Nature on our Doorstep - New, The Down the Lane Wildlife Diary
An introduction to keeping Chickens in the Garden
Inspiration to have some chickens first came in June 1999. I went to a local breeder, brought 2 Lohmann Browns and a 6' x 3' Chicken Ark. After the elation of the first egg some 3 days later (fried I think), I started feeling sorry for them cooped up in such a small space.
Well, that was OK until I had to move them once a week. I decided to build them a shed (see how in the Frugal Living page) and attach a small run of about 10' x 10'. This was good so I brought another 2 chickens.
So I strimmed out a larger area of about 30' x 30' to give them even more room. At that time I heard about the poultry auctions at the local market and off I went to have a look at what happened. I found chickens were selling anywhere from 25p to £3 each and I'd paid £5 at the Breeders. So I brought another 4!
So by the time I left the railway in May 2000 I had 8. Going to the Auction became a regular Wednesday morning event; I saw what breeds there were and picked up loads of useful information off farmers who obviously knew what they were talking about.
All was going so well until Freddie Fox and his family got hungry early one Sunday morning in June 2001 and killed 10. He left 6 dead ones in the shed and took 4. Until then we had no problems and maybe I'd become lapse in one or two things.
Surprisingly, they do become attached to you and vice versa. We haven't made much money from the eggs (enough on average for about two and a half pints of fine Kentish Ale a week) but the enjoyment and feeling of farming is good.
Don't buy them too young if you're only having them for eggs. I brought 4 and waited 8 weeks before I got any eggs. Equally, try not to buy them too old. You can usually tell the old from the young by their crowns and by their legs. Battery hens are sold around here when they're a year old. Hens will lay well for the first 2 years. I paid 25p each for some; they were scraggy and hen pecked and didn't move further than 3 or 4 feet for a fortnight but after a few weeks they were fine looking birds and did us proud. It makes you feel good as well.
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FencingWell, something got through or over my fence but it's only once thus far. 5 feet should be enough but the higher the better. At the back of our run there's a very thick hedge and this has also been a deterrant. It is just as important though to think about the bottom of the fence and sinking it into the ground 6" should help. Watch out for overhanging tree's, it took me ages to work out the fox had climbed it, then jumped in The Chicken Fencing Page
Housing:Mine is completely DIY. I've built 2 nesting boxes inside and have an outer nesting box with a lid making 4 altogether. They never seem to fight over them and there's always room for everybody. Plus, they have a funny habit of seemingly forming a queue, laying eggs from early morning through to early afternoon. When we let them out they're all back by sun set except the occasional one to takes a fancy to the coal shed. I have a second outer gate now so they're completely shut in til I feed them in the morning. Click here for Chicken Housing Page They sleep on 3" x 3" timber across the centre of the house about five feet up.
I give them a 3 to 1 mix of mixed corn and layers pellets, about a handful and a half in the mornings and about half again in the evening. All left over vegetables, peelings etc. go in a saucepan and are boiled up for them. That's about it besides the sandwich left overs from the Pub after Pool and Bat and Trap matches.
Pests:They do attract rats and mice so be prepared for that. Plus, early morning when you go to feed them, the telephone wires and high fencing around your property will look like a scene from Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. But that's the law of the jungle.
For diseases please use the 'Poultry Links' link on the left as I'm not that expert.
We've had no end of enjoyment from ours. I was nervous at first in so far as could I keep them and am I doing it right etc. but as long as you keep their house clean and draught free and the ground is relatively well looked after, they're happy.One thing's for certain.
YOU'LL NEVER EAT A BATTERY EGG AGAIN OR ANY FROM A SHOP!!
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