Cracking on - Michael Graham’s guide to keeping chickens
What rural idyll would be complete without the requisite flock of hens ambling and clucking about in the garden? Breakfast time is never the same again once you’ve collected freshly laid eggs from the hen house, their taste is beyond compare. Surprisingly perhaps, chickens are full of personality and can become very tame, which makes them great pets for children, as well as having the huge benefit of being one of the few pets which pay for their own keep. So if you’re new to country life, or have often toyed with the idea of keeping chickens, here are Michael Graham’s top tips for starting your own flock.
- Start small. Ideally no more than three birds and gradually build up your flock if you have the space to do so. Above all, never introduce a single hen to the others as they will be beakily brutal in making the pecking order clear.
- Even if you’re planning on letting the hens free range, they will need a generously sized coop or outbuilding to be shut in to at dusk when wily fox is on the hunt. If you are confining the hens to an enclosure, make sure it’s of ample size and is fox-proof.
- Chickens eat layers pellets or layers mash, and food and water need to be replaced daily. Consider corn and bread as sweets and feed them sparingly. Oyster shell and grit need to be readily available for helping strengthen the eggshells and grind up food. And take feeders away at night to deter unwelcome rodent visitors.
- Droppings should be removed from the nesting box daily, and the coop cleaned out once a month, depending on how many hens you have.
Keen gardeners need to brace themselves however. Chickens look very pretty in the garden and provide great pest control by devouring slugs and snails. But they will also decimate your plants and think they’ve died and gone to heaven if allowed access to your vegetable patch, so be sure to make any prized areas out of bounds.
If you’re dreaming of a rural idyll, visit micahelgraham.co.uk to find your perfect country home. Chickens an added extra.