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We are thinking of adopting some chooks, any advice please?

(18 Posts)
Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 11:02:42

We've just cleared a big space at the bottom of the garden, it was a foresty-type area and we've left several trees so it is quite sheltered.

I have been standing looking at it and it says 'chickens' to me, but I have no experience of them and don't know where to start.

Several questions really...there is a 6ft brick wall round two sides, but the ground rises in one place making the wall 4ft just there. Also a hedge at the other side which I guess will need a wire fence inside it as it has holes in - that's no problem.

The side nearest the garden is open, so would I need to put in a fence there...and how high? I know they can fly but not sure if 4ft would do.

I have eben looking at shelters for them, would I need a covered run as well as the house...and how do you let them roam, do you let them free in the daytime then shuffle them all away at dusk? Will the cat leave them alone? Will they leave the cat alone? grin

Can I put the guinea pigs in with them?

I'm also wondering about the usual stuff - what to feed them, medical care/vaccines, how many to get, (the area is about 30x45ft but surrounded by other gardens, very urban)

No cockerel I'm told. Do I need council permission for the hens? Do batts need special care?

Thankyou for reading and any advice you can chuck at me grin I would love to make good use of this space and would be looking to adopt/rescue rather than buy new iyswim.

Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 11:04:07

Oh yes one more thing...how do you manage them in the cold weather? I am not sure I wish to bring 6 frozen chickens into the house when it is snowing.

Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 11:10:35

Was thinking of getting this

but it doesn't have a covered run.

There are a few smallish houses with runs like this

but doesn't look as strong.

daisydotandgertie Sun 20-Sep-09 11:18:24

Chickens are really, realliy easy.

The area you have sounds perfect - although they will be able to clear 4ft unless you clip their wings (painless, easy task - catch one, gently pull its wing out and snip of the bottom of the big feathers on one wing).

If you want them to stay in that area, you will need to put a wire fence through the hedge, but they'll love sheltering under it when it rains. Ours have total free range of the garden, so we haven't fenced them off BUT our garden is fox and badger proof so there is no danger to the birds.

We have converted a 6'x 4' shed for our girls - they put themselves to bed with no effort from us at all - and in the summer, they get up when they fancy as they don't get shut in. We do shut the pop hole in the winter though (to keep the heat in!).

With regard to the cold, it's unlikely the chooks will need any assistance at all in this country - roughly where are you?

We feed ours organic layers pellets which we get from the local farmers store, but you can buy online v easily. We put them in a big feeder which needs refilling once a week. We do the same with water. They are also partial to left overs of most sorts.

I'd start with 3 birds I think - a good number for them and an easy start for you. It's straightforward to add more if you decide you want them.

I found this book very easy reading.

MitchyInge Sun 20-Sep-09 11:22:25

I've got 3 ex-batts but they'd been partially rehabilitated before being rehomed and haven't needed any special care. It's been wonderful watching them transform from scabby featherless things to fluffy hens and they lay beautiful big brown eggs (although it took them ages to get the idea of the nesting box).

Ours are in a run that I want to enlarge a bit when I have the time, but it's pretty predator proof and much better than what they were used to.

Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 11:35:17

Gosh, thankyou for all the tips...I am in LOVE with the idea now, just waiting to hear back from the ex batts rehoming website I just emailed - they are in a village about 5 miles away!! grin

Daisy I guess those are your chooks' names? I lived in a caravan on a farm once and there were hens everywhere...the cheeky/stroppy one who used to come in and shit all over my caravan was called Gertie. smile

I love them.

Oh I am so excited now! I might have to look into raising the wall a bit, though, if they can clear 4ft. Oh dear. Hmmm.

I am seriously thinking about that little green and white house for them, I could maybe build a run or just put them in the big shed if we're going out though...it's got windows but is a bit dark!

What is a pop hole?

daisydotandgertie Sun 20-Sep-09 12:25:18

A pop hole is the door they use to get in and out of the chicken house.

