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Tell me about keeping chickens please.
9

LittleB · 17/06/2008 21:19

Sorry long and lots of questions!
We've just got an allotment so my small veg patch will soon no longer be needed, I've always wanted to keep chickens and wondered if I could keep some in that area. Its 1.5m wide and 5m long, I would need to put the coop on there too. Is that enough room for maybe 3 chickens (we're only a family of 3 so I guess that will be plenty of eggs)? I'd be happy to let them out in the garden when I'm around too.
I've never seen foxes here but there are lots of cats about - my dog tries to see them off but they still come in the garden, do cats worry chickens?
Also DH is worried that they will be too noisy - we wouldn't get a cockrell but we do live in a rural town in a terraced house - are they very noisy?
I know I'd need special chicken food, is it true that they will also eat veg such as broccoli leaves and cabbage from our allotment and do they like slugs and snails too?
I would grass the veg patch before I put them there, is that a good base for them? Our garden is pretty well drained.
Do they need innoculations, worming etc?
If we decide to go for it I'll be on here asking for advice about breeds etc - ideally I think we'd either like to go for rare breeds to help them or ex-battery chickens.
What do you do when you go away - do they need checking twice every day?
I've kept lots of animals before but never chickens, so any advice would be appreciated - even if you say don't get them - I could wait until we're more rural and have a bigger garden if I need too!

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loueyt · 17/06/2008 21:29

We have 4 chickens who live in an eglu in the garden - they are fabulous and really easy to keep. They eat either layers pellets or layers mash - depending on what they have been reared upon and then corn for treats but they will eat pretty much anything and love veg and sweetcorn.

The eglu we have is within a fenced area - they will wreck the grass so bark or something else is just as good. Area is about 10 metres square but you can keep them in smaller or largers areas or let them roam free. We did this for a while but the amount of pooh they come up with is amazing and it just wasnt practical with little ones.

They are not noise but do make noise - clucking and pecking about great to listen to in the garden and once they come into lay they get very friendly. Our 1 year old loves them and spends lots of time in the area with them if we are cleaning out etc.

Hope that helps - also really recommend the eglu - expensive option but so easy to keep clean. Good luck

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LittleB · 17/06/2008 21:49

Thanks, I'll look into eglus then. So with the barked area, do you just remove bark when it gets very dirty and then put down fresh - I'd love to use the chicken manure on my allotment, its supposed to be very good for the veg!
Useful to know about the poo if they were free roaming, better to keep them penned then.
I'm sure dd 3.1 would love them, she likes all animals and is very gentle - she also loves her eggs too!
Any more advice please!

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WelliesAndPyjamas · 17/06/2008 21:58

They will investigate anything with a view to eating it. Yes to broccoli, cabbage, slugs, snails.
I wouldn't bother grassing that veg plot, the grass won't survive. Leave them the veg plot to scratch around in and have dust baths in.
Most people never have a problem with cats but tbh it depends on the cats you have in your area. I have lost a chicken to a feral cat here, and so have my neighbours. Dogs can take chickens too so you will need to be sure that your dog can't access them unless you are sure he can resist the temptation!
3 chickens should be enough for the 3 of you but remember that they often lay less in the winter months because there is less sunlight.
Chickens aren't noisy unless you have a very vocal one that makes a huge fuss every time she lays an egg (we have one of those at the mo and OMG she really goes on and on and on about it!). Cockerels are noisy but they do help keep the hens in order and keep an eye out for predator danger.
You can leave them for the day if you are absolutely confident that they are safe, and have food and water. I personally don't like going out for toooo long because you can never be sure how creative a predator can get. Going on holiday is a pain, you need someone who can let them out in the mornings and tuck them in at night, and who doesn't mind cleaning out stinky poo!

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WelliesAndPyjamas · 17/06/2008 22:02

chicken poo is fab for lettuce in particular

if you use hay for their nesting box, that goes ever so nicely on the compost heap too

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Milkycheeks · 17/06/2008 22:20

Snap! We got an allotment & now have 2 chickens on our old veg patch (approx 3m x 4m) - they cleared it bare in about a week so as WAP says don't bother grassing it.

The neighbourhood cats are intrigued but only one has dared to go in the pen so far - he was sitting on the roof of the hen-house and winding them up but hasn't tried that again since dh threw a glass of water over him!

They only make a bit of racket when they lay an egg or danger threatens but the neighbours seem to love the noises they make.

We feed them pellets, corn and veg scraps, and also chuck in grass-cuttings & weeds from the rest of the garden - v.handy. We can usually bribe some neighbours to look after them when we go away by saying they can have the eggs - last time we went away there was a bit of a battle over who was going to be in charge.

It's been so easy having them, we're thinking of getting a few more, so i'd say go for it.

Oh, if your pen is open (i.e no "roof") , don't forget to clip their wings or they might twig & make a bid for freedom.

