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Questions about keeping chickens

(33 Posts)
MrsPuddleduck Tue 15-Jan-08 14:53:53

I am considering tyring to talk DH into letting me have some chickens. My CM has two and my DS loves them.

Before I start looking into the technicalities of it could one of you chicken experts (of which I have seen there are many) answer my daft questions:-

I have a reasonably small garden which is at present beautifully landscaped (by previous owner) with a small patch of lawn pretty much taken over by a climbing frame.

1. If I put a chicken house and run in a border (after taking out some plants obviously) would this be OK? I would presumably have to put slabs down and use bark chippings. Does it need to be in the sun?

2. If I let my chickens out are they going to run away at the first opportunity (obviously garden is well fenced off due to children but you never know).

3. Do you let them out every day - if so would they absolutley wreck the rest of the garden and poo all over the lawn and slide etc?

4. Is it going to be a small nightmare for someone to look after them for mewhen I go on my fortnights holiday every year? (I presume they would be OK left for a weekend?)

5. Are they going to peck me? Or are they going to be quite sociable?

6. Do they smell or are they noisy (thinking of the neighbours).


2sugarsagain Tue 15-Jan-08 14:58:49

This is all I know....

They are smelly

If you live in a town/city, some councils won't allow them.

This has been my dream!

ingles2 Tue 15-Jan-08 15:02:55

Hi Will..
1/ you don't need slabs or bark chippings, they just scratch up the ground. Ideally you need to move the run around the garden from time to time to let the ground recover.
2/Keep them in the run for a few weeks to begin with so they know where their bed is, then let them out. You can also clip one wing so they can't fly very well.
3/ I've got a very big garden, so I don't notice much damage...just my vegetables!!! they love a baby lettuce, pea etc
5/No they won't peck you, unless you try and take an egg from underneath them when they are broody, it doesn't really hurt, I wouldn't call them sociable but they don't mind being picked up and they come when I call them
6/ No they don't smell and they're not noisy unless you have a cock, and he is very loud!

DoodleToYou Tue 15-Jan-08 15:03:45

Message withdrawn

needmorecoffee Tue 15-Jan-08 15:04:54

answer questions in order. I have a tiddly city garden too.
1. Mine are on straw or bark chippings on concrete slabs. We don't have any grass anyhow as garden is so very tiny. If its in sun then they need shade.
2. clip one wing and they can't do 5 foot leaps over the fence. Mine never ran away.
3. I did most days if I was in all day. Wouldn't risk it if out cos of urban foxes. But hens are pretty happy in their run. But yes they do poo and chicken dollops are much much larger than you think. They will peck flowers and dig in the flowerbeds. Unlikely they will bother with the slide though but your kids will step in chickenpoo.
4. My neighbours were quite happy to open mine every morning and close them at night (although an eglu is foxproof so you wouldn't need that. I told them to have the eggs as a tankyou. Depends on yourneighbours.
5. Mine never pecked me and they become very tame and will follow you around. One did peck at my toes once when I was barefoot, thinking they were edible. They become so tame they will try and follow you into the house and think they are people.
6. chickenpoo doesn't smell but wet runs littered with old food will (like any pet). If you keep the runs clean they wont smell. Sometimes in the summer when mine were on straw there might be a farmyard type odour but its not unpleasant. They do cluck but it never bothered my neighbours (they have yappy dog) and its not that loud. Sometimes when they lay an egg you'll hear loud sqwuaking. My garden is 20 feet long so the hens were pretty close to the house which is terraced. No-one ever said a word.

geekgirl Tue 15-Jan-08 15:07:31

Hello willmouse, I've had chickens almost all my life so can hopefully answer some of your questions.
Chickens do turn your lawn over quite a bit - they scratch when looking for grubs etc. so it'd be sensible to just get a couple if you're going to keep them in a smallish garden.

The chicken house doesn't need to be in the sun - as long as the house is nice and draught-free but well ventilated and spacious, it doesn't matter where you put it.

If you get a breed that isn't flighty (e.g. silkies) you don't need to worry about them going off. If you get one that can fly you will need to clip their wings - it's easy and no different from cutting a child's fingernails. You can find instructions on that online. Having said that, my chickens can get out of their run easily but they tend to stay in there, but we've also had some before that were terribly keen on going into the neighbours' garden.

I think you should let them out every day, and yes, they do poo - but they won't hang out on the climbing frame. It might be a nuisance to clean poo off the patio though.

I've never had a problem finding someone to look after them - they don't need much really.

If you get hens then you won't have any problems getting pecked. Mine are all very friendly and used to being picked up by the children - they patiently stand still now when a child approaches!grin Our current cockerel is very nice too, but we also had a viscous beast once.

They don't smell as long as you clean their house out regularly, and hens are not noisy.

ingles2 Tue 15-Jan-08 15:11:26

I would think about getting bantams Will,maybe silkies like geekgirl says or bog standard bantie laying pullets. Do NOT get Rhode Island Reds...They've been the most aggressive out of my flock

geekgirl Tue 15-Jan-08 15:46:59

I had the same experience with RIR! We certainly enjoyed eating the cockerel grin

I have a mixture now - one of the nicest chickens I've ever had is a faverolle.

