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Back Garden Chicken Keeping Series – Issue 2

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Article written by 26 July 2012

It’s been a busy week here at Warwickshire Chicken Coop and it seems more and more people of all backgrounds and ages are starting to keep chickens. Many people come to me for advice and to look at the breeds available, before making a decision to buy. The most common questions I receive are those below;

  1. How much room do they need?

Not as much as you think! There are two options when thinking about housing chickens. The first is to consider whether you are able to let them into your back garden to free range. If the answer is yes, they will need a coop big enough to sleep and with enough nest boxes for them to lay their eggs in. Chickens will perch at night and will huddle together to keep warm, so many chicken coops look smaller than what you would expect. You should also allow one nest box per three hens. If you are hesitant to let them out in your garden too often, buying a coop with a run attached is the best solution. Alternatively, many people who are useful with a hammer and drill buy a coop and build their own large run for the hens in a section of their garden.

Work on the average that six hens should have at least 6m X 6m of space to move about in.

  1. What shall I feed them?

Providing the chickens are at least 16 weeks old (at point of lay) they should be fed layer pellets or layers mash. Chickens will not overfeed or eat whatever is put in front of them until they pop (like aLabrador!) They will peck throughout the day when they feel peckish (hence the expression – peckish!) They will also need a constant supply of fresh water. Corn should only be given as an afternoon treat and no more than an egg cupful per hen. Greenstuffs like cabbage, carrot peelings, lettuce and tomatoes are great for your chicken’s diet, but should only make up 20% of it. The majority of the vitamins and nutrients they need will come from the carefully balanced, pre-made pellets or mash. They will also thank you for mealworms, sunflower seeds, fresh yoghurt and on a cold morning warm porridge.

  1. How often should I clean them out?

This is up to you. Like horses and smaller caged animals, every owner gets into their own routine. As a rule, I remove the droppings from the coop daily or every other day, and do a total clean out of the coop every week. In addition to that, a disinfect and thorough clean is recommended every couple of months.

  1. Will the chickens be OK with my cat/dog?

This really depends on the breed of dog. If you have a dog that is trained to work and is used to picking up birds or chasing rabbits and rats, then I would suggest never leaving the chickens unsupervised with the dog. Allow a period of introduction, where the dog can see but not touch the chickens. Then only allow supervised contact for a while. In time, they will get along fine together, and nine times out of 10, the chickens will put the dog in it’s place with a swift peck on the nose and the raising of hackles. Chickens are too large to be threatened or caught by cats, and on many occasion my larger chickens have been seen chasing the cat down the garden.

Jenna Jack

Owner and director of Warwickshire Chicken Coop "We are a family run business who is passionate and knowledgeable about all things chicken! Our love of chickens started when we had four in our own back garden to supply us with daily eg.. Read more.

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