Keeping chickens

Knowing what a diverse following there is on here can I ask if anyone keeps or has kept chickens. We are thinking of doing this - starting with 3 or 4 to begin with as a trial and going from there if these prove to be successful. They won't have free range of the garden but be kept in part of the veg patch which is too shady for crops to grow productively. Apart from grain what else can we feed them on?
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  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 15,342
    edited October 2018
    We went through a phase of thinking it would be nice to keep chickens. Then I saw a course organised by the chicken keepers of Chatsworth House here in Derbyshire. Yes, they do have chicken keepers. So we did their one-day chicken keeping course. But shortly after that our lives took a bit if a different turn and we decided that it would be too much responsibility.

    It was a wonderful experience and a great eye opener. I would really recommend that you find a similar course near where you live and test the waters before you commit to anything.

    That said, here is a brief description of what you will need to keep your chickens well fed.

    https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/getting-started/chicken-feed/

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 2,411
    I have a friend who runs "Hen Heaven", a poultry sanctuary in Sussex.  Most of her birds are "end of lay" hens from battery farms.  But a substantial number come from people who had romantic ideas about keeping a few chickens in the back garden, and found out the hard way that it involved more work than they expected, and less fun once the novelty wore off.  A fox-proof henhouse and fencing don't come cheap, you have to buy food (no, they can't live on kitchen scraps) and bedding and you need somewhere dry and rat-proof to store them.  You have to have space to compost the waste and neighbours who won't object to the noise and the smell.  Egg production is seasonal, you won't get a steady supply all year round. And if you ever want to go away, you'll need someone to look after them.  Is it worth it just for free eggs?
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 22,361
    In a nutshell, @josusa47 has hit the nail on the head of why I don't keep them. 
    I've had clients in the past with chickens and I loved them following me round the garden.
    We've got foxes live on our land and they keep the rabbits who live here in check, so I don't want rid of them or move them on . As I can't have the chucks "free range" then there's not point.
    Devon.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,636
    edited October 2018
    chicken courses, for another example https://www.cotswoldchickens.com/chicken-keeping-courses--workshops-17-c.asp
    No idea if there's an equivalent on the CI but there's some info on the website under 'care and advice' that may help you make up your mind.
    Flying...
    Or am I falling?
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 15,342
    I would love to keep them. We are in most of the day and could easily keep an eye on them for danger.

    But the thing is that you have to look after them all day, every day. They need feeding and fresh water every day. They need putting to bed, locking up, and letting out every day. They need clean bedding and they need their house to be kept clean. They need medical care (yes, they do).

    Think of keeping a couple of dogs with no dog sitter. That is about it.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 22,361
    One of my former clients paid £400 , yes four hundred , for an autopsy after one of her chucks died. 
    Devon.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,636
    It's surprisingly easy to get quite attached to them. From a distance they look quite 'meh', but up close, they are sociable, amusing and characterful creatures. And like a dog, taking them on is a commitment and not to be done lightly. A chicken is for life, not just for lunch
    Flying...
    Or am I falling?
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 2,914
    We used to have 3, josusa has given you all the good info, we "rescued" 3 end of lay battery hens, they hadnt had their beaks done, they were great fun, all had names, given run of the garden all day when one of us was there,  we lived just outside a village, backed onto fields, so you have to keep them save at night.we bought a secondhand rabbit hutch for them, hubby cut legs off (the hutch, not the hens) he concreted their run, and put a run off drainage system. A friend of mine who lives in a town, has a much smaller garden, lays straw over the ground for them.  You can buy a nice chicken house on e bay for around a hundred quid.  For several years we had 21 eggs a week, more than we could use, they were very tame and used to poter indoors, will see if I can find some pics and my daughter can post them on here.
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 2,914
    Is it worth it just for free eggs, well, of course they arent free, but the hens were lovelly and so were the eggs, sometimes hubby took them to worth, people said they had never seen such orange yolks.  But we have 2 dogs, mostly had 2 cats as well, plus rats,birds,mice,hampsters, guinee pigs, did they give nothing, in return, no, they gave/give lots in return.Its an animal pet or otherwise, they need looking after, yes.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 18,205
    I'm thinking of homing some laying chickens next time nearest egg farm changes its hens.  It's more about giving them a life than having eggs and I'm hoping they'll help keep my veg plot clear of pests and some weeds and provide some muck for the compost heap.  It's fenced so I can keep the dogs out and I gather they'll sort out any pussies who investigate too closely.

    We are retired so have the time to care for them each day so I'm busy researching hen houses so they can be safe at night as well as easy to clean and care for.   We'd have to get cat and dog sitters in if we go away and they'll do hens too so no huge costs.   Eggs will be a bonus and can be shared with neighbours or patch friends. 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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