If you have a Garden, you can Keep Chickens!

Unless you’re unfortunate enough to have an intolerance to them you probably like eggs.  And if you like eggs you’ve probably thought about where they come from.  Following that line of thought, you may well have come to the conclusion “Wouldn’t it be a great idea to keep some chickens and have all the eggs I can eat?”

Historically, chicken eggs have been an excellent source of protein for people.  Even poorer families out in the countryside would keep chickens because of their ability to forage for food and provide eggs.  Though the great migration into the cities over the past few centuries left many people without the space to keep livestock, many people are now finding that, with even  a small area of land, they can add a few chickens to their garden and reap the benefits.

Problems to Consider

Naturally there are things that a would-be micro poultry farmer needs to think about before they invest in a fancy hen house and a truck load of grain.  For starters, where will the hens live?  Unlike domestic dogs and cats, chickens are quite resistant to being litter trained, meaning they make poor indoors companions. 

Therefore, having space outside is essential.   Presumably any one driven to keep their own chickens is driven, in part, by a desire to know that their own birds are better treated than the unfortunate hens kept at a battery farm.  Therefore, much more than the bare minimum of space is needed in order to let the chickens exercise.   

All of this space needs to provide protection and enclosure, partly so that your hens do not wander off, but mostly to ensure that they are not attacked by predators.  Depending on where you live foxes, badgers, racoons or even cats and dogs, can be a serious threat to your animals.   Generally it is safe to let the birds roam around during the day, but at night it is prudent to ensure they are safely locked up. 

How Many Eggs?

The number of eggs you can expect to get from a hen varies depending on breed and age.  Even old chickens can still lay, though less frequently than they would in their younger days.   Before choosing which hens to keep, this is something to consider.  Other things that effect a hen’s laying are the seasons – if it is too dark or too cold a hen will stop laying – something that is counteracted commercially with heated barns and artificial lighting. 

Even the most prolific layer can have bad days however and, as natural flocking creatures it’s a good idea to keep multiple hens, at least three is recommended by the RSPCA.  Be advised that if your chicken interest takes off and your flock grows, you may need to register it with the agricultural authorities.  In Britain, this means a flock of 50 or more must be registered with the government.  This is in case of outbreaks of disease.

One thing to consider in egg laying, and in keeping chicken in general, is that in order to do so they need to be fed.  While chickens will naturally forage, they will naturally have difficulties if they live in the limited confines of a back garden or during cold winter months when food is scarcer.  Other costs must be taken into consideration too – sick chickens will need care from a vet for example.

Despite all this, keeping chickens yourself remains a great way to enjoy delicious fresh eggs free in the knowledge that they’re receiving the best care possible – yours! 

Where can I get some chickens?

You can purchase chickens through various charities whose speciality is rehoming ex-battery laying hens. Hens range from £3-£7 per hen depending on the Charity. Of-course, you must consider all the other costs that are incurred in keeping chickens, but more advice can be saught from the same charities that can help you find your forever hens. The British Hen Welfare Trust can help you find extra information, give advice and recommendations in your hen keeping and purchasing.




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