A beginners guide to keeping chickens (part 2)

by sophie on November 4, 2009 · 20 comments

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This is the second of two posts that make up a Beginners Guide to Keeping Chickens. If you missed it you might want to check out part 1 first.

How much contact time do chickens need?
Chelsea asked how much time we spend with our chickens every day.  Unlike cats and dogs, chickens don’t seem to crave human company and interaction overly so there’s no need to worry that you need to be able to give them lots of “quality time” (so long as they’re kept disease free and have all the food, water and shelter that they need). Chickens are friendly, inquisitive creatures and do like to know what you’re up to but in the grand scheme of things they’re much more bothered about whether they get to free range or not.  Ours are on their own for 8 to 10 hours a day while we’re at work. They happily keep themselves busy in their run for this time but are also very excited to be let out to free range for an hour or so when we get home.

Are they noisy?
If you only have hens then there’s no need to worry about that signature, neighourhood-rousing cock-a-doodle-do. But it’s only fair to warn you that hens can still be a bit noisy. We were getting up at sunrise in over the summer months to let our chickens out into their run so that they didn’t wake the neighbours with their chatter.  They’re only really loud enough for immediate neighbours to hear, but definitely loud enough to wake a light sleeper. There are all kinds of things that you can do to try and limit how early they wake up such as covering their hutch with dark tarpaulin to fake night-time. Touch-wood our neighbours haven’t complained and once the rest of the world is up and going about its business then the odd “I’ve laid an egg, aren’t I amazing” noisy announcement is drowned out the noise of
cars, people etc.

What about going on holiday?
The chickens are fine on their own for the weekend provided that you leave them ample water and food and that they’re safely shut away in a fox-proof run (knowing this was one of the tipping points that finally made us give chicken-keeping a go).  If we’re away for longer than overnight then we ask a friend to pop in and feed them and collect the eggs.

And that’s about all you need to to do!
The chickens aren’t hard work at all. Like most pets, little projects do crop up from time to time, especially if you’re a softy like me and want your girls to live in luxury.  We spent several weekends during the summer trying different ways of keeping them out off my precious vegetable patch before we came up with a solution that worked.  More recently we’ve realised that keeping the chickens on grass over winter
just isn’t going to work. The ground gets turned into a muddy quagmire and you have to hop in your PJs over damp, dewy grass to let them out every morning.  So this weekend has been spent building a more weather proof permanent corner for their run with the floor covered in plastic chippings.  And I’m sure come the colder months I’ll be out there at 7am taking them hot ‘chicken porridge’.  Then I’ll be wanting to rescue more chickens and build a “walk in run”. You get the picture…

chicken runSo there you go – chickens are pretty low maintenance as far as pets go.  They’ll also have you completely trained and right where they want you within a matter of weeks.

Where to find out more
This Beginners Guide to Keeping Chickens has a part 1
The Omlet website has a good basic guide
The Omlet Forum is the place to go to for advice or for answers to more complicated questions
The Battery Hen Welfare Trust have a detailed guide to Caring for Ex-Battery Hens

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