Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Mummy's quick guide to keeping chickens

We first decided to keep chickens because, quite frankly, I was a bit bored. You might ask why I didn't get a dog or do some grown-up colouring or something. Well, my parents have kept them for nigh on thirty years so it wasn't completely doolally for me to decide to do it.

If you're thinking about keeping chickens, there are plenty of websites that give you in depth how-to advice on the A-Z of chickens. I'm just going to give you a few pointers that I've picked up in the six years we've kept ours, and over the lifetime my parents have kept theirs.

1. Decide what you want them for


Get pretty ones if you want pretty ones, but my family and I have tended to prefer the Warren Hybrids or Light Sussex for their excellent laying credentials.






Chickens come 'into lay' at about six months of age. Their egg production might be a bit erratic to begin with but should soon become more consistent, and is at a peak during the first year (so up until they're about eighteen months old). It is after this point that chickens bred for egg production are often sold off, for example at livestock auctions, however their laying rate will still be at a perfectly acceptable level for domestic consumption. 


Clipping their wings: you're not chopping a whole wing off, you're shortening some of the feathers on one side so it throws their balance off when they try to fly.

2. Go for a big coop


Many on the market look very nice but, practically speaking, just don't work. Chickens like to feel safe and secure, away from predators, especially to lay eggs. Look for coops of a good size, with nest boxes well away from the door and perches that are high up off the floor. If the perches are too low, is it likely your hens will retreat to a cosy corner, potentially a nest box, and you DON'T want them sleeping there.


When you first get your hens, keep them in the coop with the door closed for the first few hours or overnight, depending on when they arrive. This encourages them to view the coop as 'home' i.e. a safe place. Otherwise, once you let them out, you'll have a hell of a job getting them back in again.


3. Forget the images you've seen of happy chickens running around on the grass


If you own an acre, then that's probably okay. But if you have 10ft of manicured lawn, be prepared that if you let them roam on it all day every day, the grass is unlikely to stay pristine. It is in a chicken's nature to peck and scratch in order to unearth worms and bugs to eat. The unfortunate consequence is that they do this indiscriminately.

By the way, I am not saying you shouldn't ever let them out because that's obviously not fair on the chicken, but it's something to bear in mind.


You can buy wooden chicken runs made out of mesh with a partially covered area. These are great for giving your hens a change of scenery without then having to fish them out of your shrubbery, or collect them from your neighbour's garden.

Personally, I wouldn't recommend them as a permanent home for your feathered friends as, unless you take precautions, foxes can easily dig under the wire.

And, believe me, the last thing you want is for your kids to run out onto the lawn to say 'hello' to Betsy* and Jemima* to discover a pile of discarded bones and feathers.

*Other names are available.

4. You can't breed chicks without either a cockerel or fertilised eggs


And if you need me to explain why, then that talk with your parents about the birds and the bees is really overdue.



And that's pretty much it, folks. Yes, there is a bit more to it, so please don't take my word as gospel or choose guesswork over facts. If you seriously want to keep chickens, do your research. It's important to ensure you're keeping them in a healthy, safe environment, fed appropriately and cleaned out regularly.

In return, you will reap the benefits of fresh eggs, uniquely informed children and much more. 

Useful links:




Run Jump Scrap!


Mummuddlingthrough


Quite Frankly She Said Sunday Best

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

DIY Daddy Blog

14 comments:

  1. As kids we always kept ducks - they laid gorgeous eggs! Sadly though one very clever fox eventually ate the gorgeous ducks. Heartbroken doesn't even cover it. Fab tips - never read a post like this before!
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

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    1. Oh no! Gutting that a fox got to them! I think it's wonderful growing up around animals though. Thanks for reading x

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  2. Fab advice! We kept chickens a few years ago and they were great but did mess our garden up somewhat ha! We would perhaps get them again though. Lovely tips and thanks for linking up #bestandworst

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    1. Ah thanks for reading! More people should keep chickens, it's so lovely to have fresh eggs x

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  3. Haha number 4 made me laugh! I would love to rescue some hens one day, when we buy a house. Thanks for linking up to #SundayBest x

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    1. Thanks for reading. And let me know if you do get some! X

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  4. Interesting! A friend of mine has always been to keen to keep chickens, I'll show her this! thanks for joining us at #SundayBest...hope to see you there again tomorrow! xx

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    1. Ah thanks! And thanks for reading. Hope this proves helpful despite being somewhat tongue in cheek x

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  5. What a great write up. We had chickens a few years ago but gave them up when we were moving (not knowing where we were moving to!) getting some more in the spring, looking at Plymouth Rocks, they are pretty and apparently happy to be handled!

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    1. Ah that's great! I don't know Plymouth Rocks but hope all goes well. How many are you getting?

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  6. What a fab read! When I was a kid, my parents had two ducks. They were called Polly and Perdy. I'm not sure why we had pet ducks, but I always remember our back garden being a massive muddy puddle! I did love the ducks though! Have a great new years! Thanks for linking up to #TheFridayLinky

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    1. Thanks! Ah we've had ducks too! I love the sound of them but yes they do make a mess!

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  7. Mrs OMG won't let me get chickens :-( Every 6 months I go to her with the advert for rescued battery hens and try to persuade her. 2 years down the line and it's still a no.

    great post - thanks for linking to #wineandboobs

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    1. One day maybe Alan, one day! Keep persisting, you never know!

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