Oct 11, 2015

Keeping Chickens - A rough 'How-To' Guide

We got our first chicks around 7 months ago. They were a week old and cute as hell.
The kids thought it was amazing having little baby chicks to look after and they helped feed them and gave them lots of attention.

We kept them in a little hutch that had a separate compartment to sleep in which is also suitable for baby guinea pigs etc. We put sawdust in the closed compartment where they slept and then most days would move it out onto the grass as they love to scratch around in the dirt and have little dust baths.

When they are really tiny you need somewhere warm to keep them. If not then you need to keep them in a little area that has a heat lamp.

When they got bigger we moved them into our shed which my partner has since converted to a chicken barn.  They got big so quickly, I think we had to move them around 6 weeks old.

It now has an opening door, built in perches and nesting boxes. Around the outside of the shed is mesh fencing. We wanted the chickens to be as free range as possible but not to be taken by dogs or foxes so we fenced off a large area for them to roam around in the day but to be safe.

In the enclosure we have added hay and plants and a compost heap to add some richness to the soil. The CD's hanging up are a 'distraction' because we recently added a new hen. We read about this and apparently it will help distract them whilst the 'pecking order' is re-established!! At the start, the three original chickens were quite mean to the new addition. They would peck her a lot.(Where the phrase 'pecking order' originates from) A couple of weeks in and she is slowly being accepted. 

As far as looking after them, all we have to do is:

- Go down in the morning and open the door from the shed into their outside area.

- Give them clean water and fill up their food. (They eat something called layer mash which is made up of seeds and grains. That is about 80% of their diet but they also eat left over fruit and veg scraps, bugs, maggots and grass)

- Collect their eggs daily (So they don't get broken or eaten)

- Close them in at night time.

So they are pretty low maintenance if you have the space.

The best thing about them is that they have started laying eggs now too. When they were around 6 months old they started laying. We get about 1 a day from each chicken, which is awesome. The kids love going down to check on them and collecting the eggs, and we love eating them!!

A couple of weekends ago we went to the local Produce Store to pick up some more chicken food etc. and ended up coming home with 5 more chicks! The kids were thrilled and they really are so sweet. These ones are a different, rarer breed and they lay for a lot longer too.

Having chickens is really rewarding for a lot of reasons, not only having fresh eggs on a daily basis, but they are great pets for kids, to teach them responsibilities, to get them playing outside and learning first hand about nature.


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