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Mumsnet does not check the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you're worried about the health of your chickens, please speak to a vet or qualified professional.

advice please!
10

iwastooearlytobeayummymummy · 13/05/2012 21:38

Hello you lovely lot
I am mulling over getting 3 or 4 chickens.
I live in the Surrey suburbs and have regular foxy visitors so whilst I would love to have some chooks really need some guidance.
I work full time and have enough space but not sure if its OK to keep chickens in all day. So my questions are what sort of coop? How many chickens to lay for a family of 6? How much time do they take up? And the big one How do you manage foxes? Also, how do you get the chickens? and How much is the upkeep for feed and vets?
Loads of questions, sorry, I may not be able to reply for a few days but would love any advice :-)

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hiddenhome · 13/05/2012 22:32

Foxproofing isn't that difficult. You would need a covered and secured run so that they could be out during the day. Place their coop inside this run. dh has concreted ours all around so that rats/foxes can't dig underneath. Make sure there's no holes or gaps and that the wiring is good quality and not flimsy.

They need to be let out of their coop each morning. Fresh food and water every day and I sweep up the mess last thing. I hose down and sprinkle disinfectant down. They do produce large amounts of poo. If you keep on top of it it's not smelly. We get pet sitters in to come and see to ours if we go away. Don't expect relatives or friends to come and do it unless they're chicken fanatics. The mess will put any 'delicate' people off and your hens won't be cared for properly.

I got my chickens from breeders, but you need to be careful which ones you buy from as four of mine came diseased. Two died, one I restored to full health, but she's never been a good layer and the last one I still have, but she's knackered and doesn't lay properly.

A decent breeder doesn't have dozens of hens all mixed in together. Their environment should be clean and well organised. Don't buy from anybody who seems like they're a sloppy joe. Always choose the hens that are hardest to catch Wink

If you get something like a hybrid, they have more resistance to disease and are good layers. Pure breeds are a bit weaker and might not lay so well. I find Light Sussex are a good breed - make great pets, are intelligent, funny, cheeky and good layers. Mine come into the house and nick the cat's food Grin

If you get a hybrid, you'll end up with an egg a day from each hen.

Feed a base diet of layers pellets and mixed corn as a treat. I also feed mine kitchen scraps and they love cooked sweetcorn, spring greens, couscous with sultanas and pasta. Don't give them junk food or anything that's salty. Mine love unsalted homemade curry Smile

You need to worm them every month - I use a product called Flubenvet - you just sprinkle it on their food each day for a week. You can still eat the eggs. Do that every 4-6 weeks, esp. through the warm weather when the soil will have worm eggs in.

You will need to remove the top few inches of soil about twice a year and sprinkle garden lime down to keep it sweet. I have several concrete flags down as things will get muddy in the rain if you just have soil. Chickens dig everything up and rake the grass up too, so be careful if you intend to let them into the garden. They're quite messy and don't care about your plants.

External lice can be killed with Ivermectin. Never use the powders that are on sale for chicken mites/lice. They don't work. You have a 10 day egg withdrawal period if you use Ivermectin. I only use that twice a year.

I bed mine down on newspaper and just remove the top few layers each morning. In the cold winters I add some straw. Never use hay as it can contain mould which will cause respiratory problems. Birds need good ventilation and can withstand cold, but not damp or wet.

If you keep them purely for eggs then you must realise that they only lay for the first few years of their life and after that you may want to keep them as pets - but you won't get eggs from them - or find someone who'll wring their necks for you. Only one of mine lays now, but we don't eat many eggs, so I'm not bothered.

Vets generally don't know anything about chickens and will either shrug and look worried or might know somebody they can phone for advice (my vet does that). If chickens become sick they tend to go downhill quite rapidly. The main killers are debilitation from parasites and infection. If you give them a good diet and keep them clean with regular worming they should be okay.

Troublesome behaviour can include - being noisy, trying to escape, bullying their friends - the fewer hens you have, the less likely this is to occur - and eating their own eggs. I've never found any to be aggressive and they're very tolerant of humans. They don't tend to like being picked up and cuddled unless you've had them from being very young. They look at you like you're mad, but will listen very carefully to anything you have to say and will never tell a living soul Smile Great company when you're gardening.

Chickens have great personalities and are a lot of fun to have around. You should get 4 if you have room. If you were to get 3 and one died, you wouldn't be able to introduce a lone hen as the others will probably pick on it. If you were to end up with three, you'd have to get two to even things up a bit. Birds are very unforgiving with each other and will bully and peck in order to exert their authority over a weaker one.

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hiddenhome · 13/05/2012 22:38

chicken runs here

Some of these have an integral run. Chickens don't need much room to sleep, but will appreciate a large run, so you can always buy/build an extension run and keep the coop inside that.

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hiddenhome · 13/05/2012 22:40

large run

something along the lines of this with their bedding area inside might be an option if you're worried about foxes.

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hiddenhome · 13/05/2012 22:42

Of course, if you're a posh tart you could always have something like this Grin

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iwastooearlytobeayummymummy · 14/05/2012 22:24

Hi Hiddenhome

Thank you so much for your fab reply. It has certainly given me food for thought and on balance I'm not sure I have enough time to commit to this pipedream. However I would quite like to live in one your posh tart's recommendations myselfGrin

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Blackpuddingbertha · 15/05/2012 22:31

I've had my four girls three weeks now and I'm loving it. Five minutes in the morning, five at night, 30 minutes at the weekend for a good clean is the necessary time then whatever else you can spare to entertain them or be entertained!

I went for a flyte so fancy henhouse, the Long Legged Maggie, with large run as they're great quality (if expensive).

If you do decide to go for it and need a Surrey supplier then I can also thoroughly recommend these people for supplying POL hybrids. Very healthy birds and the staff there will give you endless guidance and information.

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MNP · 16/05/2012 15:13

We have bantams who lay medium eggs by standard weight guides and take very little time. they also don't dig up the grass rather rack over it.

We dug out the run ara and put down a strong small mesh and then added concrete gravel boards all around and sat the coop/run these with a few fence connectors to join the concrete and wood frame. As the girls roamed the veg patch over the winter will covered to area with green needing above our heads to the fence with cup hooks, as we are now growing they go out under supervision as they have ways of getting under protective netting Confused.

They love cooked pasta, dethawed peas, will do an excited dance for dried meal worms and dig in the gravel for mixed corn, they start the ay with green stuff and have free access to layers pellets and water which contains a little (10ml/4Lt) apple cider vinegar which reduces internal parasites and helps with condition.

I dust them and their new shredded paper bedding once a month (mar-sep) with mite powder.

We use sawdust or shredded paper under roost bar also, a great use of selective and junk mail.

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MNP · 16/05/2012 15:17

Ara .... Area
Will ... We
To ... The
Needing ... netting
Ay ... Day
Selective ... Sensitive

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iwastooearlytobeayummymummy · 16/05/2012 22:02

Oh now you all are just messing with my head!
I will have a serious chat with DH about this at the weekend as he is my handyman/gardener Grin
thanks all

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MNP · 17/05/2012 09:28

My DH has made us a second coop with run, you need good strong wire that is no pliable and sandwich it between to pieces of wood not stapled on and voila you have bespoke hen home.

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