Getting Clucky

31 08 2008

The boys and I are thinking of getting some chickens – the egg-laying variety. Three or four, to be precise.

And I was wondering whether we’re mad or not?!

Getting Clucky - time for hens?

Getting Clucky - time for hens?

The thing is, for years, I’ve wanted to know where our eggs come from. Even buying free-range, organic eggs, I still want to know how the chickens were raised and whether they’re happy or not. Yes, Pollyanna, here I come…

I’ve spent a couple of months doing my homework and I reckon we can manage the commitment of having hens – as long as the landlord and our neighbours agree. We’ve got the space for them to roam during the day and I’ve been learning about supposed fox-proof chicken runs.

I keep hearing scare stories about mink who were released from a local mink farm last summer, who munch your hens as soon as look at them and it doesn’t matter whether you’re rurual or urban these days, there are plenty of foxes. So I know keeping them safe will be a challenge.

But despite all that, I think I’m up for it.

I’d love to know whether any of you have hens? Or opinions on the subject? Any advice? Thoughts? Suggestions? Things you wish you had known?!

If we decide to go ahead, then this will be the place to follow the Hen House Diaries. So watch this space.

And please do share via the comments!

Thanks,

Clare x

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16 responses

1 09 2008
Kelly

I would suggest giving a home to some rescued egg-layers. Contact the Battery Hen Welfare Trust to find out if there’s a local contact near you. (http://www.bhwt.org.uk/)

1 09 2008
lisa

we would love to get some chickens but we haven`t the room in our garden, I think you should go ahead if your neighbours agree and your landlord , will look forward to hearing the outcome!!

1 09 2008
Anne

hi – I have kept chickens for 20+ years – so rewarding – not just for the eggs – they are great gardeners, land clearers, ground fertilisers, composting companions, pest control, dustbins and a never ending source of fun and learning – I run short workshops here in Bramford near Ipswich ,Suffolk for people starting out in chicken keeping – to arm them with the essential info you need to know – like how to make choices about breed, housing, feeding, handling and common problems – next course 21st September 1 – 4 pm – see http://www.gardenandchicken.co.uk for full details – we run a local box scheme much of the produce being grown here – the ‘ladies’ are an integral part of the smallholding!

as long as you have sorted some holiday cover and are well armed with the basic care information I dont think you would regret a few ‘ladies’ sharing your garden.

anne from The Garden & Chicken Co

1 09 2008
gina

Hi Claire
I used to have egg laying chickens when I lived in the country in France.Great experience.
Here are a few things i learned.First..re the lady who said rescue chickens.That is for animal lovers who want to be rescuers.if you want eggs, you should know that each chicken has about 300 eggs in its reproductive system just like humans.When these are all laid whether ferrtilised or not, thats it.. no more eggs..just a chicken for soup or for garden pet.
Second, when I used to go to the local co- op for the grain, wheat corn and flax,the farmers used to tell me that you have to include a bit of a certain food (laying stimulant to start them off laying )with their grain,otherwise they will take forever to start to lay and it wont be one a day when they do.
I built my garage into a night coup, and outside i built a wire enclosure, top bottom and sides, with a tiny door, so I trained them to go out every morning and come in every night at dark.
I also found out that there is segregation also with chickens.So make sure they are all the same.First I bought the brown shaver chickens, cause my hubby loved the brown eggs.we had 24, but friends started to want our eggs, so we went to get more and they only had black ones, so we bought 12, the brown ones were cruel, they pecked on them, and everyday i was nursing the black ones, then one day they even killed a black one and sat in a circle with the black one in the middle.Also make sure youe dogs dont have them for dinner.One night my 2 dags got one, they tore it in 2. I tied the piece around their necks for a whole day and scolded them.Never had the problem again.After that the chickens sat beside and on the dogs with no problem.All in all it was great fun.My kids enjoyed them.and getting 3 doz a day, we sold some to our friends.Oh we also had a cock, because, in france the people loved eggs that were germinated.they believed they were more nutriutious,because the chicken to be hatched needed all kinds of nutrition which would be found in an egg that had been “cocked” as they would say.Hope you enjoyed this little episode and maybe got some tips. Gina

