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I started keeping chickens in June 2012, after a speaker at the local horticultural society talked of his experience and encouraged everyone to keep at least a couple of hens in their garden. I had 3 to start with, though as many chicken keepers will tell you, you soon become besotted with these endearing creatures and inevitably end up increasing your flock!
I like the fact I know my hens are happy and healthy and they provide us with many eggs. It is also a fantastic experience for my children.... from holding and feeding them to watching the change from egg to chick to maturity. They are not so keen on the cleaning out though!
I have 8 hens; 3 Light Sussex cross bantams (Elsie, Chatty, Harry), 2 Araucanas (Wendy and Henry), 2 RIR bantams (Sadie and Britt), 1 Star hybrid (Starla) All girls despite the 'boys' names! Elsie is top hen, a Light Sussex/Silkie cross. She is broody as regular as clockwork - 3 weeks on, 3 weeks off. She is a wonderfully feisty character in her 'bloomers' and has taught me so many things about keeping chickens. Wing clipping, breaking the egg-eating habit, incubating eggs under a broody and raising a chick. You soon get to recognise who's who, not just by their look but also by the different sounds each make and their personalities.
As I said, Elsie is a feisty girl and we have had occasional battle of wills! I'm sure she thinks she is also superior to me as she often ignores what I want her to do and does it her way - which usually turns out to be the right way! When I tried to keep her and the one chick (the other 11 eggs failed) safe by enclosing her in a run within the run, she kept finding ways to get them both out and I would find them at large in the garden! I gave up and took down the enclosure and everything was fine!
The newest girl to the flock, Starla, came to us by default! A neighbour came to the door to tell me one of my chickens was out in the road! I ran out to find it wasn't one of mine, but no way could I leave her to the mercy of the traffic, dogs or anything else! After an hour or trying to catch her and eventually enlisting the help of the local pet shop owner/chicken enthusiast, we managed to corner her and he took her back to his shop while the owner was traced. She laid a couple of beautiful large white eggs but then had a prolapse. We decided to let her rest for a week or so and though I put up many posters etc no-one came forward to claim her. I eventually brought her home and she settled in quickly with my girls. After a week she was laying again, and several egg laying weeks later, she hasn't prolapsed, though I will continue to monitor her.
Cons: Absolutely no cons - well apart from having to get up early in the morning to let them out and the sad duty of dealing with the demise of your hen.
Pros: Too many to mention! Mainly for me is the entertainment! Hen-watching is such a great pastime. A fantastic education for my children. Plus, of course, delicious eggs!
Advice: Try to visit someone who is already a hen keeper, to see their set up and get advice from. Also, do plenty of research into the most suitable coop for you - bear in mind you may soon get bitten by the chicken bug and get more! - and before your hens arrive, make sure you are as fox/predator proof as possible. Research chickens! Try to find the best for your requirements - I have a friend whose hens quickly grew too large for his set up as he hadn't realised how big they would get! Also, one of my first girls is constantly broody which wasn't something I checked when I was looking for hens. And try to get your chickens from a good source - my first 3 came with a dubious age and 2 with scaly leg mite. However, they were soon fine after treatment and still with me after nearly 3 years. Ideally, a first timer shouldn't have to face problems from the outset.
Linda, 62, Las Vegas
I feel blessed to reintroduce chickens to my life. How little did I remember the time when my mother had a few hens, leghorns when I was a kid.
Now 62 years old, relocated and kids grown, it was time. After helping my son, Stephen start his flock, I went home in 2012 to visit. Totally fell in love with his birds, and once returning home found a breeder of Seramas. Since the bird was going to be an indoor pet, the Serama being the worlds smallest chicken was my best choice.
After seeing all of the birds I fell in love with a beautiful little rooster, Kasey Kahne he was named after my grandsons favorite Nascar driver. What a sweetie...but feeling he should have a companion I returned a couple of weeks later to purchase a hen, Danica Patrick. Yes, another Nascar driver.
To make a long story shorter many birds have came either by hatching eggs....oh yes had to have an incubator and since we didn't use the second bedroom it was converted into the bird room. In 2013 I was given Angelina a tiny tiny little Serama hen who was almost featherless due to her molt and it is now November. Living in Las Vegas NV the nights get chilly and she was outside. So home with me she came and we were inseparable. She went shopping and loved riding in the car. I adored her. She was special. I have many birds I love but none as much as Angie. I rocked her to sleep and spend endless time with her. On Sunday February 22 she was gone. She had past away overnight. I was devastated, lost and cried for days. But God works in mysterious ways...
