This Article is About
keeping chickens
small scale farming
fresh eggs
egg production
chicken coop
hens
Keeping Chickens
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KEEPING CHICKENS Keeping and managing a few chickens is probably one of the most common, most popular, and easiest forms of small – scale farming that can be practised by the hobbyist. It is also one of the most satisfying, producing an almost instant return in the form of fresh newly laid eggs, and if housed in a small mobile chicken coop, they will also do an excellent job of clearing and fertilising the land they are kept on. Keeping chickens in very small numbers can easily be accomplished by relatively young children, and they usually find the responsibility, (and the egg collecting) hugely rewarding!

A small flock of three or four hens will provide an adequate supply of fresh eggs for the average family, although they will probably stop laying during the darkest winter months, unless artificial light is provided to extend the daylight hours. A modern hybrid hen can lay over 300 eggs per year, but other, more traditional breeds may only achieve half that number. The first two years of an adult hen’s life will be the most prolific for egg laying.

The traditional breeds are more colourful, and are perhaps have more interesting characters. If buying hybrid hens, be aware that some breeding strains have been developed for indoor systems, and other types are more suited to outdoor conditions. The outdoor types include Hisex Ranger, Black Rock, Lohman Brown and Bovans Nera. The pick of the traditional breeds for egg production are probably Light Sussex, Wyandotte, Leghorn and Rhode Island Red. Some of the available types and breeds will be discussed in a further article. It is probably best to buy ‘point of lay’ pullets, (young adult hens just approaching their egg – laying cycle). Purchasing birds at point of lay means they have time to settle into their new surroundings before entering full egg production. When collecting your birds for the first time, they will of course need transporting safely. If you are only keeping a few back garden or allotment hens, the type of plastic container commonly used to take cats to the vet is perfectly suitable. Do not overcrowd the carrier of course, and covering to the carrier with cloth will help minimize stress. Even a sturdy cardboard box (with firmly fixed lid) will suffice, although you will need to punch some ventilation holes in the sides before the chickens are put in the box. In all cases it is wise to line the bottom of the container with old newspaper soak up urine and faeces.

In order to keep chickens successfully they of course need dry, safe housing....(to be the subject of a further dedicated article), and an efficient feeding regime.

As a very rough rule of thumb laying hens should be fed about a handful of mixed corn and layers mash or pellets, twice per day per bird. (Another rough guide is to feed about as much as they will clear up in about 10 minutes.) Proprietary feeds are readily available from commercial suppliers, either by door to door delivery service, mail order, or over the counter, and in all cases specialised feeding advice is available from the manufacturer or the supplier. It is OK to feed raw greens from the garden in addition, but ensure no food is left lying around for any length of time. Do not feed any cooked food. Hens must have a plentiful supply of fresh water at all times, (make sure it hasn’t frozen in wintery conditions,) and all feed and water containers need cleaning a regular intervals.

It is better for the novice at keeping poultry to start on small scale initially, gaining confidence and experience, before expanding further, but small scale chicken keeping can be a very rewarding experience.


Street Talk

Thanks for the tips. I've been thinking of keeping chicken for some time now.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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