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Talkback: Free range chickens

11 chickens is the problem! I keep just 3, in a large walled garden. That way I get enough eggs to keep me away from those dreadful pale supermarket offerings, but the impact on mt garden is truly minimal. oK I admit all my sunflower seedlings got eaten last year - but I shall just sow in pots and plant out later!! The joy of happy active hens (and the eggs) is worth it.


  • I would LOVE to keep a couple of hens, but I'm worried about the foxes. Where I live we have very long gardens, I could easily fence of say 30 foot of it, but my neighbours have done the same, but they use the end as a rubbish dump. I am sure a family of very confident and cheeky foxes live there.
  • We have kept chickens at the top of our garden for over ten years, varying amounts between 20 and two. We have been through all the stages, including buying rare breed eggs and letting our broodies hatch them - I agree with James, it is fraught but great fun and children absolutely love it!

    We have had one visit from Mr Fox in all this time; I think having a dog helps, as they bark when the fox is about; it is important to have the chicken wire high, and loose and floppy at top 12", apparently, foxes don't like the wire moving around. It is also important to bury the wire at least 12" under the ground.

    You don't get eggs all year round though, unless you introduce some false lighting, ours are just starting to lay again now.

  • Foxes are definitely not the chicken's friend, so I would suggest, Little, that you refrain from chicken keeping for a while.
  • I have had chickens since my son brought home day old chicks when he was six with the money he got from the tooth fairy. ( he is now 35 years old ) They used to roam the garden and roost in the bushes but then the local wildlife i.e. genets and mongoose discovered them and it is such a senseless death. They just take the head so I have them all caged up now.

    As you say the yolks are lovely and yellow. I have people beating a path to my door for my eggs. And I can make a small profit so I can buy grain.
    And BOY! do they love lettuce and tomotoes.

  • Can anyone tell me how much room do you need to keep 2 chickens? And do they have to be on grass or can they be on gravel? We have a garden with lots of levels going upwards - would we be able to have chickens that just roam around these levels?
  • I quite agree that hens can be destructive in the garden but they do eat slugs and other such pests.
    I have 3 hens which I adopted from the local battery farm. This is where I get all my hens. The last 2 I got were literally less than 1 hour from slaughter. One had no feathers at all but she has feathered up nicely. I only take hens from battery when the weather is warm enough because otherwise it is too much of a shock to their system.

    The other thing I would mention is that I cannot leave my back door open when the hens are about otherwise I have been known to find them in the living room. One was particularly fond of a brown carpet which I had. They are difficult to house-train!

  • Marg, we have a corner of the garden with 6ft trellis panels, three to a side and my two girls are more than happy with this. It looks quite good with the climbers all over it now!

    They do have the whole of the garden during late Autumn and Winter though and we have a fantastic gamekeeper around here so no, as yet, foxes. I too think it also helps having the dogs. I also take my male dog around the boundary, including the front where he doesn't normally have access, letting him do his thing so the foxes know he is about.

    Downside, no one has mentioned that they can attract rats. So hen compound not too near the house is good!!!

  • we took on 4 rescue battery hens from Battery Hen Welfare Trust a year last October, and we love them! They do have to be kept off veg beds you don't want scratched up, but in the perennial borders, they are a Godsend, they eat woodlice, ants and scratch up all the weed seedlings, cleaning and manuring the ground beautifully. Eggs are fab, and they are friendly pets.
  • we have had 2 hens for nearly a year and they are fab. We keep them in an eglu which is totaly fox safe. The girls wander the garden freely when we are in otherwise they are safe in their run.We have used a trellis for fencing to keep them off the bits of garden that we want to keep safe. The eggs they give us are absolutely gorgeous and far outway the worry over the state the grass is in now.
  • I have a converted garden shed 6x4' and a fox proof run, plastic coated wire which cost £100 covering sides & roof 10x30'. I sow birdseed for grass on protected areas which they enjoy I have 3 welsummer hens. The fox got my cockerell when I left the gate open. The neighbours are pleased he has gone
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