One of my other hens, Snuggles who is full sized saw my sorrow and has become my constant companion. She comes to my bedroom early in the morning to lay beside me, and fall asleep in my arms. She is always talking to me, I just wish I knew what she was saying...but I have a pretty good idea. She is saying, I am here for you, I love you and will watch over you. I am so blessed for the chickens in my life.
Mr and Mrs Ritson
I had a 40 foot fox-proof run which used to be for rescue and rehab of wild owls. When it was no longer needed (the bird intake moved to other premises) I decided to start with chookies. Ive had burford browns, speckledies, goldline and white star and cannot imagine life chookless. I mean, what other pet makes you breakfast ? My hen is a mouser too! Has anyone else got one that catches and eats mice ? It was initially for a few eggs but they are such entertainers, I now consider the eggs as an added bonus.
Mine are in a 40 foot fox-proofrun with a semi covered and wire roof. Inside the run they have a range of perches of varying heights and positions, and an eglu go up which some hate, some love, some just go in to lay. They are free ranging when I'm home
I only keep a couple at a time and their names are usually old fashioned like Betsy, Lucy, Matilda. However, my current goldline favourite is Bouddica and she suits it well... Boudicca is a mouser! I was stunned to see her race across the garden and next I knew, there was a little mouse wriggling in her beak. She ripped it to shreds and ate it before I got to her. She wasn't hungry, she isn't short on protein .. stunning !
Pros: Eggs! Entertainment. Cuddles
Cons: There are non as far as i'm concerned!
Advice: Get hens! Get Happy!
Alex Batey, 13
I breed and show hens - I just fancied taking it up as a hobby at first but then it grew from there. Some parts of it are competitive but it is mostly friendly. My first show was just a small village one but it was a good experience.
The first chicks I hatched and reared were belgium's bantams - they were good mothers. Call ducks are especially hard to breed.
I'm involved in breeding and showing just for the sport of it. My family always had hens but I was the first one to show. Although my great-grandfather showed so i suppose it's in my blood and just came naturally. I just got it in my head one day and now I'm addicted.
The first one I hatched and reared was a cross-bred that won nothing! It was a silke cross. But you're going back a long way trying to remember that.... I've been keeping my own since I was 10 and i'm 23 now.
My first show was in the May when I was about 17. It was nerve wracking but I won every class I was in. I don't like being beaten so it became an obsession. You just have to have the best. Winning reserve champion was probably my highlight so far.
I'm the partner of someone who keeps chickens. He kept chicks as a child and asked if we could have some on the farm. It was 'No, no... well okay', and now I'm a chicken widow. The chickens have taken over.
We were given an egg at the westmorland county show and put it under a broody hen. A very small, black bantam cockerel was the result and we took it to all of the local shows. It was the first one we hatched and reared ourselves.
I had to go to the Scottish National Show last weekend with the Modern Game as my partner was on milking duty. We won first price, best opposite sex.
I'm quite new at the game and only really stand in when needed.
I got into chicken keeping because i'm interested in rare breeds and collecting different breeds to sell in the future. I keep them to sell and for enjoyment, however I can see many backyard chicken keepers would buy them to be self sufficient or just for pets!
I have a couple of acres full of different types of chickens. They all have their own pens so they are seperate. I have blue laced wyandottes, silkies, polands, rhode island reds, gold laced wyandottes and a few more. There are too many to count! But they're all very friendly and inquisitive.
Pros: Beautiful, friendly creatures. Eggs and hatching eggs
Cons: They tend to wander off!
If I were to give advice I would suggest people recognise that they do need looking after, ie, locking in at night. And research breeds, for example silkes don't fly, vorwerks can fly 2 meteres! And Ixworths lay lots of eggs.
I'm involved in hen keeping as I'm the chairman of Eden Valley poultry club. I've been in this job about 6 years, it's the best hobby I've ever had, I'm really enjoying it. There are loads of people that want to help you. Sometimes you can get a bit set in your ways and complacent but then someone new and enthusiastic comes along, does a lot of research and is more committed... it proves successful!
It's just a hobby for me. I was a shepherd all my life... until foot and mouth. And then I needed a hobby. A friend of mine said I needed hens... I said I didn't! But then with the help of other people I've just got in.
