Are you keeping your chickens at home
So far we,ve talked about what a chicken requires, now for some fun stuff, what a chicken likes. if your keeping your newly aquired chickens at home like a lot of people nowadays do, firstly it's advisable to speak to your neighbours, cockerels are noisey and they don't just crow at sun up, they do it from when they wake till they go back to bed. But your hens make some noise to, not much only a little and only when squeezing something the size of a football out of a hole the size of a golf ball (lwhen laying an egg) and it doesn't last too long. However getting your neighbours on board can be fairly easy, your conversation would go along the lines of: hey I'm thinking of getting half a dozen chickens or so, eggs are fresh daily and only 50p a box of six: (to cover the cost of your feed) usually works great. Your chickens will require a run, with a roof, so they can't.. Run that is, ideally not secured and of a size you can easily move giving your girls fresh grass/greens, on the plus side you get your garden weeded and manursed for free. Hens need to bathe in dust, it's their way of keeping their feathers in tip top condition and ridding themselves of any unwanted bugs that may have sneaked inbetween their feathers, I use an old car tyre, you could paint it to blend in if you wanted, half fill it with soil and sand, builders sand cheap at D.I.Y stores. Now Imagine your chicken is the dog equivalent of a border collie, chickens are highly intelligent, they are more intelligent than a toddler (proven fact) they bore easily so I set up cabbage swingball, any reduced to clear green veg from supermarket hung from roof by string and they will peck it back and forth for hours.
HEN KEEPING ON A BUDGET
As promised earlier my advise on keeping hens cheaply or free. I took delivery of 18 hens totally free some years ago from the hen welfare trust, they rescue thousands upon thousands of hens each year and need people to look after them, these hens have live their first year and a half in battery like accomodations and are conditioned to lay eggs daily. Now, on the plus side they are all vaccinated, a hen only need be vaccinated once in its life, and they are trained to lay eggs daily. They aren't to pretty at first as they will be moulted (featherless parts of their bodies.) On the plus side as well are some of the eggs these birds lay are huge, I get my fair share of double yolkers from mine. These hens with the right henhouse management (covered in the next section) can live to be a good old age. Another plus is your doing these hens a favour, it's a sad truth, but the hens the welfare trust cannot adopt out will be humanely destroyed. These hens have never seen the light of day and to see the joy of them running around outdoors is amazing. So that's free hens, the expensive bit is their accommodation (housing needs) but not so expensive, it doesn't matter if you only want 4 hens or you want 24 hens, four hens will happily live in large two tier rabbit hutch and twenty four will live in a large tool shed with roosting poles on differing levels. Both of these i have, cost to purchase, ZERO, Nothing. The free papers, freecycle on-line all giving away buyer to collect and dismantle, remember they've live in a cage not even big enough to turn around in. Really these items are daily listed free, cheap would be on-line at EBAY-EBID etc. Now the food free, as I raise hens I'm always being given treats from neighbours, weeds, green veg that has bolted etc, the pellets you do need to pay for, so up-front £7.50 for a 20kg sack of feed, sell the eggs £1 a dozen to friends, family, neighbours work colleges etc, the money raised will buy the next sack of feed and change left over. Who wouldn't pay £1 for six of the freshest eggs ever tasted. now for my handy tip, if you live close to allotments, my local allotment association has a shop open four mornings a week inc weekends and they sell all of your (bedding materials) sawdust, straw as well as any sprays lotions or potions you may require and at little more than cost price, they also sell al your feedimg requirements including layers mash, layers pellets and chick crumb, as well as all of your hens treats, sunflower seeds, mealworms bird seed etc. Please if I haven't covered something let me know and I shall answer you.
for a number of years now I have successfully raised free ranging hens. I have attended courses, read book and researched a lot of information online, including taking day courses on henhouse management, but most of my learning actually comes from (in house training) on the job experience. You can read about how to identify and treat any and most diseases and how to manage many situations, however what you can't be prepared for is getting up at stupid o clock on a cold winters morning, you may find some situations you are ill prepared for. It is for this reason I have decided to blog. I'm not saying I am an expert or that I claim to know everything there is to know about raising hens. I am saying that I am more prepared than most and am happy to pass on my learning experiences to those who wish some simple answers. i mentioned earlier I have attended courses, run by professionals in their field, i can tell you I raised my hand quite a few times and asked what I thought were intelligent questions, I can also tell you that some of the issues I have dealt with over the years I would never of dreamed in A thousand years that I would need the answers to. So please if you have a question or need advice in any way shape of form, then please ask. The only stupid question!, is the unasked question.. The web and the shops would have you spend hundreds of pounds, I have a cheaper alternative for most of the items my 70 girls and 4 cockerels need.. From dietary requirements to hygienic needs, from treats to housing. I am currently testing out some home made feed for my hens for which the recipe was sent to me from a blogger in Texas, it's called fodder and in America this guy Feeds it to his cattle, horses, goats, sheep turkeys and chickens, it's home made easily grown costs very little and the health benefits are truly amazing. Should my trials of this be as amazing as I'm told I then I shall happily pass this onto everyone else. P.s, henhouse management also includes the daily and weekly cleaning duties that help to keep your girls disease free and healthy.
ORGANIC BENEFITS: GARDEN Vs GIRLS
from a very young age I've always wanted the hens and the land, my free ranging hens and organic garden go hand in Hand, I couldn't imagine one without the other. While I'm gardening the hens are a constant source of amusement to me, my chickens also enjoy all the weeds I can pull up. Letting the hens have as much free space as I can and allowing them the cabbage, sprout, cauliflower leaves and a lot more greens makes for a much tastier deeper yolked egg. Everything I grow I research first to see which feed best serves it, does it benefit from a mulch, would it benefit from a full folia feed does it need nitrogen/potassium. I then research the recommended feed and simply convert the recipe to suit to my organic needs it may take me a year or so to grow the specific plant for its leaves or root I need, then I need time to extract the essential vitamins/nutrients needed in the feed making process but it is worth the time spent. I get bigger better tasting fruit and veg, in turn my girls eat very well too. And at the end of the growing season I open up my garden to my hens and they weed and manure it for me ready for next seasons planting.