ahead, what is the best sort of fox-proofing I should go for? The eglu cube, even though expensive seems to be one of the most fox proof sheds and runs, but would anyone suggest anything else?

Many thanks for your advice!

BirdTableBertie Sat 30-Mar-13 21:16:17

I'm in eggsactly the same situation (sorry), it's mr Fox that's put me off getting chickens.

I'd love to know what's the best thing to do.

The eglu looks a bit small to me, but I've got nothing to base that and I could be talking rubbish

BirdTableBertie Sat 30-Mar-13 21:28:00

Oops, just re-read and you said Cube. Ignore me

kansasmum Sat 30-Mar-13 21:35:23

I have had chickens for a year and its been fab! I live on the edge of Dartmoor but don't have fox problem so far. Suburban foxes seem far braver.

Foxes are VERY determined and will dig under runs etc. best plan apparently is to bury the wire fencing 18" into the ground all the way round. A PITA but necessary if you not want foxy getting your chooks.
I not have an eglu just regular wooden coup so can't comment on how good /fox-proof they are!

kansasmum Sat 30-Mar-13 21:37:55

Oh and we bought a coop and attached run that was sold as big enough for 4-6 chooks. We have 3 and after a week we realised it was cruel keeping them cooped up in this tiny run so fenced off half the top wan and now they have a run 15x10 feet and they are happy cluckers!!

I've not got this but you can buy electric fencing to go round the coop and run which deters foxes.
Touch wood we've never had a fox get into the coop, although we have seen foxes on our road. We have the coop on paving slabs so that predators can not dig in.

I think it is easy to dwell on all the possible problems with chickens - we spent about five years thinking it all through but now that we have them they are brilliant pets.

MoreBeta Sat 30-Mar-13 21:44:38

Yes you need to dig the wire underground.

I let my hens out into an area of the garden with a normal wire fence during the day so they can scratch about under treas but they have a smaller run attached with and a shed with a small roosting coop inside that. I lock the gate on the run and lock the hatch on their roosting shed at night. they need egg boxes attached to their roosting coop as well.

Make sure your hens are in the inside by dusk as foxes dont just come at night.

One more thing, rats are also a major problem. Digging the wire underground also stops the rats getting to the food. Once they get to the food they will stay.

One final thing. Do NOT get a cockerel. I have one. Bane of my life, noisy, violent and knocks the hens about something rotten and just eats a lot.

TalkingTree Sat 30-Mar-13 22:58:33

Thank you very much for all your advice.

I'm still not sure. The foxes round here are so bold that the chickens could never be allowed free in the garden in the daytime. The foxes come into the garden even when we are in it. They just stand at the bottom of the garden and stare at me and even if I walk towards them they don't run away until I am quite close. I find it unnerving, so I've no idea what a chicken would think!

I'd been so concentrating on the fox problem that I hadn't even thought of rats. Thanks for raising this, MoreBeta. But I had already decided against a cockerel, mainly for noise reasons. As I said, we live in a suburban area and we like keeping on the right side of our neighbours.

But maybe you're right, madness, and I'm just brooding on the potential problems, and should instead take a deep breath and get some chickens (and lots of fox and rat proofing).

kansasmum Sun 31-Mar-13 18:28:47

Have to say if your foxes are that bold I don't think chickens would last long unless you had a really fox proof run. Concrete slab base and post and wire fencing on top so they fox couldn't dig under at all and also a roof of some sort.

It's funny isn't it- I live in a really rural area where you would think the foxes would be more of an issue but the suburban foxes seem to be much more problematic.

Chickens are very rewarding though so if you an build a fox proof run go for it! Nothing like cakes and scrambled eggs etc made with your own fresh eggs!

Pixel Sun 31-Mar-13 20:39:30

We've got loads of foxes around here but the girls are in a fox-proof run and so far no probs (touch wood!). I don't think foxes being around upsets them really they are a bit too thick as they've had to get used to the neighbour's yappy dogs and the cats prowling around the wire. My mum's jack russell caused a bit of a stir at first but they soon settled down and didn't take any more notice after that. Today they had a pair of seagulls up to no good on their roof!
We've got a walk-in run that dh built and put a wooden coop inside as the all-in-one things you see advertised looked too small especially for the price they charge. The girls enjoy being able to go up a bit higher as well, they get on the coop roof so they can see over the wall at the back smile.

SimLondon Tue 09-Apr-13 22:48:58

the electric netting and burying the wire should keep the hens safe from the fox - we run ours of a lesiure battery and just have it on during the day, at night closing the eglu and the buried wire has been pretty reliable - meaning less time charging the batatery.

rats well, we never had a problem at our last place but there were several cats, here no cats and we noticed rat holes straight away around the hen house, our solution was to adopt three feral kittens from a rescue society and no obvious signs of rats since.

Hazelbrowneyes Wed 17-Apr-13 11:36:42

Mine were free-ranging until my neighbour had all of hers taken in a daylight fox attack. So now they have a walk-in run and are allowed to free range when we're in the garden. They seem to be coping quite well with it, I was quite worried as they'd free-ranged for a year prior to the attack.