I like something that's flashy or showy like I would in cattle or sheep. I have old English game birds. They're not very commercial... they don't lay many eggs, but I'm drawn to the style rather than the functionality. If you're walking down the aisle and a bird stands out it just makes your head turn. And then you go from there. If something catches your eye...
Judging poultry is all experience. There's a book of standards for size, colour, head colour, leg colour... that sort of thing - it can get quite technical when it comes down to it. If they don't fit within that standard they're not even worth showing in the first place. But you listen to experienced people and learn. And it's a good day out.
I got my first bantems when I was 3, I'm 81 now. Over the years I've probably kept about 50 different varieties of breeds. I've been a poultry club panel judge for 46 years. My daughter used to show but now she's married with a family so doesn't have time, other than that it's just been me in the family. It's been a lifelong hobby.
My father and grandfather both kept poultry and waterfowl. My father bought me by first trio of banties when I was 3, so then I went on to other breeds and it just grew from there. There was a period where I couldn't keep them because we lived in a property without sufficient land and then when we moved house and hand land again, it started up again. It's just been a lifelong hobby.
I was secretary of the poultry club in kent and chairman of another. We used to get about 800 entries in the annual show, and we used to hold social get togethers and smaller shows. Other than that I've judged throughout the country... England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales... and I've thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Now I'm having to cut down because I had a serious illness so I'm having to ration my judging now. But in the summer you could be out every weekend at different shows because they come fast and furious at that time. All being well I'm due to judge at the Scottish National next year. But age has crept on so you have to be careful! I like the pleasure of being able to examine other peoples birds and compare them... and compare them to your own. I don't know what it is, judging just brings general enjoyment.
I'd say experience makes a good, winning hen. If you've kept a breed, you're better at judging that breed because there isn't a living person that could tell you every detail of every breed. You've got a wide view of the breeds but you have thorough view is something else. At the shows we have specialists for different breeds. In my case its sebright bantams that I've had for about 40 odd years; I've judged and showed those at championship level at the national shows.
My cousin had a henhouse that he had built at school and advertised in the local paper to sell it. He sold it and we just thought that we wouldn't actually mind getting into hens. So we went to a local auction, started with wellsummers first and he bought some cream legbars and then after that we sort of got the bug and went to different sales and making henhouses and stuff like that. It was after we used to go clubbing... when we stopped we needed something to do!
So we looked at all the different breeds and what they should be like in Poultry Standard and 5 years later we have 28 different breeds, one for every letter in the alphabet. And bantems, geese, turkeys, allsorts. Then we did a little bit of showing and it was just a hobby that got carried away! The people you met through it were interesting because they're different to the sorts of people you'd meet before.
The shows are just a bit of fun. Everyone has got a chance. Whatever background you come from, everyone has got a chance at winning a rosette. If you do start winning and collecting prizes it just gets quite addictive. It's just about doing the best you can. It's just not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
For me it's just following in my fathers footsteps. My father was a keen exhibitor and breeder and I followed on from him. I realized it was an interest you could work on and it started from there. I started taking him round the shows when he was too old to drive, because you don't retire. You get into the team of people that you meet and its social as well as the exhibition side.
The showing world is hard to describe. But you meet people and get to places just with a box of hens that you would never have gone to. You drive through or past somewhere and know nothing about it... but if there's a show on you put some birds in a box and go. The people that are here today aren't from around here. It's a social thing - you compare notes and exchange birds. It works.
The skill is to not keep very many but breed good ones. Every year you think I'll do it better next year - I'll improve and improve. That's what keeps you going. You keep trying, you have your favourites... but then you move on to a new one. Always trying to improve your standard along the way. Some people keep a specialized breed, some have a few. Every one is different. My focus is the game birds.
Jacob, Luke & Harvey
We got into hen keeping because they looked good and it's a good hobby - it's nice to look at them and that. We thought we'd have a go at showing them... we thought it'd be good to take part, that's the main thing. Today we're showing old English game bantams. The judges are looking for a bird that's shaped like a heart, and I think that's about it
We've been doing it for a couple of years - my dad used to always keep them. They just make you happy. It makes you proud of keeping them. We aim to get some of the best, and have some of the best in the game and win everything.
