Apparently chickens are the new toilet paper! With eggs scarcely available, everyone now wants to keep a few chooks.
Some years ago I was able to supply a few friends with eggs and in doing so found that chicken keeping on a small scale undoubtedly gives a lot of joy. BUT when you have to purchase a bespoke run and all the equipment for just a few birds the chances of getting a good return on the money invested are not very hopeful. This is especially true if you have to buy every scrap of food. The gardener who does not keep more chickens than can be looked after by the family and who has a large kitchen garden from which scraps can be obtained will probably do well up to a certain point.
There are several different ways of beginning keeping chickens. The chicken keeper who wants only just enough birds to supply their household with eggs and if you’re made of the stronger stuff, an occasional roast chicken for dinner, will find that half a dozen birds will be sufficient. The choice of breed depends to a certain extent on the amount of room that can be given to the birds.
The Best Chicken Tips for First Time Chicken Owners
- Start with Point-of-Lay birds instead of eggs
- Choose a dual-purpose chicken breeds
- Buy the right chicken house
- Great Health & Hygiene
1) Getting your first chickens – you have three options: hatching eggs, rearing young chicks or buying point of lay pullets.
Perhaps the best method of starting, for the person who knows little or nothing about chickens, is to buy half a dozen good healthy pullets, about five months old. It is not necessary to buy a cockerel to run with them. Chooks at this age will be more expensive than unsexed chicks or hatching eggs but there is less chance of failure.
Another way of starting out with chickens – and is very interesting way to any young people in the house — is to buy thirty to forty day-old chicks. These are put in a brooder and fed special chick crumbs. The problem is of course that there will be cockerels among the day-old chicks, but these can be put on one side and fattened for the table.
Even more fun is to buy some good sitting eggs and hatch them out either by placing them under a broody hen or putting them in an incubator.
2) Choose your breed – big, small, or something in-between?
The best chicken breeds are ‘dual purpose’ this means they are both good at laying eggs and as table birds.
White Leghorns — one of the light breed of fowls — are excellent layers, but they are also excellent fliers and need a lot of room. They are very small birds so you’re able to keep quite a few in a small space, useless for the table but as egg laying machines they are extremely good.
The Light Sussex are very good chickens (and a personal favourite) to keep they are heavier than White Leghorns and make excellent table birds. The same may be said for White Wyandotte and for Rhode Island Reds.
3) Home Sweet Home – to coop or not too coop-ed? That is a big question!
Your chickens will need a house. The essentials are it will need protection from predators (remember everything loves to eat chicken!), a place to roost, nesting boxes and room to move around.
I recommend not to try to save money by building a chicken coup. An DIY job and materials cannot make one at the price quoted by any of the well-known kit makers, as the big firms turn out houses by the hundreds and so reduces the cost of production.
4) Happy healthy Chickens – everyone needs food, drink and a clean bed
Chickens do run some risk of illness so it is vital to check on your flock daily. Doing so will help you to catch any sign or symptom of illness early on and greatly increase the chances of a good outcome. Where safe to do so, chickens just love to free range about the garden and ALWAYS provide easy access to fresh water is a must. The best method for keeping your chicken’s health in top tip condition is to prevent disease in the first place. With a good diet, regular, coop cleaning and regular maintenance you will have a much better chance of having a flock that is both happy and healthy.
Essential Equipment for Chicken Keeping: