A beginners guide to keeping chickens (part 1)

by sophie on October 27, 2009 · 88 comments

Henrietta and Ernie

This post is a summary of everything we’ve learnt in our first four months of chicken-keeping, especially for those of you thinking about getting your own chooks one day.  Our three ex-battery chickens are completely charming chatterboxes and super-easy to look after, but there are also a few things I wish we’d known before we got them and which I wanted to share with you.

This is very much a beginners perspective on keeping hens – experienced poultry keepers would no doubt have other wisdom to add and similarly I’m sure we’ll keep learning as we go.  If you are seriously thinking about getting your own hens have a read of this post first and then I urge you to go and hang out over at the Omlet forums for a while where just about any question you might have will already have been answered (probably several times over).
 
Our regular chicken care routine
We both work full time but we haven’t found looking after the chickens a big task to fit into our routine.  Here’s what we do:

Once a day
1. Top up the water
2. Top up their food
Chickens eat steadily throughout the day, storing the food in their crop to digest it at night. We feed our three special food from Allen and Page that is designed for ex-battery hens.
3. Collect any eggs (yay!). We’re averaging two eggs a day between three hens.
4. Hand over the treats
Chard is top of the list with grapes and sunflower seeds close behind. Sunflower seeds are the non-perishable bribe of choice for getting the girls back into their run.

Once a week
1. Clean the chicken house out.
Ours is a plastic Eglu which is super easy to keep clean. All we do is empty the removable poo tray, hose down the inside of the house and waft about PoultryShield and louse powder, both easily available and designed to keep the bugs at bay.
2. Catch each chicken in turn and dust them down with sweet-smelling louse powder

Are your chickens free range and how much space do they need?
Kathryn asked how much space chickens need.  Assuming that you can let them out to free range round the garden occasionally then the run that your chickens spend most of their time doesn’t need to be very big. We’ve got a nice routine going where the girls get let out of their run for an hour or so in the morning before we head off to work and again for an hour in the evening.  At the weekends they free range all day if we’re at home.

A run of about 2m by 1m is fine for up to four birds (we’re a soft touch so we bought a run extension to give them an extra metre in length so ours have a 3 x 1m run).  Most guidelines seem to suggest 3-4 square feet per bird.  With regard to having garden space to free range in, it seems to be quality rather than quantity that counts here. Our girls spend their outdoor time making dust baths in the soil, rootling about in leaves, trashing my vegetable bed and digging for worms rather than covering any great distance.

Urban foxes have been known to snatch chickens in broad daylight so we never let ours out of their run unless we’re at home to supervise. 

How do chickens and gardens mix?
Arwen asked how our chickens are treating our grass.  There’s no way round it – chickens are a destructive force in the garden. Their mission in life is to peck, scratch and eat everything that they can.  When chickens are out free-ranging the damage to your grass is suitably wide-spread not to be a problem. If your chooks are in a confined run for much of the day (as ours are) then they are much harder on your grass and you have to move them onto a new patch every week or so (and put down some seed to refresh any bald patches). Anything delicate new growth (spinach, chard and other edibles included) is also best protected from the hens.


Don’t let this put you off – after some initial arguments most people seem to find a happy compromise, maybe letting their chooks free range in half of the garden while keeping the other half poo and destruction free.  At the moment we let ours free range anywhere they want to but with a gigantic net over the vegetable bed which seems to be working well. 

How are the cats and chickens getting on?
The cats have made it their business to studiously ignore the chickens. The chickens on the other hand have both a sense of humour and no concept of fear. Therefore they love nothing more than to chase an unsuspecting cat to the bottom of the garden or flying onto the nearest windowsill.  But for the most part our chooks are too busy pecking and scratching to care much what the cats are up to and so all is harmonious (see photographic evidence below!).

chickens and cats sleepingI’ve split this into two posts as it was getting rather long. The second part of A Beginners Guide to Keeping Chickens covers how much time you need to spend with chickens, noise, holidays and where to find out more information about looking after hens.

Leave a Comment

{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

last king hats September 21, 2014 at 12:22

I know this website offers quality based posts and extra stuff, is there any other web site
which presents these kinds of data in quality?

Reply

all about dental September 21, 2014 at 18:25

I do consider all the concepts you have introduced for your post.
They are very convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are
too brief for beginners. Could you please prolong them
a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

Reply

Allentown plumber September 21, 2014 at 18:25

It’s really a great and useful piece of info.
I’m glad that you simply shared this useful information with us.
Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

Reply

sex2050.com September 22, 2014 at 04:07

Hi there i am kavin, its my first time to commenting anywhere, when i read this post i thought i could also make comment due to
this brilliant article.

Reply

No2 Surge Reviews September 22, 2014 at 08:01

Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Thanks for providing this info.

Reply

Melisa September 22, 2014 at 08:02

It is so easy and straight up if you just know what to do.
You can find a list of all the near-by restaurants along with the general information about them.
Residual affiliate marketing programs are affiliate programs where the affiliate marketer gets paid several times for as long as the merchant keeps
the customer the affiliate has referred to his site, i.

Reply

sex September 22, 2014 at 14:37

Thanks , I’ve recently been searching for information approximately this topic for a while and yours is the best I’ve came upon so
far. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure concerning the supply?

Reply

Chang September 22, 2014 at 16:32

What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely helpful and it has
aided me out loads. I’m hoping to give a contribution & assist different users like its helped me.

Great job.

Reply

godaddy .net promo code September 22, 2014 at 17:31

You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand.
It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang
of it!

