Our vet says...

Poul­try vet Vic­to­ria Roberts BVSc MRCVS an­swers a reader’s ques­tion Get­ting on with the neigh­bours

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Q

My neigh­bours seemed a bit cau­tious when told I wanted to keep chick­ens. My deeds do not have any preven­tion clause to keep hens. Is there any other le­gal loop­hole to con­sider if the neigh­bours ob­ject?

A

Vic­to­ria says: There are sev­eral things you need to address to main­tain cor­dial re­la­tions with your neigh­bours!

Pos­i­tive points you can make to them:

NO NOISE

You will not be hav­ing a cock­erel, and lay­ing hens an­nounce when they lay an egg, but oth­er­wise are qui­etly con­ver­sa­tional.

NO IN­TRU­SION

The hens will be con­tained within the run (no es­capes to neigh­bour­ing gar­dens – hens are no re­specter of keen gar­den­ers). I hope you will be mov­ing the house and run around a grass area ev­ery few days to keep in­sect pests down. If you are en­vis­ag­ing a static house and run, mesh needs to be placed over the grass be­fore the hens ar­rive to pre­vent grass root de­struc­tion (and avoid a nasty muddy area). Rub­ber chips are a good sub­strate in the run if it is to re­main static as th­ese can be hosed down.

BIRDS VAC­CI­NATED

If you ob­tain hy­brids (best for egg pro­duc­tion), th­ese will have been vac­ci­nated against sal­monella, plus some chicken viruses.

RE­DUCE GAR­DEN PESTS

Hens are ma­jor in­sect and in­ver­te­brate eaters, so will re­duce gar­den in­sect pests.

DON’T AT­TRACT VER­MIN

Any food at­tracts rats (and other ver­min such as mice, plus wild birds), thus if you be­gin with a rat-proof feeder (e.g. trea­dle feeder) this will limit/de­lay the ver­min in­cur­sion, plus there are now reg­u­la­tions due to avian in­fluenza of keep­ing poul­try feed and wa­ter away from wild birds.

NO SMELL

Kitchen scraps are not al­lowed to be fed to hens due to risk of dis­ease trans­fer. Bet­ter to put kitchen waste in the com­post heap and mix with the ma­nure/lit­ter, so there is no smell from ei­ther old food or drop­pings.

REG­U­LAR CLEAN­ING

Poul­try ma­nure will be cleaned out reg­u­larly and, if lit­ter such as Ea­sibed is used in the hut and nest­box, eggs are kept clean, any smell is min­i­mal and flies are not a prob­lem.

FRESH MA­NURE

Fresh ma­nure will burn plants, but once com­posted, it is a mar­vel­lous grow­ing medium, es­pe­cially for veg­eta­bles. Vegetable mat­ter can be hung up for lay­ing hens as long as it comes di­rectly to them and not via a kitchen.

FRESH EGGS

Fresh eggs are a to­tally dif­fer­ent pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence from shop-bought ones, so a scheme could be set up for barter of eggs with neigh­bours for some­thing you need from them.

PAR­A­SITE CON­TROL

Chicken par­a­sites (which don’t live on hu­mans) can be pre­vented by us­ing di­atoma­ceous earth (Di­atom from Bi­olink) in the nest­box and lit­ter all year round. Your chick­ens will be wormed with Fluben­vet (a li­censed wormer) on a reg­u­lar ba­sis (two to three times an­nu­ally), keep­ing their in­ter­nal par­a­sites down and im­prov­ing the hens’ health and wel­fare.

GOOD FOR KIDS

A great ex­pe­ri­ence for chil­dren is help­ing with hens. Wash hands af­ter­wards, of course.

IT MIGHT CATCH ON!

What you also need to re­alise is that hens are ad­dic­tive, both from an egg-pro­duc­ing point of view and watch­ing and learn­ing their be­hav­iour. You may even find that your neigh­bours want hens of their own!

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