They seem to really be enjoying the extra freedom. They no longer get locked in at night so they can get up early without having to wait for us to go to bed. They go to bed when they want too. We've given ours things they can jump on and of course, because I feel super guilty, they get treats more often! I'm going to put some turf in soon as they love chomping on our grass.

Honestly, get some. I love mine to bits. They are so funny and you get delicious eggs!

Hazelbrowneyes Wed 17-Apr-13 11:37:31

Oh, we made our walk-in run out of harris fencing.

LittleWhile Thu 18-Apr-13 17:17:43

Hello! We have been keeping chicks for three years now. We only lost one to fox. You have to lock them away at night as that's usually when he comes. You can buy a good range of chicken coops and runs and everything else on ebay. They come flat packed and are easy to put up. Much cheaper that the Yuppie eggloo things! My tip would be to clip one wing (Feathers only) to unbalance them so they dont fly or jump away. Feed mixed grit with corn for calcium levels and keep an eye out for red mites in the Summer. You can buy powder to dust them with. Your neighbours wont thank you if you get a cockerel so dont!! Happy Days x

Oy I've got an Eglu and I'm not a Yuppie - it's been brilliant, had it ten years and is still in perfect condition. It's definitely fox proof as we've a fox that hangs around staring at them but it never gets anywhere and I shoo it away.

LittleWhile Thu 18-Apr-13 18:08:28

Just a figure of speech, as I know they are expensive to buy new!

johnandkymberley Thu 18-Apr-13 21:29:54

Yuppie - purrlease!!?
I have both the cube and a classic and they are the best! Eglus are one of those things you either love or hate. I can't rave about them enough and Omlet have great customer service!
There is pros and cons all the time. Eglus are expensive but I spend 10-15mins every weeks cleaning. That's it, nothing more is needed to be done.
My eglus are both on concrete and weighted around the 'skirt' of the run with decorative plants. A fox would have no chance of getting into my runs!!! There is nothing to dig, and the fox would basically squash it's neck if it tried too!!
Mine have the omlet netting around, they have a portion of the garden sectioned off which they can just wreck!
If someone told me how I would post some pics??
Any questions just ask smile

fineredwine Fri 19-Apr-13 21:15:51

I would love to get some chickens, and have the chance of getting my hands on a second hand coup very cheap. I also have a concrete/patio area I could put it on, but would they need to have a separate run on grass as well? I rent my house, so digging up my landlord's garden to make a fox proof chicken run would not necessarily be possible.

VerySmallSqueak Fri 19-Apr-13 21:35:18

The most important thing is to shut the chickens away at dusk.

We've had many chickens over the years and lost our share to fox.
We've never had a fox get into a closed chicken house (and we just had an old shed for a while) but have lost them when the door hasn't been closed in time for dusk and when they've stayed outside of the house.We've also lost the occasional one to daytime snatches in the garden.
We have never had a fox dig in.I am not saying they won't because they most certainly will.I'm just saying that the fox risk with chickens is always there and has to be accepted. I would rather see a chook with a life of as much freedom as possible than keep them in a tiny tiny over fortified 'cage'.

We've always had a chicken house (always wooden) within a very large wired run,or allowed them to free range with clipped wings so they don't get over the fences/walls.

With regard to rats,from the start make sure you keep feed in a steel bin and feed in the morning,removing food at night.
I have always found,however,that where you have chooks,you have rats.

I realise you don't want a cockerel (for noise reasons) and I believe some councils have bye laws to prevent them being kept. But,unlike MoreBeta I have always kept a cockerel with my hens - they seem happier that way to me. You need a reasonable ratio of hens to cockerel or they will get knocked about, and obviously you cannot keep more than one cockerel in a small area or they can and will fight to the death. The crowing is beautiful imo - and you soon blank it out and sleep through it (just needed to stick up for my beautiful cockerel MoreBeta wink )

fineredwine if you get chickens they will thank you for an area to 'scratch' and have a dust bath to keep mites at bay.

VerySmallSqueak Fri 19-Apr-13 21:39:35

Sorrry,I meant to say 'unlike Morebeta I have always liked to keep a cockerel with my hens.'

LilyBolero Fri 26-Apr-13 09:22:47

Definitely go for it if you want to; just be really vigilant about the fox. We live in the 'urban fox capital' of the UK, and have them in the garden every day, but so far have never yet lost a chicken.

We have fully enclosed house/run, on concrete slabs, no way a fox or rat can get in. If we're in the garden the hens can come out, otherwise they have enough space in their run to peck about. We use an equine bedding (easibed) which they can also use to dust-bathe in, and they seem very happy. Our speckeldy is 7 yo and still laying, so we're doing something right!

I personally think the eglu/cube etc is a bit of a waste of money - they are VERY expensive for what they are, it is far cheaper to get a wooden one, or do as we did and build your own. The eglus are also not entirely fox proof - if you go on the omlet website and onto their forum they have a sticky of 'fox attacks' , so you can see that the eglu is not infallible.

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