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mel2005 · 17/06/2008 22:22

gosh, thats loads of questions!!
you dont need to check on chickens much. when we went away my dad came to collect the eggs because i worried that one might get broken and they would start eating eggs.
i leave my door open at night when its warm and the days are long, as my run is fox resistant (fingers crossed) and the girls get up when they like. i have a few of the omlet nipple drinkers and they can easily last a week or more (although i do change the water more often than that)because its i have made a cover for them and they are off the floor the water doesnt get dirty. i have a 20l enammeled metal feeder with a rain shield for the layers pellets and that can feed mine for ages.
i do have some chooks that can be noisy if a cat comes into the garden but it does scare the cats off.
i have the eglu cube and a home-made run and they are fantastic and so easy to clean. it also prevents you getting red mite which is like flees that are really hard to get rid of in wooden hutches.
you could have three and possibly many more in a 1.5 by 5m run inc hutch i would say.
i feed my chooks layers pellets (so they get everything they need to keep healthy) then in the afternoon they get all the scraps (obviously non meat scraps) they love rice and pasta. i also have food balls suspended from the roof with greens in and sometimes sweetcorn as well. mine hate slugs unfortunately. i put up alot of perches made from branches and they like cds hanging from the roof of the run.
chickens destroy grass so use a base like hemcore or bliss, they are horse bedding bales and they have citronella in. it keeps the flies away and poops dissolve away. chickens love dustbathing in it but it is ok to get wet. i change it every month and its great to compost. i use straw or shreaded paper in the nesting box.
i have some rare breeds like norfolk greys as i wanted to support their breeding, i also have cream legbars (blue eggs) and marans (huge chocolate eggs) and welsummers (big brown eggs). i did think about battery chooks but i worried about my two very young children (i had some nasty chickens as a child). all my chickens were chosen for friendliness and they are very tolerant of my scary toddlers.
i worm mine but use the herbal based ones because i worry about the children eating the eggs.
we have seven chickens and have between four and six eggs a day. obviously we will get alot less in the winter.
they are fantstic pets and are great for children as they are easy to keep and produce lovely eggs to eat.
i would recommend a coop like the omlet eglus as they are so easy to keep clean. to save money you could build your own run. mine was made from recycled materials so only cost £30 for the plastic roofing. my cube cost £400 but the eglus are alot cheaper and when i had two eglus in a huge run (before the cube) i had all six chickens in one eglu at night. if you call omlet they might have reconditioned ones that are cheaper. the resale value is fantastic, even for the older ones and they do last a lifetime.
if not there are some great wooden coops around but you need to keep dusting for the redmite.

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LittleB · 18/06/2008 12:16

Thanks everyone thats loads of information, gald I've got the oom for them then!
he end of my garden is a dog free zone anyway as my dog is only 1 1/2 and used to run on my veg patch and in my pond so I fenced it off a couple of months ago.
Glad neighbours don't seem to mind little chicken noises, they've got dogs both sides anyway, and one set is animal mad with dog, cat, ferrets, tortoise and fish so I'm sure I can persuade them to feed the chooks in return for eggs when we go away.
I think we'll build a closed in pen just in case my dog gets out or there is a fox about, although I've never seen them I imagine they might find me if we had chickens. Whats the concensus/advantages/disadvantages of building a full height run, say 6ft high or a low one a couple of feet high?
The cream lagbars sound good, dd gets very excited when we get blue eggs from the farmers market, so she'd love to have them regularly. Its also really useful to know that you can choose friendlier chickens to be toddler friendly.
Right I'm off to research eglus and then will have to persude DH. I'm not in too much of a hurry though as there are still potatoe plants and courgettes all over the veg patch.
I'm sure I will be back on this thread soon with more questions.
Thanks!

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WelliesAndPyjamas · 18/06/2008 12:28

if you can afford the full height one go for that - more peace of mind and easier to clean out

enjoy!

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mel2005 · 18/06/2008 16:02

my run is about 5 ft high (possibly abit shorter) i find it ok to clean out and i have loads of branches for perches at the end nearest the house as the chooks like to be nosy. i have a full height door so its easy to get in and out. the eglu run doors are so small you end up kneeling in poop trying to get in and out, i ended up taking the sides off or the door end off to get in.

my origional homemade run was built like a huge greenhouse shape, it was about 10ft to the peak and 15ft wide by 20ft long (possibly abit bigger). i made it on my own and found it hard to put the roof on. the next run i made was shorter so i could get the roof on and it was easier to manage. chooks dont need it tall but you need to be able to get in to clean it out and change the water/feed etc. it also looks alot better in the garden. look to see if there is any wire or wood going in the adtrader or freecycle. My OH always has spare/used wood and mesh from his business so i used that to make my run and i only had to buy plastic roofing sheets which cost £30 as they were buy two get one free in B&Q.
look on the www.omlet.co.uk website, the forum is great. keep your eyes open for bargain eglus. i have seen them go for £150 bin on e-bay and £140 in the adtrader. the recon ones from omlet are about £300 with a run but they will sell them cheaper without a run. my cube was a recon for £400 inc delivery without a run but i know some people have got them £50 cheaper than me. if you have a big enough run you can fit way more than 10 chooks in a cube.

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