I didn’t mention it before as I didn’t know if it would actually happen but for Christmas Gavin promised me chickens. They’re due beginning of March and my dreams have finally been met! Over the last couple of weeks I have been purchasing all the bits we will need and generally getting the area ready for their arrival. My grandma always had chickens and always had a lot of them so I’m hoping they will bring me as much pleasure as they gave her. I have been doing lots of research and spoken to other who have chickens and it certainly sounds like you need the set up done properly to be successful with chickens and i will need to be proactive to avoid the issues and problems that can occur with chickens. Here are some steps that I’ve been doing to get ready for their arrival:
1.Decide How Many. Speaking to others and getting their experiences chickens usually lay an egg a day but this goes down each year for about three years, when they will stop altogether. So we worked out what was a feasible number of eggs per week that we could use and have come to the decision we need four – five chickens in total. We’ve also decided we don’t need a cockerel- one because we don’t want babies and two because they have little man syndrome!
2. Chickens need two main things: a coop and a safe space to roam during the day. The main predators of chickens during the day in our area would be dogs, foxes, and birds of prey. Fencing helps protect against dogs. Electric fencing can ward off foxes and to avoid birds of prey providing shrubbery where the chickens can retreat is a good idea.
3. There are two main hen hut options: a permanent coop or a moveable chicken tractor. A traditional coop should be positioned in a spot out of direct sun and must be predator-proof. Coops will need roosts for the chickens to sleep on and we will also need to provide nest boxes for laying eggs. We’ve found a small wooden hut with six nest boxes and a removable bottom for easy cleaning. The only thing we are going to do extra is to raise it off the ground and give the chickens a ramp to walk down.
4. Location of the coop – not too far from the house. Also, consider how far the coop is located from a water source, electric source, and from your compost pile.
5. Decide on the breeds. We took into consideration why we want chickens, as a first pet for the children and to produce eggs. I’ve read into the different breeds and tried to find the best characters for young children to be around.
6.Prepping the garden. Chickens are great contributors to the vegetable garden – they eat bugs and provide manure. They can dig and scratch up flower beds and lawns so we need to be prepared to give them areas for digging (it is a natural and effective way to prevent parasites). We are going to have a fenced off area in the garden.
7. Consider your finances. The set up is the most expensive part of raising chickens. Building the coop and putting up fencing is costly. But also the regular cost of feed as well as the costs of bedding, possible medications, etc.
8. Time. You will need to let your chickens out in the morning and make sure they are locked up at dusk. Feeding, freshening the water, collecting the eggs, and cleaning up nest boxes and bedding when needed also take time up. If we go on holiday, we will need to ask someone to take on the chicken chores as-well.
9. Supplies. Besides feed, laying chickens should be given access to a calcium/mineral supplement. All birds need access to grit in order to properly digest grains, our chickens will be this naturally from the ground. Feeders and waterers ate needed for distributing the feed and water in clean and sanitary ways.
10. It’s very varied opinions on the subject of treats for chickens. Some say treats can be useful as you get to know your chickens and establish a relationship. Using treats, like meal worms can aid to train chickens to come when called or go in the coop at night time, which make life simpler.
11. Deciding if we want to start with chicks or older chickens. It is important with either option to start the flock off on the right track. We’re getting point of lay chickens which are usually 16 weeks old or more. Each chicken has their own character and in general have strong personalities so I can’t wait to see how they interact with me, the other animals on the farm and the children. To establish a clear ‘home base’ I’ve been advised not to allow the chickens to be free range for at least three weeks. So that means we will need to fence off an area to keep them cooped up during that time.
I can’t wait to show them off and to share this new journey with you!