I've been keeping them about 14 years - I was an estate agent and an auctioneer and when I retired I was looking for something to do, so I decided to show poultry. We have a few friends that show, so we tried it out with a couple of breeds before we settled on the one that we fancied showing - those were large white wyandottes'. We got first and champion at Skipton Christmas show with them. We used to keep a lot of bantams too.
A lot of people say the white take a lot of looking after... I mean they do, but the big white wyandottes are so gentle. You can wash them... they're no bother, no bother at all. Silverlaced, for showing, you've got to have that lacing spot on. The under-colour as well, and the feathers... I mean different judges want different things, different fancies, so...
My son is showing old english game today, but really it's a bad time of year. 99% of our birds are in the breeding pens and we've set off our first set of eggs in the incubator. You can't set them off showing and also have them for breeding, it's one of the other.
Charlie Simpson, Carlisle
It's a hobby, I have 27. I haven't all of my life... I don't know how it began really, I just started keeping them. I thought we may as well have our own free range eggs - we have plenty customers for them. I have 2 different breeds - barnevelders and welsummers. I don't name them, there are far too many for that.
They're not that hard to look after. Just food and clean water every day and then you have them to clean out once a week and all that. It's something to do when you've retired. So you go out in the morning and feed and water them, and then I maybe go down later in the afternoon and then when it gets dark I go down and shut them in... cos Mr Fox comes along. So i've got to fasten them in of a night.
I come to the shows just as a matter of interest. I like to come and see what's in the boxes, what's being shown. I wouldn't show myself though - I shouldn't say I haven't time, because I have time... but no, I've never fancied showing myself. It's a lot of commitment.
Rachael Harris, London
On honeymoon in South Africa there were some feather footed chickens (?cochins) in one of the places we were staying. They were so much fun and came to visit us every morning! When we got home I said to my husband that I wanted to keep chickens but my husband didn't agree. It took me about 18 months before he agreed and now we both love them. It hasn't all been straight forward but it is a huge learning curve which is just ongoing! We have now had chickens for about 2 years
I would like to keep more animals and become more self sufficient but our hectic London life style doesn't let us (we both work full time). I was always nervous about supermarket eggs, not knowing how the hens are treated :-( Plus, how great is collecting fresh eggs everyday?! We also find that it is very relaxing watching the flock free range in summer... But we also go through very stressful points when things go wrong... Foxes, illness, pecking order etc
We started with one second hand Eglu with 3 hybrids, last summer we expanded to a cube with 6 bantams, about 4 months later we rescued a bantam rooster. We then got 2 Polands, they were not happy in the cube so we had an emergency purchase of a second eglu.
3 hybrids have died in 2 years, 2 from fox attacks and one from a mystery illness. The 1 orginal hybrid is alive, she is top of the pecking order, she pecks the lowest chicken and that one always has a bare bottom! Names are Mrs Pilkington (named after my great Grandma, 2 that died were Dorothy and Clara after my grandparents) The rescue rooster is a Pekin bantam called Rocky (previously named!)
The 6 bantams are the 3M's (after were my husband's dad worked!) Margo Maude and Mathilda. And the other 3 were named after Owd Lancashire sayings, Purrt'n Kettle On (Kettle) Is It Heckes Like (Issy) and Ecky Thump (Thumper). Our Polands are Onyx and Amber (they are our most recent addition in September
Characters... Too many to mention... The pecking order is rife... They all chase the ones below... When we add new ones my husband calls it carnage! The Polands are the sweetest the sweetest things.
We have one bantam who is the lowest in the pecking order and she has started spending some time inside with us!
It's relaxing but not so great in winter when it's dark and the are asleep when we go to home and asleep when we come home...! I worry that I won't know if one is sick. In the summer I love it... Just pottering in the garden with them... Seeing their personalities
Hopefully going to have chicks this spring which will be another huge learning curve!
If I were to give advice i'd say research research research, join poultry groups and ask lots of questions and get lots of support!
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?
Everything changed for the better when we rescued our rooster! The whole dynamics of the group changed and I love the way he cares for his girls and they think he is a chicken God and act like groupies around him! I love watching him getting horny and getting some (is that too much information!?)
Last July, I had read about hatching and thought that sounded fun to do with my son who loves science so we built an incubator and hatched a few ducks and chickens over his birthday. We like animals and fresh produce so it seemed like a nice ecological project. We raised them until a fox got them at Xmas, now we are awaiting the hatching of our new flock.