The green and white house looks cool to me - although we started off with one that size and quickly needed to get a bigger one because the chicken keeping bug bit me really badly (we now have 14)!

As you have an area of garden you are planning to fence off for chickens, you don't need a covered run at all. They only need a house to roost in at night and to lay their eggs in during the day.

They have shelter under your hedge from the rain and sun, they have plenty of space to scratch about in. Heaven for a chicken.

Also, the more space the girls have, the less damage they'll do to the ground. If you have something like the second house you linked to, the ground underneath them will quickly become shitty mud!

From what you describe, I'd use the walls and hedge and add a fence to the remaining space. I'd put the food, drink and chicken house into the enclosure and then sit back and watch the chickens!

Ours have the run of the whole garden and are never shut in anywhere. They go to bed by themselves when it starts to get dark (all chickens do) and get up when it starts to get light (same again).

Top pets in my book - minimal care needed and they produce eggs too! Much less trouble than our dogs grin.

Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 14:56:19

thanks Daisy, this is sounding better by the minute grin

Have just put the guinea pigs' spare hutch-on-top-of-run thing up there as a temporary holding post, in case we managed to get some quite soon - but the people who rescue them start a waiting list in Feb every year apparently and haven't got any more till then sad

I might check the forums on a few websites and see if there are any more. Meanwhile time to get that fence up. smile

I am a bit worried about them escaping over the back wall into the neighbours', but will see if I can sort out a kind of fence-net type thing around the top just in case.

Lol at 14, that's fantastic, I think I had better not start off with that many....though they could always roost in the big shed, there's not much else in there.

Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 20:57:13

Well the lady with the little house has emailed and she has offered me four battery hens!!

I don't know how long she has had them with her, that makes a difference to how you treat them of course so waiting to hear back...she free ranges them on 5 acres, but I am terrified of foxes coming to our urban garden and taking them.

I am going to start a free range vs foxes thread and see if I can garner some tips.

I found a good page from the USA about it, they have a coyote problem there grin

' ahh lorst two chicken to hawk last fall'

Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 21:05:30

Daisy...when you say your garden is fox proof, how do you mean? I think ours is anything but!!

Jumente Sun 20-Sep-09 21:06:46

...and we have 'hawk' grin well I watched one carry off a pigeon last autumn, but then we always have pigeon so if they prefer them to a chicken we'll be Ok - i think they can catch them in flight.

daisydotandgertie Mon 21-Sep-09 08:07:49

Well ... we live in the arse end of nowhere, so have particular problems with badgers, foxes, hawks and buzzards and all sorts..

But we have a unbroken 8 ft fence around our garden which is made of chainlink with a welding mesh reinforcement along the bottom (all hidden in hedges thank god). Badgers can bite their way through all of this though - so my DH checks the fence line every couple of weeks.

Foxes just can't get through (although I hesitate to say never) and badgers could if they tried but haven't yet.

I think the constant smell of dogs might put them off?

The winter also brings rats who are after the chicken food. We've solved this by putting out poisoned grain in safe containers - I really, really don't want to encourage rats in our garden! It might be a lot to do with where we live though.

I did worry a lot about our chicks this summer because of the buzzards. We made sure they always had a wire lid on their pen when they were tiny.

The ex batts sound perfect (and they'd even be happy in the old guinea pig hutch!). I know there are a few ex batt rehomers near us who pretty much always have hens looking for homes.

Jumente Wed 23-Sep-09 06:38:39

That sounds perfect, Daisy envy I don't think I'm up to creating such a palace of steel!!

We had a great adventure yesterday, drove out to the Forsham place which is supposedly half an hour from here, ha ha, it took us nearly 2!!! It's in the middle of nowhere. We got there 2 mins before closing time and the lady was lovely, and explained everything to me, and basically directed me to the right ark for us - which was ex display so we got a bargain. smile

Haven't heard back from the coop lady, because I suppose we didn't want her coop - so no chooks yet, but that's ok as we haven't got the ark yet either!

