SarahBeenySpringIssue2017 - 263
add extra birds to a group later on,
or get a rooster to breed your hens.
If your focus is getting a regular
supply of breakfast eggs, it's best
to start oﬀ with a few hybrid chickens
created from diﬀerent pure breeds,
which will be hardy and healthy.
Suzie recommends the friendly
Rhode Island Red Blacktails, Light
Sussex, White Leghorn and Blackrock
as good layers. She sells chickens at
Hollywater Hens, Hampshire (found
'Always buy from a reputable
supplier who is willing to give advice
freely and oﬀer help,' she says.
WORDS: NATALIE BOWEN, IMAGES: GETTY IMAGES,
Hens are foragers who will peck the
ground for slugs and other morsels,
but it is best to give them formulated
feeds that contain a balance of
nutrients, vitamins and minerals to
keep them healthy. These come as
pellets or a powdered mash.
An average-sized adult hen will need
100g-120g of feed per day, according
to the British Hen Welfare Trust. It
says: 'Feed can either be given in a
rationed amount daily or via a feeder
that is large enough for several days.'
Hens also need ﬂint grit to help
them grind down food and highcalcium oyster shell grit to create
strong egg shells.
Tim Daniels, who runs the online
forum poultrykeeper.com, says:
'Common foods that are poisonous
- they do
tend to poo
but the fresh
lost ours to
which will kill
all your birds
for the fainthearted!'
to chickens are avocado, potato
plant leaves and rhubarb.
'Mixed corn can be given as a
treat - but don't overdo it as maize
is fattening. A handful per hen per
day as a general guide is enough.
Fat hens don't lay eggs!'
Under UK law, it is illegal to feed
hens scraps from a domestic kitchen.
IN FINE FETTLE
As long as you have no more than 50
birds, you are not legally required to
register the ﬂock with the Department
for Environment, Food and Rural
Aﬀairs (Defra). Yet the department
encourages chicken-keepers to register
so it can contact them if there is a
There was a prevention zone in
place across Britain until 28 February
this year (and some high-risk areas
must maintain these precautions),
after cases of avian ﬂu were found
in commercial and backyard ﬂocks.
This ordered all domestic chickens,
hens, turkeys and ducks to be housed
indoors, or for their total separation
from contact with wild birds, see right.
Common chicken parasites to
watch out for are lice and mites.
Search on bhwt.org.uk for symptoms,
diagnosis and treatments, as well as
a guide for telltale signs of sickness.
Tim says: 'Parasitic worms are
frequently found in backyard chickens
and I have always been an advocate of
having a regular worming regime to
ensure they don't take hold.'
You will also need a local vet who
can treat poultry if one of your hens
gets ill - visit chickenvet.co.uk to ﬁnd
your closest practice.
With research and preparation,
raising a ﬂock of chickens will give
you years of ethically produced eggs
- and a great addition to the family, as
watching hens interact can be soothing
and amusing in equal measure!
The British Hen Welfare Trust works to rehome
former commercial laying chickens so they can
have free-range 'retirements', rather than be sent
off to be slaughtered.
It cannot guarantee that the birds it supplies
will produce eggs as they are past their peak age
for laying (72 weeks), but as they can live up to
10 years, it is likely you will get a regular, if not
daily, tasty reward for your generosity.
Cases of this potentially
fatal disease have been
discovered in wild and
captive birds in the UK, so
Defra has issued speciﬁc
guidance for owners of
Signs of the illness include
loss of appetite, swollen
heads and respiratory issues.
Bird inﬂuenza can spread
through direct contact or
via the environment, such as
wild bird droppings, so in
designated higher risk areas,
owners are required to
move poultry to a suitable
existing building, such as a
shed, or construct a lean-to
or polytunnel to house the
birds in temporarily.
Chief veterinary ofﬁcer
Nigel Gibbens says: 'A ﬁnding
in a backyard ﬂock shows
how essential it is for all
poultry owners, even those
who just have a few birds as
pets, to do all they can to
keep them separate from
wild birds and minimise the
risk of catching avian ﬂu.'
Until Defra lifts its
prevention zones, if you can't
house birds inside, you must
feed or water your ﬂock
inside its usual hen house,
use netting to prevent any
wild birds accessing outside
enclosures, minimise your
movements in and out of
the coop, and clean your
footwear before and after
visits to the enclosure.
Conﬁned hens must not
be kept in the dark full-time,
require distractions such as
straw bales, perches or grain
to scratch - to discourage
them from pecking out
feathers - and need plenty of
water, food and dry bedding.
England, Scotland, Wales
and Northern Ireland all have
different arrangements. Go
to gov.uk/guidance/avianinﬂuenza-bird-ﬂu for more
details and to ﬁnd out if your
property is affected.
www.athomemagazine.co.uk MAY 2017 | 263