Thanks to Andrew Murray from Kinghorn for this great post on keeping chickens. As we come to the end of the year we’ll be focusing on practical ways forward – your suggestions and input are as always welcome:
“There were a number of reasons why we wanted to keep chickens. One obvious one was the prospect of enjoying our own fresh eggs for breakfast. Also, with two small children, we liked the idea of having
living creatures around for them to help look after and enjoy. We anticipated the fun which the kids would have collecting eggs and feeding leftovers to the chooks. We thought that chickens would bring
our garden to life. Now six months after deciding to go ahead and get some, we are glad to say that our expectations of keeping chickens have been reasonably well fulfilled.
Initially, with neither of us having anything like a farming background the book which became our bible was “Keeping Pet Chickens” by Johannes Paul and William Windham. This book introduced us to the eglu, an all-in-one chicken coop and run. We liked the eglu because it provides a snug secure home for three chickens, and is low maintenance. It also
keeps its value, which will be good if we ever decide to end our poultry-keeping experiment – it can always go back on ebay, where it came from.
Once we had got an eglu, the next step was to choose a variety of chicken. We were surprised by how many different types there are, but of those listed in the book, Black Rocks seemed to be our best bet. They are known for being hardy, which is good since our garden can be quite windswept. They also can give more eggs than other types, laying anything up to 250 eggs a year. Thankfully, and amazingly, near to where we live there is a poultry farmer who specialises in this variety. He was able to supply us with three prime specimens, accompanied with plenty of helpful advice. We got our chickens when they were 14 weeks old. They didn’t start laying for a couple of months, so much so that we’d begun to think we’d been slipped some duds, but eventually they got going, and we now get a regular egg supply. (We sometimes even have a surplus of eggs and have had no shortage of people happy to take them off our hands! One friend commented that the yolks were as yellow as Cadbury’s Crème Eggs!) The eggs are delicious, and taste all the better for us knowing that nothing unpleasant has been added to the chickens’ diet. We also occasionally get a double-yolker, something you never see in a supermarket egg!
As for their ongoing care, together with fresh water, the chickens are fed layers pellets and a couple of handfuls of mixed corn each day. This is available from a number of stockists, including PetsRUs, or online. The coop needs cleaning out at least once a week, and an added bonus is that the chicken poo and straw can go directly into your compost bin. We
intend to get a shredder soon so that we can use shredded waste-paper instead of straw.
So, over the last few months the chickens have made a gentle, entertaining and delicious contribution to our lives, from the moment in the morning when they eagerly dart out of their coop searching for unsuspecting grubs, to the time at dusk when they reliably strut back inside to roost on their perch.”