A beginners guide to keeping chickens (part 1)

by sophie on October 27, 2009 · 118 comments

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

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria December 11, 2015 at 23:26

It has both factors in it. It is about frenhdsiip and them all relying on each other to save each other, but it is also about Ginger and Rocky’s relationship if it didn’t have that factor in it then why would they kiss and then have have a family together at the end? Even if you don’t believe so, there is no need to be rude about the video which the creator has obviously worked hard on. So shut up.


www.free-fifa15coins.com December 16, 2015 at 05:40

Hi! Your webpage is loading slow in my opinion, this kind of consumed just like a minute to
finally load, I have no idea if it’s just me or perhaps your web site on the other hand facebook loaded fine for me.
Anyway, Thanks for publishing a remarkably brilliant article.
In my opinion it really has already been honestly helpful user who seem to
click here. This one is undoubtedly fantastic what you actually have implemented in this article and want to check out even more great content
from your site. I already have your site bookmarked to look at blog you post.


free blog builder January 14, 2016 at 21:39

I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a
blog that’s both equally educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

The problem is something which not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about.
I’m very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something regarding this.


Brandy January 29, 2016 at 12:59

On pourrait penser que ce sont des peaux résistantes car épaisses,
mais elles gardent en mémoire tous les traitements anti acnéiques


vietnam visa in england February 4, 2016 at 03:04

We are a bunch of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
Your site offered us with helpful information to work on. You’ve performed a formidable process and our entire group might
be thankful to you.


shipping fees February 14, 2016 at 02:17

Hello There. I found your blog the usage of msn. That is
a very smartly written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and return to read extra of your useful info.
Thank you for the post. I will definitely return.


razer mouse review May 25, 2016 at 00:53

Veery energetic article, I eenjoyed that bit. Will there be a part 2?


Juan May 26, 2016 at 08:36

Now I am ready to do my breakfast, once having myy breaifast coming
yet again to read other news.


best basketball shoes June 4, 2016 at 04:06

This is something a lot of people around the world seem to be doing in order to cover not “sticking” their tumbling.

The repellent spray you buy should specifically state that it can be used on sheepskin shoes.
In my own very unscientific real-life-mom experience, the blood type thing holds water.


Loyalty Program Service Toronto Canada June 4, 2016 at 10:04

I am in fact thankful to the owner of this site who has
shared this fantastic paragraph at at this place.


interior design November 7, 2016 at 21:36

I read this paragraph fully concerning the
resemblance of most recent and earlier technologies, it’s
remarkable article.


ขาย plc mitsubishi ราคา ถูก February 15, 2017 at 03:48

WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching
for ขาย plc ราคา ถูก


Previous post:

Next post: