Keeping Chickens and Types of Hen House
Keeping chickens can be rewarding in more ways than one. Not only do you get a regular supply of fresh eggs and fertilizer, but they can be very entertaining, and some make wonderful children's pets.
You will need to check with your local council area regarding their policies on keeping backyard chickens, and more than likely roosters will not be permitted due to their crowing making your neighbors very unhappy!
Once you have decided you would like to own some chickens a commitment must be made, as with any animal, to taking good care of them, and particularly housing them in a comfortable, vermin and predator free environment. It is a good idea to purchase chickens that are already at the laying stage. If you get young chicks chances are that some of them may turn out to be roosters and not hens!
Different Breeds of Chickens
There are many breeds of chickens available. Some are better layers, and others are bred for their ornamental or meat value. Generally, hybrids or crossbreds are often the best egg layers.
Suitable breeds for keeping in your backyard are:
- Light Sussex
- Rhode Island Red
- Croad Langshan
Suitable breeds for children are:
However of these breeds, the Barnevelder, followed by the Dorking are going to be the better egg layers.
The Hen House
Would you like your chickens to run around free in your backyard or would you like them contained? If you are planning on letting your chickens roam around your backyard at their leisure you will still need to have a sturdy hen house for them to safely roost at night time. Chickens like routine, and once they know where their house is they will return back to it at night. It is however a good idea to lock your chickens in their house well before sunset and not let them out too early, as foxes like to strike at these times.
There are many ideas (some simple and some more complicated) to be found on designing and building a hen house. (Keep an eye out for how we converted our old dog kennel into one!) Essentially, your chickens will need to be protected from the weather, and do take into consideration extreme cold or heat that you may experience in your climate. They enjoy some perches to roost on and some straw on the floor will be adequate for them to lay in. Make sure the hen house can be securely locked to keep out the predators and if you live in an area where snakes are a problem you may want to elevate the hen house and have a little plank for them to access it. (Take this away of course at night time!) A fine mesh or fly screen may be suitable to try and keep pythons out too as they will be able to climb!
It is a good idea to slowly introduce your chickens to their environment if you are going to let them roam your garden. Keep them in their pen for the first week and then slowly let them out bit by bit until they are familiar with their surroundings and hopefully won't be tempted to take off into your neighbors. A good idea is to let them out for a couple of hours in the late afternoon before it is time to lock them in for the night.
If you don't want your chickens getting into your garden and pooping everywhere there are a number of mobile hen houses available which incorporate shelter for the chickens and a caged area with open floor for them to peck and scratch around. The beauty of this is that you can move it all over your garden to keep weeds at bay and fertilize the soil. Dome shape homes made out of poly pipe and chicken wire are also popular, these can be easily made at home and are light and easy to move, you simply get into the pen pick it up and move it, and your chickens will move along with you!
You will need to check with your local vet regarding the proper health care of your chickens and any vaccinations they may need, generally speaking though they are relatively easy to look after. Dust mites and lice do tend to be a problem, but if you dust your chickens regularly with a treatment powder these will be kept at bay. Worming is also important. Chickens with an upright coloured comb that are bright and perky are generally healthy chickens.
Chickens are a rewarding pet to have. They are easy enough to look after and you get beautiful fresh eggs in return - what could be better! Good Luck!
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