It would be lovely, but unrealistic for us to be self sufficient, but it is practical and economic for us to keep chickens, ducks and grow vegetables. It is good for the children to recognise that cockerels are butchered for every hen (in our case fed to the dog) and to recognise a little more about how the food they eat came about, not to mention interesting to see the eggs development.
Set up consists of an outside hen coup for ten birds in an 3.5mx3.5m enclosed pen. In the summer they are often let out to free range while supervised.
Currently there is only the three survivors, two road island reds and a partridge silkie, there was prior to xmas also a light Sussex, a hybrid large fowl like a bluebell, a white silkie, a cuckoo maran and a ginger hybrid hen. Ducks there were two runners and an Aylesbury drake. One of the runners was very imprinted so she would sit on laps and have cuddles, all would eat from your hand and come running and shouting if you came near them. The kids used to catch big garden spiders in fishing nets and the chickens would go nuts squabbling over them. Names Bean the imprinted runner duck (runner bean, cocobean as she was chocolate and jumping bean as she was a very very bouncy duckling), jasmine the drake, scamp the other runner, flutter the bluebell type, buttercup the light Sussex rooster, maria the ginger hen.
Pros: fresh eggs, company, fun, no slugs or snails, educational, quicker composting, nice being out with them.
Cons: mess of chicken duck poo everywhere, dig up the lawn, responsibility of early morning let out, hard work mucking out!
Jan L'Argent, UK
When I retired I realised I could do something that my mother did in keeping hens. We always had chickens but the one I remember is the pet chicken that I called Penny and used to come to the back door for treats. It isn't just that they give us beautiful eggs but that they are great little characters, funny and so endearing in their ways. I've had hens for 2 years now, they are my pets, they all have names and I love them very much some even like a cuddle! I've lost a couple and it broke my heart but you never stop learning but one of the most important things is that I have made friends because of the hens.
I wanted to have really fresh eggs and on the side of economy I rarely have to buy eggs. My hens are well cared for and not in cages, they are kept clean and have room to fly, which they're usually too lazy to bother with. I can't bear the thought of hens kept in cages where they have no room to move, where they are pecked by their too close neighbours and are considered 'past it' by the age of 2 and sent for meat unless they are lucky enough to be rescued.
I have 2 runs, 7 share a 2 x 4 metre run, they have a converted garden shed for a coop because I find purpose built runs too difficult to clean (I have arthritis in my spine). It is well sealed against draughts, has nest boxes and a perch. Their kiln dried sand on the floor to which I occasionally add diatomaceous earth - they use it for dust bathing but it also really easy to keep clean. They have hemp bedding because it is so absorbent and easy to clean out as well. Their run has hard wood chip on the floor and is changed every 3 months or so and when someone is home we let them have the run of the garden, which upsets my other half as they decimate his veg beds! The other run has 3 girls but is similarly set up but smaller and they have an ark not a shed, I take the roof off to clean it out.
There are 10 in number, 2 Speckledy's, 1 Bluebelle the rest are hybrid crosses of Copper Black Maran, Cream Legbar and Skyline. They are all named after British Queens and Queen Consorts because one of my first hens was a lovely coppery red/brown with creamy feather mixed in around the neck which I thought looked like an Elizabethan ruff so she was called Elizabeth. Sadly she died from mycoplasmosis. I now have Eleanor, Caroline, Matilda (who strictly speaking called herself Empress), Margaret, known as Meggie, Guinevere, Isabelle, Anne, Katherine, Jane and Boudicca, clled Boo for short. Annie likes to cuddle as does Matilda. The 2 Speckledy's are just gannets and very noisy especially when it comes to telling the whole village that an egg has been laid! All the little cross breeds are less biddable and prefer not to be handled but once they have been picked up they tolerate it except for Meggie whole give you a nasty bruise with her beak! Oddly she is bottom of the pecking order but is not bullied. Katherine is also bottom of the pecking order in her run.
Pros are fresh eggs, friends (both hens and people) and always having a talking point.
Cons are it's expensive to get your set up, keeping it clean is less so but is time consuming, feed is relatively cheap but good quality food is worth it. If you live in an urban area getting a good poultry vet is difficult. Losing a hen is very hard, it's as bad as your dog/cat dying. Going on holiday is difficult unless there is someone you trust to care as much as you do.
You may have to deal with the horrific result of fox invasion or even buzzard and sparrowhawk. You have to be prepared to deal with mice/rats if they crop up.
