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Anyone keep chickens?

(18 Posts)
Enchanted Tue 25-Mar-03 21:42:34

We have recently moved to the country and I would love to keep chickens for fresh eggs.
I have always loved chickens but haven't got the slightest clue of where to buy them or how to keep them. I have a 2.5 ds are there any snags to my brilliant idea?

JayTree Tue 25-Mar-03 21:53:53

Try reading up on the subject - here is a good one! "Home Poultry Keeping" by Dr Geoffrey Eley published by A and C Black. It is a really good basic info and will give you everything you wil need to know about shelters, feed, breeds, potential aliments, when and what age of stock to acquire etc. A big snag to consider (obvious really..) is that they need daily attention and you need to consider what to do with them when you are away at all - they can be a tie. Sounds great on a spring morning but on a wet morning when you are running late, dh has flu etc. and one of the chucks looks sick...it stops being fun. All that aside, it can be a rewarding and very fun hobby - go for it if you dare!!

Enid Wed 26-Mar-03 08:58:40

No snags, its a lovely idea. Make sure that your run is totally fox proof (fence buried a couple of feet underground, at least 6 feet high) unless you mind risking it. Welsomers are a lovely breed, good layers and tasty eggs. Hens need greens so a good idea is to divide their run into two and move them back and forth as the grass regrows. Local farm shops will sell hen houses. 6 is a great number to start with although you can have as little as 3 (hens are gregarious and love company). If you don't want to hatch chicks then you don't need a cockerel as they make the hens stressed

Good luck!

Katherine Wed 26-Mar-03 09:51:55

Great idea. We'ver had chickens just over a year now. Here are my tips. You don't need to spend a fortune on a special hutch if you or DH are handy. My DH adapted an old dog kennel and it works great. You could always look for a second hand one too. If you've got the space to let them roam free then they will take less feeding but be prepared to loose a couple to foxes and passing dogs. Sad but unavoidable. Don't get a cockeral unless you want chicks as they can be agressive. Ours came as part of the deal and he's a lovely bird and I love to hear him but he has a habit of jumping on the children so we have to keep them all pended up when I'd rather they roamed free. You don't actually need to be there every single day if something comes up - you can get feeders which will take plenty of food so they are not so tying as you might think and you can always find a neighbour who will shut them up and feed them if you prefer. We've got bantams which produce lovely eggs for the kids although I'd love to get a couple of "proper" hens too. Finally on a more negative note we've had a terrible problem with rats. Mainly I think because the chickens are pended so always feed in the same place. We've tried rat proof feeders but they don't work. We want to redo the run with a solid base or put netting underneath the bark chippings (chickens love this as a base but do tend to flick it all out so you get a nice pile around the run!). The biggest problem is that when we have chicks they get out through the rat holes and get got by cats and birds. We are making them a seperate run this year - chicks can be a bit of a pain though as the hen which sat last year simply didn't lay any more eggs all year.

The kids love them though and its great fun collecting eggs and a great way of disposing of your kitchen scraps. They love old grapes! Go for it.

squigglesmum Wed 26-Mar-03 12:55:14

I'd recommend henhouses.co.uk as somewhere to buy a house / run. They're much cheaper than any others I found, and really good quality too. We bought one which is up on legs (so no rodent problems) and it has a removable base, so cleaning it is easy. They sell hens too, but i thought they were quite expensive. I bought mine from an advert in the local paper, but if you've got any commercial farms near you, they have "clear outs" quite often. The hens are only a year old at that point, and although they often look a bit sorry for themselves, after a little while they perk up and start laying again.

Tamz77 Thu 27-Mar-03 00:54:05

Oooh a subject close to my heart! My dad got me some chickens when I was about 12 and I continued keeping chickens as pets until I left to go to university. They are absolutely fantastic and easy to tame, especially is you get them young. I had a few from chicks who would follow me like a dog. And all our chickens would come into the house (they climbed our back stairs themselves) and sometimes sit and watch TV with us in the evening. They also enjoyed raiding the dog's bowl for food (he'd watch meekly from a distance), and jumping into the sink in case we were washing lettuce (one of their favourite treats). We had lovely big free range eggs, and bantam eggs too, and apart from those perks the hens were all real characters and brilliant fun.

Chickens are pretty easy to keep IMO. You'll need a good secure hen hut for them as you're virtually guaranteed a visit from your local foxes, secure catches, solid doors and wire, also beware of them digging underneath. Also bear in mind that it's virtually impossible to fully protect chickens from foxes; we had no trouble for years but eventually lost our last two hens to a daylight fox raid - ie while the hens were free ranging in the garden - and this was in a residential area; clearly the foxes didn't care about being spotted.

You'll need to decide whether you want just hens or hens and cockerels. If you get cockerels you will get woken up at 5/6 am, maybe even earlier in summer. They can also be territorial and will fight with other cockerels, and you only need one to several hens. We used to buy ours by auction from the local cattle market, but we also got them out of the local ads paper, and from our local rare breeds farm (they had a few mixed breeds they didn't want, which we got for free). Markets are good for a bit of variety eg we got a couple of ex-battery hen to whom we gave a nice retirement, also a Malay game bird on one occasion who was one of our favourites. We got our hen hut from a local ads paper too and it lasted years, in fact once we didn't have hens any more we handed it on to friends who had decided to get chickens.

