New Kids In The Flock

Whether you are after new garden friends, or look­ing to be­come self-suf­fi­cient in eggs, hens can pro­vide en­joy­ment for very lit­tle cost. Stephanie Bate­man delves into the world of hen keep­ing and dis­cov­ers the best way to start

Your Chickens - - Contents -

What you need to know when you start own­ing chick­ens, by Stephanie Bate­man

Chick­ens are among the eas­i­est and cheapest pets to keep, giv­ing many years of plea­sure to their own­ers, so it is no won­der that so many of us are keen to keep them. But un­der­stand­ing their re­quire­ments and know­ing how to prop­erly care for them is im­por­tant if the chick­en­keep­ing dream is to be­come a re­al­ity.

“Chick­ens are jun­gle birds, and are ac­tive, busy an­i­mals who re­tain many of their prim­i­tive in­stincts, such as for­ag­ing, dust bathing and roam­ing,” says Philip LeeWoolf from Leg­bars of Broad­way. “If a chicken is given the right en­vi­ron­ment, and en­cour­aged to keep fit men­tally and phys­i­cally, with lots of ex­er­cise, fresh air and plenty to oc­cupy her day, she is more likely to re­main healthy and pro­duce bet­ter qual­ity eggs.”

Be­fore head­ing to your near­est chicken sup­plier, there are a few things to con­tem­plate. Firstly, con­sider the amount of out­side space that you can of­fer, bear­ing in mind that com­mer­cial or­ganic hens re­quire 10m² per bird.

“It’s bet­ter to match the num­ber of birds to the avail­able out­side space, rather than over stock­ing, re­sult­ing in a bare patch of hen-sick ground and un­healthy birds,” ad­vises Philip. “Hens should only be con­fined to a small run for short pe­ri­ods of time. They soon be­come bored and with­out enough ex­er­cise they’ll be­come over­weight and un­fit with var­i­ous as­so­ci­ated health prob­lems.”

WHICH BREED?

There are dozens of breeds, cross breeds and hy­brids on the mar­ket, so here are a few ques­tions to con­sider be­fore choos­ing:

Are you look­ing for…

Very pro­duc­tive, easy to keep G hens for large num­bers of eggs?

A par­tic­u­lar shell colour — G dark browns, pas­tel shades of eau de nil, or blue, or white? Placid birds who make G child-friendly fam­ily pets?

Chick­ens are among the eas­i­est and cheapest ‘pets’ to keep — and hav­ing fresh eggs ev­ery day is a treat for all hen keep­ers

Birds are more likely to gel if they are all the same breed

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