Advice? It is not cheap or easy so think hard before you jump in. Do a backyard chicken course. Research breeds, some lay better, some are noisy others less so. some may be more prone to disease. Consider taking ex-batts they will lay for several more years, are well domesticated and will give the pleasure of knowing that you gave them freedom from cages and a longer life.
There are so many little things but I'll never forget the day I met Matilda walking down the road when returning with the dog from a walk. Thankfully, we live in a village and a cul-de-sac but we do get traffic. I was horrified that I could have lost her but it was hilarious watching my blue/grey hen happily strolling along and picking up tidbits from the neighbours hedges! She'd flown over 2 garden gates to get out so I've never let them free range unattended again!
I've always wanted to live in the country with chickens and when we moved to the country we bought some from a breeder, and like most things in our life we did some basic research and winged the rest. They do what they want and teach everyone else, child, dogs, cats, ducks. They are in charge of this household. I love them silly and of course my top dog (or hen) is like a little puppy who follows me everywhere. Tracey likes cuddles and falls asleep in my arms.
They're fantastic for fresh eggs, my girls lay all year round and their house waste I use for fertiliser.
We have four girls:
Tracey. Copper Moran, she's top dog and my favourite, very cheeky, always wants to see me and come into the house bringing Courtney with her. We have regular intellectual conversations about life and things. Crazy out of control free ranging serial stealers of hearts and givers of laughs!
Courtney. Copper Moran who's very tame, quiet, doesn't cause any dramas.
Babs. Purple Haze, she's a lot like Courtney, just bocks around minding her own business.
Carmen. A Black crow looking thing who comes out daily for food then straight back to bed to pretend she's hatching chicks! She's the moody broody pecker!
They make me happy. Every morning when I open the door they come running up the garden to see me! Chickens running is hillarious! Relax, they're easy to keep and easy to train.
Elisabeth Jackson, UK
I've always loved the idea of a small flock of chickens pecking around the back garden, but it wasn't until last year at the age of 26 I got my wish. We moved to a farm last summer, with a huge enclosed back garden just sitting there, and the first thing I thought was every farm needs some chickens! However the neighbour had a cock and 2 hens, and they used to sunbathe with me in my garden, so I decided to wait as i didn't want to ruffle any feathers (literally!) Sadly one day at the end of summer I was told that a fox had killed the 2 hens, and the cock had ran down to defend them and also been killed. I missed them terribly, especially the cock who I nicknamed "the captain" he was a regal old thing, and his death left a chicken shaped whole in my heart. We decided that a small set of backyard chickens was the way to go, and then came the important choice "point of lay pullets or day old chicks" We went for day old chicks in the end, as it was now late autumn and we decided it would be nice to raise the babies inside our house, moving them out to the coop in spring. We came home with 3 little day old Wyandotte bantam chicks, and it was the start of chicken obsession!
I had always loved the idea of eating eggs from my own hens. I've been a follower of BHWT for years, and saddened by the plight of the battery hen. Ive also long been concerned about the drugs and chemicals added to commercial livestock feeds and their safety once consumed by people. Theres something very peaceful about growing your own food, and knowing exactly what goes in and comes out of them (even down to the grizzly details). Another major ethical issue for me was the way commercial birds are slaughtered, as I don't consider the process humane. I would much rather keep my own birds and slaughter them myself in a humane and dignified way.
My main flock live in a fairly standard wooden coop run set up. The coop is raised off the ground with a standard pull out tray, perches and nest boxes, the pop hole opens to a ramp with a 3m x 1m run. This door is always open into the garden the only time the chooks are locked into their run is if we have workmen here or perhaps a visiting dog. The floor of the run is lined with woodchip, and the idea is if there ever was a local biosecurity threat to chickens they would do very well inside this secure environment, but so far it hasnt been needed. The garden is about 10x20mtrs filled with lawn, rocks, and surrounded by mature conifers and shrubs, the girls love to scratch around under these. The whole thing is chicken proof, we invested in heavy duty mesh to attach to all the fences as early on we had some issues with escapees. I cannot live without products have to be megazorb for bedding, DE powder, biodry which sprinkles both inside and outside the coop, and garvo food. Theres no denying a good food really repays for itself in the worlds tastiest yummiest eggs and the healthiest birds.
