Frequently asked questions about keeping chickens
What you want to know about Chickens in the Garden
What size Hen House do I need for my chickens?
Most will say that a Hen House should home one bird per square foot. So if a house is 4feet x 3feet, this would hold 12 hens. You can get quite addicted to chickens, so assume you may get more. More info, Click here
How long and what size should a Perch be?
It's recommended that each chicken should have 8" of perch each. This may not seem much, but they like being fairly close. New chickens may not use a perch for a few weeks. Perches should be between one and a half and two and a half inches wide. Branches are good and more natural for them. More info, Click here
What about nest Boxes? I have a cat and dog, will they attack the chickens?
Chickens will lay where they want to, not necessarily where we think! Any 'cosy, comfy' box will do. The size will depend on the amount of chickens you have bearing in mind they may all lay at the same time! Some say for 1 - 3 chickens, a 12" square is adequate. More info, Click here
What about exercise space?
There is no set rule for this, but if you were housing 4 chickens, I would not go below 6feet x 3feet as a minimum. The more space the better for them to exercise as near as their natural way possible (which is really free range). More info, Click here
Will they get cold in the winter?
Chickens are an evolved wild bird and can quite efficiently keep themselves warm. They will fluff their feathers up a bit, perch close to each other - they have a natural featherdown duvet! Free Range chickens are often found sleeping outside during winter.
The only exception may be if you have just taken on Battery Hens and they are in a pretty dreadful featherless state. Chickens in Winter
Won't they get bored?
Possibly. You can put objects in the Pen to relieve any boredom (after all the grass has gone!) like logs, hanging CD's, a higher floor etc.. A good idea is to hang a cabbage which they can peck away at.
What is a dust bath?
They love to dig dry soil and will spend hours laying (as if dead) in them, occasionally flapping their wings to knock more 'dust' into their feathers. More info, Click here
Should I let them out in the garden?
This depends on how much you treasure your flower beds and vegetable patches. They won't eat everything, but will scratch around almost anywhere. If you have a vegetable patch - fence it off or cover everything securely or you'll lose just about everything except potato's!
In the Autumn they are very partial to flower seeds, especially Lupins.
Make sure they stay in your garden. More info, Click here
What about security from predators in the garden?
It is a myth that foxes only go searching for food at night, which many have found out to their cost. If you're going shopping for an hour, put them back in their house and chicken run.
More info, Click here
What should I feed them beside Poultry Food (Mixed Corn, Layers Mash and / or Pellets)?
Chickens know what they can and can't eat. Any vegetable kitchen waste, put in a saucepan and boil up. Most enjoy Rice and bread, but don't go overboard. Natural foods which they may find in the wild are best. Treats should be kept to a minimum though. More info, Click here
Is it true I can feed them back their eggshells?
This is a substitute for Grit and quite a normal common practice. But they must be roasted until dark and crisp, then crushed up. Some chickens eat them, some don't. More info, Click here
No one situation is the same and some dog breeds may be more natural hunters than others. Usually, if introduced carefully over time and avoiding jealousy from your existing Pet all should be well. 90% of the time there are no problems and they will live, walk and talk together quite happily. If letting them out though - beware other peoples pets. More info, Click here
Should I get a cockerel?
Unless you're going to breed, there is no need for one. If you are, take heed of the noise they are going to make for your neighbours and yourselves sake. Also, you will often find the Hens are a little less sociable to you (a human) if they have a 'Boss' about.
What if a Chicken becomes ill?
There are many forums for you to ask about symptons etc., but each case is different. If concerned take them to a Vet, but make sure the Vet has Avian knowledge before you do so.
My chickens aren't laying, why?
They are natural creatures and will take natural breaks, especially in winter. Sometimes they will go weeks without laying. It's a waiting game and usually best left up to them to 'decide'.
They are eating the eggs, how can I stop this?
First confirm it is the chickens and not something else such as a Rat. This is a pain and often hard to stop. Some make a small hole in an egg and put mustard inside. After a while, they give up on the idea.
'My chicken is laying eggs with soft shells, is she ill?
More than likely not. It is quite common for a hen to lay the occasional soft shelled egg. It could indicate a lack of calcium, which some Grit would normally put right.
If it persists though, vetinary help should be sought.
Older hens often produce mis-shaped egg's now and again.
My Hen won't leave the Nest Box, why?
She is most likely broody. The main thing during this time is to make sure she is eating and drinking, so you may have to give her Waiter service. The most important thing is she doesn't overheat. You can take her out for a while. There may be a squabble with the others, but this is what they do. More info, Click here
The feathers are coming off one of my hens?
They are moulting. This is natural behaviour and will last a few weeks. Occasionally they will eat the feathers, but again, this is no real cause for concern.
In general, is keeping Chickens a good idea?
For most people yes, but you must consider they need to be fed every day, their eggs collected and it is important to keep both the Chicken House and Run clean.
If you have children, chickens will, without a doubt, teach them more about the food cycle and the importance of looking after all creatures who give to us more than we give to them.