MrsPuddleduck Tue 15-Jan-08 16:03:05

There's certainly a lot to think about before you commit yourself.

I would only have two hens anyway - more as pets than anything else (although the odd egg would be a bonus).

I am a bit worried that I will take them on and they will cause loads of work for me (how much poo can 2 hens do anyway!?)

mistlethrush Tue 15-Jan-08 16:10:35

I had buff rock bantams when I was younger - basically we wanted a nice, friendly bantam breed after having a really nasty cockerell - despite being raised from an egg by a hen we got. My tamest hen would search me out in the garden and ask to sit on my lap/ in my arms - she felt safe there and would promptly go to sleep (they lose the red colour in their faces and combs when they do this) - she also brought her chicks to be looked after by me while she had some time off!. The cockerell was great - he even took over from one of the hens, looking after some young chicks when she was ill until another one of the hens took over. To reduce cockerell noise you shut them in at night so they can't come out into the open to crow.
Yes, they like looking for insects and worms in borders and the lawn, and will also make dust baths in dry locations. Yes, your lawn will never again be safe to sit on without prior investigation.

MegaLegs Tue 15-Jan-08 16:25:41

What everyone else has said but they do love to lie in the sun and stretch their wings out so a little patch of sunshine is good for them.

ingles2 Tue 15-Jan-08 17:03:20

They will be work Will, just like any pet. I enjoy having them though. I've never had a faverolle geekgirl,...what are they like? My all time fav was a blue polish bantam. She was hysterical, helped by the fact she couldn't see due to her floppy head feathers. My ds's had hours of fun creeping up on and scaring her half to death..poor thing

geekgirl Tue 15-Jan-08 17:13:45

my faverolle is really sweet - it runs up to you and makes little cooing chicken noises, like it's trying to have a chat grin
will, I find that there's not much work. A bit like having a cat really - i.e. they largely take care of themselves, you just need to make sure they're fed & watered and that their house is clean.
I clean mine out once a week, it takes 10 minutes - I use woodshavings and just sweep them up with a broom and large dustpan, and then put out clean shavings - job done.

MrsPuddleduck Tue 15-Jan-08 17:23:15

Sounds silly - what do you do with the woodshavings? Put them in the Brown Bin - or would they smell (ours is only collected every 2 weeks - although it may change come Feb as we now have a shiny new blue bin to recycle in and they are changing everyting).

needmorecoffee Tue 15-Jan-08 17:28:03

I stick mine in the compost. My all time favourite hen was a gingernut ranger. She would peck on the cat flap and at dusk the other hens would go into the coop but she would come peck on the backdoor as she didn't consider herself a chicken.
Sadly she became the dinner of a fox sad

ingles2 Tue 15-Jan-08 17:37:09

Most of mine have become fox dinner! sad
I've only got 4 hens at the mo,...2 sussex lights and 2 marans.
My favourite bird was actually a black call duck called Peking! She used to come in the house much to my MIL's disgust and sleep with my dog next to the aga. Now they do make a lot of mess...
Anyway, straw / bedding goes on our compost heap too.
And Will if eggs are important to you they don't lay in winter as there is not enough light.

TheDuchessOfNorksBride Tue 15-Jan-08 18:11:31

ingles - my hens have always layed through the winter - including the Light Sussex. They have a day-off a week and a couple of weeks in the autumn but otherwise just keep laying. I don't have any provision for prolonging the laying season either by using lights or heating etc.

I don't let our cockerel out until 8am but you can still hear him crowing indoors. And he's in a brick-built outdoor loo hen house (see profile).

Sociable yes. They scratch the garden to bits and stalk you if you're gardening. If you leave your backdoor open, they wander in. I'd often be cooking and hear their feet tapping across the kitchen floor behind me. A friend has a splendid photograph of her favourite cockerel fast asleep in the middle of the kitchen table (OK, so that wouldn't amuse everyone)!

MegaLegs Tue 15-Jan-08 18:20:01

I let mine in to clear up under the breakfast table blush. Only quick though or they poop.

I am currently clearing an area at the end of the garden for my next batch of birds.

TheDuchessOfNorksBride Tue 15-Jan-08 18:29:06

megalegs - did you have any luck with the Waitrose Cotswold Legbars?

CissyCharlton Tue 15-Jan-08 18:35:19

Do they attract rats?

needmorecoffee Tue 15-Jan-08 18:37:50

you're never more than 6 feet from a rat whether you have chickens or not!

CissyCharlton Tue 15-Jan-08 18:41:31

I can cope with being six feet away, it's putting my hand into the run and feeling something furry that worries me.

needmorecoffee Tue 15-Jan-08 18:44:54

have seeen mice in the run but never a rat.

Bobbiewickham Tue 15-Jan-08 18:50:05

Excuse me - I love my RIRs! They are funny and have never been aggressive. They are also very hardy and good layers.

Just had to defend my girls...I will leave now smile

TheDuchessOfNorksBride Tue 15-Jan-08 19:07:09

My bed is 6ft wide. shockgrin

Usually if you have mice you don't have rats. I've never seen a rat here in 8 years. But plenty of wood mice.

As long as you keep your food stored in a metal bin or plastic dustbin and don't leave too much in the run, you should be OK.

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