Outside in the main coop I currently have 3 ladies. We have had a lot of changes to the flock due to an issue with Mareks despite buying vaccinated stock, there seems to be a contaminant in the soil on this property, and about 50% of growers I raise get it and have to be culled. We have also had some cockerels at various times but the last one had to be culled as he turned extremely aggressive towards me and was ruining my enjoyment of my chickens. The current girls are one of my original wyandotte bantam hens that i raised from day old.. she is a buff pencil coloured bird, shaped like a little ball and her name is Bambi. She is the queen of broodiness, and keeps us laughing for hours with her mental habits. In her first egg laying year she only produced us 40 eggs as she goes broody alllll the time. She would be a great mummy, perhaps something we might consider next summer depending on flock numbers. When she is not brooding (or chasing the dogs, or harassing mailmen) she likes to beg for food by walking up and making crooning noises at you. She also shouts the loudest when she lays an egg (not very surprising its such a rare event she must be shocked by its arrival?). The other 2 girls are hybrid pullets i bought this spring. I got these 2 as POL as I was getting sick of my then pure wyandotte flock producing next to nothing from all the broodiness. These 2 have really increased the egg numbers they lay almost every day, and are no trouble whatsoever a real beginner chicken. One is Esme, she is a copper black hybrid, she is beetle black with a red chest and head. She is the shy one in the group, when she first arrived she reminded me of a jungle fowl, that tall slim upright appearance. She is my best layer. She has always laid in the nest box from day one, never throws her eggs around, and they are always the same consistent good size. She's a little bit introverted so its hard to describe her but she seems very happy and healthy. The last chicken, my other hybrid, is Cece. She rivals bambi for flock favourite. Queen Cece.. leader of the flock. She is an amber star hybrid, chosen for the amount of buff lacing on her almost white feathers, and beautiful blue eyes. She is the boldest chicken I've owned, runs into the house and would stay there if you let her. She sits on my knee and talks to you, and she will do anything for a cheesy worm or a shrimp. She is also a good layer, although it took her a while to figure out the nest box, all summer she laid in a nest she made in a bush, but as the weather got bad she learned the nest box and now lays perfectly. She is famous in my family for her "cece wopper eggs" huge elongated double yolkers.
Apart from this flock I currently have some 2 week old babies in the brooder in my living room. Time will tell whether they make it but so far there are 4 of them. One is a black bantam silkie called Cat (short for Cation). I have a gut feeling this might be a cock, but if he is nice he can stay. Then there is a female cream legbar called Skylar, she is the boldest of the bunch and I really hope to add her to the flock next year. Another female chick is called Oregon, she is a Welsummer and is a little wallflower, well a big wall flower she is going to be a large bird I think. The last is an unnamed Vorwerk. Too early to tell sex yet, I am reluctant to name until I know because if he is a boy he will turn into a roast, with the Vorwerk being a utility breed I plan to raise him on and then slaughter him myself. I already take care of all culling on the property but I want to try my hand at dressing a bird, in the hope of expanding into meat birds next year if it goes well.
Pros: Eggs :D Lovely pets, very easy to keep, no guilt as they can free range unlike say a rabbit stuck in a cage. Low maintenance and cheap to keep. Generally docile much less scary than my hamster or my horses.
Cons: Chickens are currently in a weird position on the market, are they pets or are they livestock. This seems to make a big divide when it comes to treating illness and culling. Personally I home nurse where possible but I do cull when hope is lost or otherwise necessary. I don't take them to a vet, as the bills would end up sky high and to me, while i love them very much, they are a farm animal. Ive seen a lot of issues with this culling recently, cocks being dumped because people cannot bring themselves to cull etc. The world is a sad place for a cockerel, which is why any of mine which are un-needed get a dignified death, much nicer than an uncertain future thrown on allotments or used for cock fighting. I think this issue with killing chickens is the biggest con to pet keeping.
Get chickens :) They are the BEST pets
I kept hens yes. I had a hundred ducks and geese and chickens. I was a breeder and would sell the eggs. About 6 years ago - it was a hobby, I loved it. I'd sell the eggs to pay for my food and that, you know. I had Black Minorcas, White Leghornes, Rhode Island Reds. Id let them run around by themselves, and loved collecting the eggs. They were great - I loved them.
I also kept them as a young man. I had to sell the eggs to pay for the coal - to keep warm. We'd feed them cabbage leaves and vegetable peelings.
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