Just got to sort out a bit of turf now I think as the patch at the end is all just earth and I didn't realise they need grass...blush I guess we could just get some deep bedding for them for now, till it grows.

I've not heard from the BHWT yet but now ark is sorted I'm Ok to wait I think.

What other animal can you keep on bare earth? I knew I should have gone with the goat idea!!! grin

Jumente Wed 23-Sep-09 06:45:37

One other thing, Mrs Forsham said don't get ex batts if you're new to chickens. I was a bit hmm at that...also she said don't introduce new chickens as you go along, but surely loads of people do that? And don't let them out of the ark once because then when you shut them in again, they'll pace wanting to come out.

I don't know if she was just being cautious or if she's right!

daisydotandgertie Wed 23-Sep-09 22:55:10

She might be talking specifically about ex bats with the pacing. Our ladies don't pace around anywhere. They mostly stage a sit in if they want something; when they've decided it's time for corn in the evenings, they hunker down by the corn bin and wait grin.

I don't get what she means about shutting them in and letting them out though. They've got to go in and out, haven't they?

But, I can see what she means about having ex batts as first chooks; they have had a pretty awful time and may need special care as a result of that. I don't think I'd pay attention to it though.

And, she is sort of right about not introducing new chickens all the time. The phrase 'pecking order' was invented by chickens. They do get the arse when new ones are introduced, and sometimes fight to sort out their ranking. But, I've added in groups of 3 each time and have set up a sort of sub coop with chicken wire so they can get to know each other without stress. It's worked OK so far!

The worst introduction was when we added the cockerel; he ran around and shagged all the girls over and over again. They were astonished. And we were horrified.

Now, they know what he's after when he has the horn and run off giggling. He doesn't have much success with the ladies anymore grin.

Jumente Thu 24-Sep-09 06:24:20

I am in hysterics here grin

Your cockerel sounds like someone I know! ahem, moving on...

Thankyou for explaining all that. I think it's going to be a bit of a learning curve. the plan is to use the ark initially I think, then try to create a fox proof environment (well, roughly!) and release them when it's finished. I couldn't help feeling sorry for the ones we saw in the arks. It looked a bit short of headroom.

We're going to start with a few rabbits, until we find some chooks that seem suitable. The lady with the batts hasn't been in touch so I don't think we're getting those.
Might try our local sanctuary in case they have anything.

thanks again for making me laugh at 6am!!!

becklespeckle Sun 11-Oct-09 00:03:08

Hi, judging from my experience I would say the lady you spoke to about ex-batts was a bit over cautious. I am a first time chicken keeper and I got 3 ex-batts in August. IMHO they are excellent first chooks to have and have totally amazed me how quickly they have learned to be real chickens! Two of them are very bedraggled looking things but their feathers are growing back already and they are such characters. I have a small garden and due to an urban fox my DH spotted they can only free range when I am about to keep an eye so they spend a fair time in their run, however, they are more than happy to go back in when I want them to. They were not rehabilitated chooks either, they had only been rescued the day before I collected them! Now they are happy to be handled and one of them comes running when you call her to see if you have treats grin.

Not sure where you are but little hen rescue in Norfolk is where I got mine from and they are lovely people and very easy to deal with, they do regular rescues and I got my girls within about 6 weeks of contacting them, would have been earlier if I had not gone away in that time. They also have a collection place in Lincolnshire I think.

Good luck, they're fab!

seaglass Sun 11-Oct-09 14:11:08

Hi, from my experience with ex-batts, I would say she was sort of right.
We got ours last year (after having kept chickens for a few years beforehand) within two months we'd had two egg bound, one sour crop and one with some unknown illness which needed daily injections and crop feeding (tube into the crop) before she was so ill that we dispatched her
I think we were unlucky, but because we had plenty of experience, we knew how to deal with the problems. Now one year on, the two left look fantastic (but we haven't had an egg since February hmm)
There is also hen rehomer UK that have pick up points all over the country.

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