1 09 2008
Sarah

Hi, my children (now 5 & 7) and I decided last September to get some chickens. It was a bit of a treat to smooth in the start of School! We got four POL (one each) named them, as we didn’t want to kill the first lot for food. I use a lot of eggs for cooking but when you get four each day, every day you become very popular. Its nice to take a dozen eggs to a dinner party instead of flowers. The best advice would be to join the Poultry Chat forum. The people there are completely bonkers but couldn’t be more helpful with their thoughts, experiences and knowledge. We purchased six fertilised eggs this summer and four hatched, so we can hopefull be self-producing from now on. We haven’t named these chicks!!!

1 09 2008
mich

having your own chickens for eggs is lovely they make great pets and will learn to come when you call them. the only down side is that if they have free roam of your garden they will eat all the new shoots coming up in the spring- off of every thing -so you might have to cage in your prize plants and new veg . they also used to make nests of eggs under the bushes and in the grass instead of in the nice laying box we made for them in their house. we had ex-battery hens but they soon recovered and were probably some of the most spoiled/pampered hens around. best of luck

3 09 2008
Karen

Hi Clare,
Go ahead and get your chickens! We have just a couple and they are great! Not just suppliers of the best eggs, but good pets too. We were surprised to find what characters they are – we enjoy sitting out in the evening watching their antics!
Good luck (or maybe that should be”good cluck!”)

3 09 2008
Elaine

Hi Clare, We too are weighing up the pro’s and cons of keeping Chickens, all being well our girls will be arriving in the spring so I am interested how you get on. Good Luck!

4 09 2008
Alexandra Coppock-Bunce

Hi Clare,

glad to see that things are going so well for you.

The WiE course we both attended also enabled the Chicken School people to get launched. http://www.chickenschool.co.uk/ – it teaches you all there is to know about keeping chickens and rescuing them from battery farms is a wonderful way to start- you get emotional satisfaction as well as physical!

love
Alex Coppock-Bunce http://www.swindon-hypnotherapy.com

5 09 2008
Lisa

Hi Clare,
We have kept bantams and ex-battery hens over the last five years (not at the same time) The battery hens are a bit more work but very rewarding as you see them recover and enjoy a proper life. We have just acquired two bantam wyandottes with a cockerel, so waiting to see how Rocky and his ladies will settle in. We keep them in an ark which we move around, this seems to work well. We have a local fox problem, even in the day, so true free ranging would be hazardous. They have all been great fun, my children have really enjoyed them.

5 09 2008
rosie whitehouse

Hello Claire
Thank you for all the info you send me,as for the chickens, then i would say yes go ahead, i would love some and have seriously thought about it, but at the moment put off having some, my husband would sit in the garden all day and watch them as we both love animals he would be amused by them,we have a cockateil who is 24 years old and we worry about what would happen to them if something happened to us, but i will give it some more thought, go girl and give it a go,good luck. rosie

5 09 2008
tess

in one way or the other i have kept chickens for over thirty years, along the way i have had every type possible the ones i like are hybrid warrens they are friendly and are good layers they will leard very quickly to follow you and are good aroud children my 2yr old and 4yr old love it when the chickens want to play. as for hens segrigating i have a mixture of links and warrens at the moment they get on ok and aslong as you introduce them at roosting time you shouldnt have a problem we have a cockeral but they do like to crow as soon as it starts to get light . you will need to keep your veggeis under safe guard i had to fence my veg patch off they thought it was there for them to scrat in and eat worms ect they love getting in there when im preparing the ground. you will need to feed some for of laying product and you dont have to get the most expensive. during the winter they will need extra feed i use a mixture of mixed corns and layers pellets it is also a good idea to deep litter in winter as it keeps them warmer and less suseptable to illness you will also have to keep an eye open for lice and mites this is easy to treat with powders available i add a worming tonic to the water to avoid them getting worms hope this is of some use to you and your children GOOD LUCK and enjoy