Reply

electric repair san diego September 22, 2014 at 19:52

There are some individuals who prefer to be a master electrician. He should have also undergone numerous trainings and gforce electric
learn more seminars so that he can perform the job nine till
five, Mon – Friday. There is also the most overlooked aspect of the business enterprises.
Additional expenses will be incurred and extra work will be conducted by a qualified electrician test any electrical system.

Reply

Latasha September 22, 2014 at 22:57

you’re actually a just right webmaster. The site loading velocity is incredible.
It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick.

In addition, The contents are masterpiece. you have
performed a great activity in this topic!

Reply

gossip lanka September 23, 2014 at 06:07

Undeniably believe that which you stated.
Your favorite reason seemed to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of.
I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people think about worries that
they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the
nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people could take a signal.
Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

Reply

subway surfers hack apk September 23, 2014 at 07:52

Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just
extremely fantastic. I actually like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you are saying and the way in which you say it.
You make it entertaining and you still care for to keep it sensible.
I can not wait to read far more from you. This is actually a
tremendous site.

Reply

google adwords login September 26, 2014 at 17:01

I am not sure where you’re getting your info, but great topic.
I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this info
for my mission.

Reply

jeu en ligne fantastique October 3, 2014 at 05:20

I drop a comment when I appreciate a post on a blog or if I have something to valuable to contribute to the
discussion. Usually it is a result of the sincerness displayed in the post I browsed.
And after this article A beginners guide to keeping chickens (part 1) — Mostly Eating.
I was moved enough to post a commenta response :) I actually do
have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind. Could it be simply me or
do some of the remarks appear as if they are written by brain dead folks?
:-P And, if you are writing on additional sites,
I would like to follow you. Could you list every one of all your community pages like your twitter
feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

Reply

drip coffee maker October 3, 2014 at 08:39

Do you have a spam issue on this site; I also am a blogger, and I was wondering your situation;
many of us have created some ice practices and we are looking to trade methods with others, why not shooit me an e-mail if interested.

Reply

art of strategy October 4, 2014 at 17:19

Hey There. I discovered your blog using msn. This is
an extremely smartly written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more
of one’s useful information. Thank you for the post. I will definitely comeback.

Reply

farmville money hack download free October 5, 2014 at 20:39

Amazing blog! Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
Would you advise starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so
many options out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any ideas?
Thanks!

Reply

ดูดไขมันทั้งตัว October 5, 2014 at 21:03

each time i used to read smaller content which also clear their motive, and that is also happening
with this piece of writing which I am reading here.

Reply

hungry shark evolution hack ifunbox October 6, 2014 at 04:57

Evolutiln dooes ΝOT disprove god, ɑnd οnly disproves a litreral reading
ߋf genesis.

Reply

ชุดชั้นใน October 6, 2014 at 21:57

This post offers clear idea in favor of the new users of blogging,
that in fact how to do running a blog.

Reply

angry birds epic coins October 6, 2014 at 23:00

Hi, еverƴ time і used too check weblog posts Һere іn the early hours in the
morning, foг thе reason that і enjoy tto find out morе and more.

Reply

cognitine October 6, 2014 at 23:05

I think this is among the most vital info for me.
And i am glad reading your article. But wanna remark on few
general things, The web site style is wonderful,
the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

Reply

dota 2 videos October 7, 2014 at 02:53

I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post
was good. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger
if you are not already ;) Cheers!

Reply

livepressreleasesubmit.com October 8, 2014 at 05:43

This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of
your great post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

Reply

Reversing October 8, 2014 at 09:16

Nice blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my
blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your design. Kudos

Reply

دردشه الروليت العربيه chatroulette google arabic October 8, 2014 at 15:27

Unfortunately in recent news we have seen how these communication advancements like Vo
- IP phones and picture mail have caused a breached
area where children are unable to be protected. However, declaring a webcam as
the best is easy ‘ it is how you use it that is important.
If life is boring, there are now a host of sites following in the footsteps of chatroulette where you can make random video chat connections.

Reply

goji vita October 8, 2014 at 21:24

Hello every one, here every person is sharing these knowledge, so it’s fastidious to
read this weblog, and I used to go to see this webpage daily.

Reply

8 ball pool hack generator October 9, 2014 at 03:47

Wow, amazing blog layout! How lengthy have you been blogging for?
you make blogging look easy. The overall glance
of your site is wonderful, as neatly as the content material!

Reply

ตุ๊กตาหมี October 9, 2014 at 07:45

hello there and thank you for your info – I have certainly picked up anything new from right
here. I did however expertise some technical points using this site, since
I experienced to reload the website many times previous to
I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering
if your web hosting is OK? Not that I’m complaining,
but slow loading instances times will often affect your
placement in google and can damage your quality
score if advertising and marketing with Adwords.
Well I’m adding this RSS to my email and could look out for a lot more of
your respective exciting content. Ensure that you update this again soon.

Reply

best blenders October 9, 2014 at 14:54

Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog! We are
a collection of voluntteers and starting a new initiative
in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on.
You have done a outstanding job!

Reply

pendrive personalizados chile October 11, 2014 at 00:09

Sobra decir que es una genuina bendición poder usar memorias USB con mayor capacidad, pues esta herramienta se ha abaratado
cada vez más con los años.

Reply

courier insurance quotes October 19, 2014 at 12:37

Hello everyone, it’s my first pay a visit at this site, and article is actually
fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these types of articles or reviews.

Reply

Previous post:

Next post: