Keeping chickens is widely regarded as a very relaxing and rewarding pastime. Chickens help people connect with nature and provide a regular (and free) source of nutritious eggs. Although chickens are relatively easy animals to care for, if they don’t have secure housing they can easily become stressed and unhealthy as well as being targets for predators such as foxes.
If you’re thinking of keeping chickens in your garden, get it right first time by following our tips for keeping chooks healthy and safe.
There are plenty. Hundreds in fact! Each breed will have different needs and lay differing numbers of eggs. Bantams are smaller and therefore lay smaller eggs. Orpingtons come in big and small sizes and Cochins are large.
There are also plenty of ex-battery hens who need rescuing from a miserable life of captivity, many of which will reward you with eggs for years to come if you give them a happy home. The British Hen Welfare Trust have plenty of advice about hen welfare and how to register for re-homing hens – you can visit their website here.
What to feed them
Chickens will eat almost anything! This makes them great for disposing of food scraps, although guidelines suggest food scraps should only make up around 25% of their total diet.
Hens need protein to help them produce eggs and feathers. Commercial chicken feeds will provide the correct amount of protein and calcium to keep your chickens happy. Increase the amount you give them when they moult; they need the extra protein to grow new feathers. They may stop laying entirely during this time if they do not have enough of the correct nutrition.
A handful of corn each day will keep chickens busy scratching around and it’s also a good source of fat, which will help them keep them warm in the winter months. Allowing your hens to be free-range means they’ll get additional nutrition from bugs and insects they find in the ground.
Where to keep them
Hens are never happier than when they’re scratching around free range with a clean, safe coop to roost in at night. However, if you have a garden full of plants and flowers that you’ve worked hard to nurture, you may not want them scratching up your lawn, making dust baths and destroying your precious blooms.
House your chickens in one area of your garden, somewhere they can make as much mud and mess as they like. It’s important to consider rotating this area, keeping it hygienic and free from potentially harmful pests. It also gives the chickens a chance to fertilise different areas of your garden.
Keeping chickens in a happy home
Buying a good quality chicken coop should last a life time. Somerlap’s starter coop, is perfect for up to 4 hens and has a detachable run, with a lockable door. This cosy roosting house has rounded perches and separate nesting area. All our chicken coops come with galvanised fittings as standard so they won’t rust.
Keeping chickens is an addictive pastime, so don’t be surprised if you need to upgrade! When you do (and you will!), our larger chicken house holds up to 12 chickens. You could also make a large run for them too, using chicken wire and supporting wooden planks (our tongue and groove dung boards and sawn timber lengths are perfect for this).
Check any fence perimeters daily for vulnerable bottom edges, or loose wiring where a determined fox could tug and get in. If you do not cover the top, make it higher than 6 feet tall to be sure – foxes can climb and jump just as well as any cat! They can also dig like a dog. So if you don’t have a covered base to your coop, dig the perimeter at least 6 inches deep; deeper if your soil is sandy and loose.
Meet the Somerlap chicken!
Keeping chickens in a Somerlap coop will keep them healthy, happy and safe. For more advice on our range of timber chicken coops and houses please contact us, we’re happy to help. Alternatively, why not visit us in Mark, Somerset and you can meet ‘Cluck Norris’ Somerlap’s very own resident chicken.