Myself and the kids wanted pets… The wife however didn’t like the idea of animals in the house, messing up the place and creating a stink. Fair enough I guess so what was the solution/compromise? We also like the idea of becoming more self sufficient so it was quickly becoming obvious, we needed chickens.
Chickens? Chickens I asked myself? Is that normal, isn’t that for farmers? Actually, no. Quite a lot of people own chickens and you don’t need to be a farmer. In fact, I’d say they’re a lot easier to look after than most other pets. And, you get free eggs every day! It cost a fair bit to get everything setup but general maintenance and looking after them is super easy and quite cheap. So getting chickens was a no brainer.
Heres what we did.
Step 1. Prepare the garden. We wanted the chickens to have a good run, a nice bit of space to stretch their legs but we also needed to ensure they were protected from predators like foxes, wolves and bears… ok, mainly just the foxes! 🙂 We started by selecting a section of the garden that wouldn’t be too intrusive, then thought about what else the chickens would need. Shade from the sun in summer, a dust bath for cleaning themselves and a coop to sleep in and lay eggs. The most important thing (and most difficult) was to ensure the coop was secure. We purchased a pre-made flat pack coop from e-bay (I know, I know, should have built my own but time constraints meant it was much easier to buy one) and measured up the ground where it was to be located. I then began by digging a trench around the area and inserted concrete slabs about one foot deep. I then lined to the ground with sand and small wood chips. The wood chips are great for absorbing and hiding the chicken poop. Finally, we purchased some fence panels for the run and viola, one safe chicken house and a spacious run.
Step 2. Water and food dispenser (and the food of course), wood shavings, hay, sand and diatomaceous earth. OK, so most of these you have probably heard of but what is diatomaceous earth? (or DE as it’s known in the chicken world). This stuff has multiple uses but most importantly it’s used to kill mites and other pests that might infest your flock. You can also add it to their food as a dewormer. Just ensure you get the food grade DE. Altogether I think we spent about £600 for the complete setup.
Step 3. Just missing the chickens now. We purchased ours from a poultry shop in/near Malvern (www.newlandpoultry.com). All their chickens have received a commercial vaccination programme and their website has tones of information and advise. We paid £18 per chicken and got four hybrids. Hybrids are the best layers giving about 300 per year.
So thats it in a nutshell, you’ll find loads of good websites on keeping chickens if you are interested. This was just a starter for us. Some day I’m going to build my own coop, something a little more interesting than this standard eBay jobby. Look around on Pinterest I can see loads of great ideas and inspiration. One thing I will say in hindsight, these fence panels are no way tall enough! Even with their wings clipped they could easily hop over. I’d recommend 4 or 5 foot fence panels. (I’ve had to extend these to stop the chickens escaping and pooping all over the garden and tearing up the flower beds)
If your interested in owning your own flock and want to know more about our experiences please drop me a note.
Also, check out my update article on how things are progressing.