Top Tips For First-time Chicken Owners

Keeping chickens in a back garden is very popular these days which is great because these lovely birds are real characters! This is one fashionable trend that is definitely worthwhile too because of the fresh eggs you get to pick up on a daily basis.

However, it's important to know how to look after your birds so they remain happy and healthy. Below are a few tips and some advice if you are thinking about keeping chickens and are new to the whole concept of doing so.

Start Off With Young Chicks

It may sound like a good idea to invest in an incubator and then hatch out the chicks yourself. However, it's not as easy as it sounds because a lot can go wrong which could lead to heartache and disappointment.

It's a much better idea to buy in some chicks making sure you contact a reputable breeder who is known for breeding healthy and strong birds no matter what breed they happen to be. The best time to get chicks is in the spring which is when breeders start their yearly hatchings.

Another option is to buy in some adult hens that are already laying, but you have to be careful not to get other people's unwanted birds which they want to get rid of for one reason or another! You need to make sure the hens are healthy and disease-free which includes checking them over for things like bumblefoot!

Choose to Keep Hardier Breeds

It is far better to choose hardier more robust breeds when you first start out keeping chickens. The more delicate breeds like Silkies are often much fancier looking but they tend to be harder to look after and they need more in the way of being cared for simply because they are less self sufficient than hardier breeds.


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Choose a Simple Chicken Coop

The ideal chicken coop is actually a converted garden shed. Sheds are large and easier to clean out which is crucial because hygiene is very important to your flock. You can walk in a shed and you can treat the wood more easily with mite powders and other necessary treatments to reduce the risk of your birds being infested with parasites.

Perches can be placed up high which all chickens like because the higher they are at night, the safer they feel they are away from predators. It is also that much easier to build a chicken run on to the front or the side of a garden shed which allows your birds can go outside when you are not at home without the fear of being taken by any predators!

The other advantage of converting a garden shed into a chicken coop is that you can fit it with electricity so that on the darker winter afternoons, you can still clean the shed out and your birds can be put under heat lamps if you want them to carry on laying for a while during the winter.

Keep Things as "Green" as Possible

If possible it's a better idea to keep things as "green" as possible which means more affordable too! The way to do this is as follows:

  • Free range your hens as much as possible because not only will they enjoy life a lot more, but it will help keep your feed bill down too. However, your hens need to be kept somewhere safe and out of the reach of predators, namely foxes and larger birds of prey!
  • Use natural products wherever possible and try to avoid using any "chemicals" on your birds or to clean out their chicken coop
  • It's a good idea to feed your birds some crushed egg shells as a way to supplement their feed with calcium. However, make sure you boil the shells to avoid any harmful bacteria getting into your hens digestive systems
  • Feed as many kitchen scraps as you can to your hens – they will love you for it! This provides a lot of diversity to their diet as well as providing lots of extra nutrients and goodness. The bonus being you will have less waste to put in the dustbin!
  • Try to avoid leaving your birds under lamps all year round because they do need a break from laying! However, if the temperature really drops very low, it's always a good idea for your birds to have some heat on them to prevent them from getting cold or suffering from frostbite
  • Make your own nesting boxes by recycling old furniture drawers which are ideal for your birds to lay their eggs in. You don't have to spend a fortune on buying lots of expensive equipment when you first start keeping hens because most of the things you need you can make yourself by recycling things you already own!
  • Hens love a routine so by setting one up which you can keep to, you will have a very happy flock. Happy hens lay lots of eggs which is the real bonus!
  • Hygiene is crucial! It's really important to keep your hen's environment as clean as possible as this will reduce the chance of them developing any nasty health conditions and diseases. Cleaning out nesting boxes is also essential because it keeps eggs clean and your bird's underside dirt-free too!
  • Deep littering a coop is fine as long as you turn the top layer every day after letting your hens out to scratch around in the morning!

Conclusion

You don't have to spend a fortune when you first start keeping chickens in a back garden. The biggest expense is the coop and the ideal chicken house is by far a converted garden shed. Letting your hens free range also helps keep your feed bill down, but it does not mean you don't have to give your birds either some mixed grain or layers pellets/mash on a daily basis. By following the tips and advice listed above, you'll soon find your feet when it comes to looking after your chickens and you will enjoy every minute of it!


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