SarahBeenySpringIssue2017 - 262

F

resh eggs every day,
a motivation for going
outside, the joy of
keeping animals and
the satisfaction of
a successful project... what's not
to love about keeping chickens?
If you have a garden, maintaining
a backyard flock is a great way to
make good use of that outdoor
space - even if you live in a city.
Chickens are social and need little
space - as long as they can move
around during the day, you will
find they will happily sleep inside
a converted shed or home-built coop.
You don't need to be out in the
countryside, either: celebrities such
as chef Jamie Oliver and TV host
Paul O'Grady have made urban
chicken-keeping more popular.
Before you start planning for
a flock, it's important to think about
why you want one. As each bird has
its own personality, it can be easy to
treat hens like pets, but some people
prefer to think of them as livestock.
Regardless of whether you give
them all names or maintain emotional
distance, you will need to dedicate
plenty of time to keeping them happy,
healthy and laying lots of eggs.
Hens are creatures of habit and don't
respond well to changes in routine,
so if you work shifts or go away often,
your lifestyle may not be suitable.
Everyday tasks include feeding
them and removing old food, cleaning

WHAT'S IN
A NAME?

Pullet - a female chicken that
is less than a year old
Started pullet - a female
chicken that is 15-22 weeks old
Point of lay chicken - a
female bird that is 22 weeks
old and is expected to start
laying eggs soon
Hen - a female chicken
that is older than 22 weeks
and is laying eggs
Cockerel - a male chicken
that is less than a year old
Cock/Rooster - a male
chicken that's older than a year.

262 | MAY 2017

the pen of droppings, collecting the
eggs and putting the birds 'to bed'
- shutting them up in the coop for the
night so predators can't get to them.

HOME START

The first step is assessing what
sort of hen house is suitable for
your available space. If you are a
keen DIYer, knocking up a coop
from old pallets and chicken wire
may be an option, and a quick
search online will throw
up dozens of designs.
Some look like big
rabbit cages, others like
A HEN CAN LAY
extended aviaries, and
MORE THAN 600 EGGS
others resemble tiny
IN HER FIRST TWO
human houses with
YEARS - THAT'S A LOT
a run attached.
FOR YOU TO EAT!*
Avian charity the
British Hen Welfare Trust
(bhtw.org.uk) has a hen-keeping
starter guide that highlights some
important points to bear in mind:
Hens need something to perch on
at night while they sleep
They need individual nesting boxes
in which to lay their eggs
Coops must be completely secure to
protect the birds from mice, rats and
other vermin, as well as predators
such as foxes and stoats
People must be able to access all the
areas for cleaning and egg collection.
Buying a ready-made hen house
may be more expensive in the short
term, but could save you a lot of

Sunny side up

heartache, bruised thumbs and
wasted cash than if you try to make
one yourself. The most common
materials for coops are wood and
plastic: the first are often bigger
and more versatile, but the second
type are easier to keep clean.
Each bird needs to have least 4sq ft
inside the coop if it is allowed to range
free outside, either within the entire
garden or a run. Make sure the flock
cannot get into neighbours' gardens!
Local authorities may have by-laws
over where livestock is allowed to be
kept, so it is best to check your home
isn't in a restricted area and that you
are allowed to have such animals
under your house deeds or tenancy
agreement before buying anything.

BIRDS OF
A FEATHER

Another consideration is the
size of your flock. Suzie Baldwin,
author of Chickens: The Essential
Guide to Choosing and Keeping
Happy, Healthy Hens (£14.99,
Kyle Books), says: 'I'd recommend
a minimum of three birds together
because any fewer will bicker and
quarrel. When buying chickens,
look for bright eyes, clean nostrils,
smooth legs and glossy feathers.'
Chickens are stereotypically
obsessed with status and the term
'pecking order' originates from their
behaviour. Too few or many will upset
the group dynamic, particularly if you


http://bhtw.org.uk

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