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
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.”
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