6 09 2008
lamzydivey

By all means, get the chickens.
Some of my best childhood memories are of watching them interact, cluck, crow, scratch at the ground, scoot someone out of her territory, sit on her nest, reaching my hand under her warm body to gather her egg, watching Grandma toss crushed corn to them, see them pick a worm out of the ground – and the list could go on and on.
In the spring Papa would mail-order baby chicks, and the mailman would bring a big box, which was long and wide, but very short, filled with little, tiny, yellow chickens. (the box had many holes about the size of a quarter, so they wouldn’t smother).
Papa and Grandma would put the box behind the wood stove, in the kitchen, feed them some mash, and put an upside down water bottle in with them.
They peeped and ate and slept, and made a mess in the box, but they were so delightful to have around. Of course, I was a little girl and didn’t have to take care of them. As they got a little bigger, they were turned outside and learned to fend for themselves.
The rooster (I hate to say this) was totally in charge.
Well, reading your letter has certainly made for a wonderful, late night memory session. Thank you, Joy

6 09 2008
Jo Roberts

Point-of-lay Pullets and remember the coming winter weather.
First, remember winter is coming on. If you have obtained discareded hens from intensive or deep-litter establishments, they will not be acclimatised for normal henhouse living, probably minus most of feathers as well! Even if you had say six off, huddling together in a henhouse corner would not be a desirable temperature for them to lay or enjoy life. Also they will probably be off-lay or near that, not an encouragement to young children to look after them.
Latter comment would also apply to some rescued hens who may well be of advanced years.
Second: chicken is the fashional name for anything older than the fluffy-chick stage, even if its dying on its feet.
Third, seriously CONSIDER P.O.L. (point of lay pullets) from a reputable, preferably local dealer. And vaccinated. The egg-laying (as opposed for meat production) hybrids, should be laying in six weeks or very much less. How cheeky they are, and how keen to come out of the enclosed part of henhouse, will depend on the situations they were reared in until the POL stage.
When you have gained some experience with these, you can later think of breeding your own, or paying for day-old chicks (prices variable as to wheter you buy only female or take potchance on sex as chicks picked up by seller, and vaccinated.
Once you have the birds installed, introducing a strange bird to them may result in it being badly bullied and pecked by existing birds. Only do if you introduce new ones in dark, and there to see them OK the next mornkng when let out of sleeping compartent.
Happy egg collecting, Jo.

8 09 2008
Laura

As a veterinary nurse, the best advice I can give you is – before purchasing your chickens obtain as much info as possible whether it be from the vets, internet, textbooks, other chicken owners (nutrition, possible diseases, husbandry etc.etc.) and also to take into account vet’s bills should anything go wrong. I regularly see owners who have bought animals they have little knowledge of and then are totally taken aback when they see the amount of care required to put things right.
As for the children, I am a great believer in getting kids involved in animal care, it will give them a sense of responsibility, a hobby, and teach them the whole life (and sadly, death) process which will give them more maturity to equip them for the future.
I know a few chicken owners that are happy with their lot – if you have the time and space (as with any animal you get), and can deal with both the ups and downs, then why not?

19 10 2008
Penny Puhak

Hello. I am very new to this website so pardon any errors. I am interested in getting some chickens for eggs. I live in Kodiak, Alaska, USA. Our weather is quite a challenge here. Winters are cold and wet with a lot of ice. Summers can be very cool. Warm sunny weather is not something we have much of here. Would it be possible to have chickens here, without a processed food? I have a garden and am recycling and composting with great success. I would love to have fresh eggs, but don’t want to have chickens if I can’t feed them naturally.
Any suggestions? Thank you.

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