If you're out in the stix you've probably got mice anyway, we had to be really careful not to encourage any because we had chickens in our back yard in close proximity to the neighbours and if they didn't like us keeping hens, they could have kicked up a fuss. You get chicken feed from animal food retailers (mixed seed and grit is the basic diet; ours had a hot meal every day (! - this is not necessary) of rice, cereal and our scraps. It's best to feed in feeders but it's also good for hens to scratch around for their meals as that's what they naturally do.

It's all good fun really, just be aware that you have to keep them cleaned out regularly, fresh water is a must (this might involve some cold mornings breaking ice and replenishing in winter), and of course chickens can cause silly-money vet bills when they get sick, like any animal. They will also eat your plants and flowers if you let them roam indiscrimately. I think they're great for kids though as a child can feed them out of his hand, help with the cleaning and care, and chickens are fast enough to run away from a toddler when needs be too! I'd say go for it, I'm going to get chickens again as soon as I've got the right kind of place for it )

Gem13 Thu 27-Mar-03 08:09:55

Crikey - I'm tempted to get some now!

mands1 Thu 27-Mar-03 09:23:01

In the freezer mainly!

susanmt Thu 27-Mar-03 20:34:14

Chickens are great! We have lots which are totally free range (we don't have any foxes in the hebrides) and we love them.
The eggs are amazing and they are nice friendly things - only today I left the back door open and came into the kitchen to discover ds (14 months) and Luther, our cockerel, sitting under the table together eating the dropped food from lunchtime!

But if anyone knows a foolproof way to 'dispose' of extra cockerels we would be delighted to know it!

AnnieMo Thu 27-Mar-03 21:33:32

We too love our chickens. We recently lost several of our old birds and were down to just the cockerel - as I constantly curse them for digging up anything I plant in the garden, especialy all the tubs that I plant up in the summer, and the hen poo which my toddler is constantly bringing into the house on his wellies I did think that now was the time to say goodbye to them all - but strangely enough I couldn't bear to part with them and so now have several new chickens! I just love to see them strutting around the garden - and despite other people's comments about aggresive cockerels ours is wonderful - he is a magnificent looking bird and knows it - he struts around with such attitude organising his women! We have never had any problems with him attacking the children and my toddler just loves collecting the eggs, although he doesn't seem to understand that you have to treat them gently so we often have accidents before they reach the kitchen!

They take very little looking after - just water and grain daily and letting out and shutting in morning and night. At the moment we do have one who refuses to come to the coop at night and prefers to roost in a tree - strange bird!

So if you can bear the mess and the wrecked garden - go for it!

AnnieMo Thu 27-Mar-03 21:36:05

Oh Susammt - disposing of spare cockerels is a problem for us too - why are there always more of them in a batch of chicks than hens! We have one friend who is always called in to do the deed and neither of us can bear to. Another of our friends actually took some cockerels to the vets to be put down - it was rather an expensive way of doing it.

soothepoo Thu 27-Mar-03 21:58:54

What about cats? Aren't they a problem?

clucks Thu 27-Mar-03 22:01:57

Don't mean to seem thick or controversial, am really interested in poultry, cluck, cluck. but can't you eat your spare cockerels? If this is a no,no then please ignore and forget me.

Enchanted Thu 27-Mar-03 22:03:47

Thanx for all your advice. We have a brick out house, would that be a good home? Very cocerned about the rat situation, that could put me off altogether. There are a couple of cats in our garden, would they keep the rats away?

susanmt Thu 27-Mar-03 22:07:37

Most cats I have encountered are scared of chickens!
Yes you can eat the spare cockerels - it's just the killing I am squeamish about. We had a neighbour who used to do it for us but she moved away recently and now we have 4 (!) we don't want!!

Debs41 Mon 25-Jul-11 11:36:50

Hi

I would recommend Ark Birds and Bees Kent if you are from Kent. They sell hybrid vaccinated chickens, they are good egg layers are friendly for the kids and they come in lots of colours. They have a website www.arkbirdsandbeeskent.co.uk if you want to look them up

Yes, many people raise cockerels for meat. A better way of using the bird, IMO, than just culling and throwing the body away.

I started keeping hens 3 years ago and I love it. Initial set up can be costly, unless you can make your own housing. DH and I had to buy a decent coop and run, neither of us are handy with a hammer. Locating birds can be a problem, unless you're keeping hybrids which are relatively easy to source. If you buy from a company like Omlet they will bring the entire kit, including birds, to your front door and even set it up for you. It isn't cheap, though. they require a minimum level of care, approx. 20 minutes a day, and a decent clean out once a week, about an hour. My girls only free range when I'm at home, so a secure run is vital IMO. You'll be surprised how attached you'll get to your birds, and if you come home to the remains of a fox attack it can be heart breaking. And gruesome.

Balls. Just seen the date.

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