Back garden chicken keeping is becoming increasingly popular and over the past year, the number of people keeping chickens has grown by a staggering 800%. Jenna Jack, owner of Warwickshire Chicken Coop, the West Midlands based â€˜home of happy, healthy hensâ€™ has written the following advice on how to get started with chickens and useful tips on keeping them happy and healthy. In weeks to come she will update and advise you on other aspects of keeping chickens.
Keeping chickens is without a doubt the best hobby I have taken up (and subsequently turned into a business!) Having ridden horses, kept and worked dogs, as well as keenly grown fruit and vegetables; looking after chickens is by far the easiest and most rewarding of pastimes.
People ask me if chickens are simple to look after; the short answer is yes, very. The longer and more honest answer is, yes very, but as with all livestock, they will give back to you what you put in towards their health and happiness. Doing your research beforehand is vital as they are living breathing animals that depend solely on your care for survival.
I will start by covering the basics of buying hens this week, before going into more detail on looking after them, various common ailments, questions, tips and husbandry regimes over the coming months.
Firstly, always buy your chickens from a well known breeder. Many people tend to breed chickens as a â€˜hobbyâ€™ and sell them cheaply from the front door. I would advise buying chickens from a reputable breeder or business, and look at websites and information sources beforehand. Donâ€™t buy chickens on a whim at a market. All chickens are different in looks, personality and egg production, so research what you want before going out to purchase.
Essentially you have a choice between hybrids (a mixture of two pure breeds) and pure breeds. Hybrids are readily available all year round and known for their good natures and great egg production. Pure breeds are more commonly available from late Spring in to Autumn, and are predominantly kept for their looks above egg production. Hybrids are priced between Â£15 and Â£20, whereas pure breeds can range from Â£25 up to Â£100 for a prized bird. Practical Poultry (link to website) has a useful directory of breeders as a starting point.
Chickens are flock animals and should not be kept in isolation. Three is a good minimum number of chickens to start with, but BEWARE! They are addictive, and three will turn into six, which will turn into double figures! Some valuable advice I was given (but chose to ignore at the time), is to get as many as you have room for in the first instance. You will only end up wanting more and it is not always easy to introduce new chickens to an existing flock. It is just as easy to look after six as it is three, so start with more, then reduce if necessary.
I have briefly covered where to buy chickens, how much to pay for them, how many to have and what breeds to have. Next week I will detail what you need to start keeping them in your own back garden.