Our vet says...
Poultry vet Victoria Roberts BVSc MRCVS answers a reader’s question Getting on with the neighbours
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?
Victoria says: There are several things you need to address to maintain cordial relations with your neighbours!
Positive points you can make to them:
You will not be having a cockerel, and laying hens announce when they lay an egg, but otherwise are quietly conversational.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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!