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keeping hens in the garden

PepPep Posts: 501
edited February 2018 in The cake stop
We are buying a house with a very big garden, semi-urban area.
I am thinking to keep our own hens in the garden (in their own small cheap-and-cheerful house), to get fresh eggs and to get fun. My 8yr-old child is already very excited abut the idea.
I understand there will be some work, cleaning, bla bla, whatever, ...
Not sure how happy the neighbours will be, perhaps I can occasionally bribe them with a few fresh eggs.

You guys have any experience with this kind of thing...?
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  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 9,544
    I have some experience. Don't be tempted to breed your own chicks. That involves owning a cockerel - he'll attack you and the neighbours will complain about the noise he makes.

    Hens are pretty straightforward as long as you're prepared against foxes.
    Ben

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  • PepPep Posts: 501
    Ben6899 wrote:
    Don't be tempted to breed your own chicks. That involves owning a cockerel -
    I have no intention to breed them, exactly for the extra mess.
    If/when they pass away I'll get some new ones, I guess hens are ridicolously cheap to buy.
  • shortfallshortfall Posts: 3,287
    Chicken runs tend to attract rats and mice in my experience. That said there's much fun to be had in rearing poultry and the kids will learn a lot from it, not mention that fresh free range eggs are a wonderful thing!
  • rjsterryrjsterry Posts: 22,328
    We've got a couple of rabbits rather than hens, but the Eglu hutch and run is pretty fox resistant.
    1985 Mercian King of Mercia - work in progress (Hah! Who am I kidding?)
    Pinnacle Monzonite

    Liberal metropolitan, remoaner, traitor, "sympathiser", etc.
  • PepPep Posts: 501
    Shortfall wrote:
    Chicken runs tend to attract rats and mice in my experience.

    Yes, this is my concern at the moment, the only one for now.
    My mum was many years nurse-manager of an operation theatre and she tought me hygiene etc etc, so I want to keep rats/mice away.
  • PepPep Posts: 501
    Does one keep them "indoor" all the time, or are they sometime allowed to wonder around the garden? If they do get out in the garden, how do you manage to put them back in place? I am not a sprinter, so not sure I can catch them.

    And if they do roam free around the garden, sure they will damage the veg... not happy about that!
  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 9,141
    My parents keep chickens and the eggs are amazing. They are allowed to roam the garden so they will poop everywhere so you'll have to keep on top of that and fence off anything you don't want pecked to bits. My dad has to re-seed the lawn every year. Oh and don't ever forget to lock them away at night! It will be difficult not to attract rats and mice.
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,426
    We keep chickens which run free range in the garden of our cottage in the Shropshire hills. You will get delicious eggs and the chickens will become very tame and make good pets. They will follow you around the garden, hoping for worms and grubs when you dig up vegetable beds, and they are very amusing to watch and listen to. Kids will love them. Ours are so tame they will jump on my lap if I am sitting outside and jump on our table to steal food if we are eating outside. They always want to come in the house so we have to make sure we keep our doors shut.

    But cleaning them out is necessary and chicken poo is vile stiff. You can line their little house with old newspaper to make it easier. Ours spend much of the day sunning themselves on our doormat and making a mess so we need to sweep there every day. Even then, it is common for us to step in chicken poo and inadvertently walk it through the house.

    Fox attacks are really upsetting for chicken owners. We are lucky in that we have a dog, an enclosed dog proof garden and lots of pheasants in the surrounding area to provide fox food so we have not suffered any attacks. Our neighbour have.

    They do attract rats. Several people round our way have chickens. We all have rats.

    Chickens can suddenly get ill and die for no obvious reason. Do you have the sort of garden in which you can bury or incinerate a dead chicken? Are you willing to put a suffering chicken out of its misery?

    Do you have neighbours willing to feed and lock up your chickens at night if you are away from home?

    If allowed to roam free in your garden chickens will do damage. They will destroy flowers, dig up bulbs and sprouting flowers and veg, eat strawberries etc and generally make a mess.
  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 9,141
    The chickens will go back to roost when it get dark on their own. If you need to get them in a bit earlier just shoo them in with a broom or something. Unless you're Rocky Balboa you'll be unlikely to a catch them.
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Everyone's I know who has had chickens has had fox attacks. It's nature. So best to be prepared for that.
  • PepPep Posts: 501
    I am more intimidated by the diseases carried by rats/mice, rather than by foxes attacking/killing the hens.
  • rjsterryrjsterry Posts: 22,328
    Don't quite follow the fear of diseases from rodents. Children (and adults) should be drilled in washing their hands after handling animals anyway - hens aren't exactly free of pathogens.
    1985 Mercian King of Mercia - work in progress (Hah! Who am I kidding?)
    Pinnacle Monzonite

    Liberal metropolitan, remoaner, traitor, "sympathiser", etc.
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Obviously there's forums you can join to ask these questions too - https://club.omlet.co.uk/forum/viewforu ... f9cfed5a25
  • mamba80mamba80 Posts: 5,032
    you need to be careful about Weils disease in rats, its not just illness, its damage they do if they get in your house, then you ll use poison and the bodies will stink because you cant find them, there are now new regs on how much poison you can buy too and from where.

    but i do believe getting chickens now will mean you are bound by Avian flu regs, which apply to all chicken owners, not just poultry farmers....
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bird ... of-england
  • seanoconnseanoconn Posts: 9,141
    Fenix wrote:
    Obviously there's forums you can join to ask these questions too - https://club.omlet.co.uk/forum/viewforu ... f9cfed5a25
    Yeah but who needs a dedicated forum when you can ask a bunch of half @rsed roadie know it all? 8)
    Pinno, מלך אידיוט וחרא מכונאי
  • laurentianlaurentian Posts: 2,007
    Have kept them but had a lot of space to do it in. 6 hens in a 100 plus square metre enclosed area doesn't really do much damage to the ground except around the feeders - a smaller space will get pretty muddy in the winter and dusty in the summer as they are constantly walking around and pecking and scraping at the ground. If you have a paddock or similar to put them in then great but I don't think I'd have them running around the garden as they will decimate it pretty quickly - you could make a run that can be moved around the garden though (just some chickenb wire and inexpensive stakes are really all you need but its a bit of a PITA to move and rebuild each time. Chicken shot is great fertilzer.

    Some places that you can buy hens from will "recycle" them when they get to the end of their laying days. We clipped the wings of ours (really easily done with some strong scissors) to prevent them flapping up and over the 3' high mesh fence that we enclosed them with.

    One last thing, depending on where you are, you may find that it is not permitted (in your deeds or local bye law) to keep hens in your garden - so may be an idea to check first
    Wilier Izoard XP
  • fat daddyfat daddy Posts: 2,605
    I dont have chickens .... BUT ..... I am a neighbour of someone that does.

    Other than the odd clucking sound, audible if you are in the garden sometimes at the weekend, if the wind is blowing in the right direction and there are no police helicopters hovering about or sirens going off or house alarms, car alarms, children playing etc etc etc ... I would never know they had them
  • joe2008joe2008 Posts: 1,531
    We had some neighbours who had them for a while... thankfully they've moved on.

    While they were here, my little girl said one day, "Daddy there's a big mouse on the fence."
  • Stevo_666Stevo_666 Posts: 49,370
    One of my OH's brothers used to keep them - made a right mess of the lawn - chicken censored everywhere. Also a bind as he had to be around to let them out in the morning and put them back in at night.
    "I spent most of my money on birds, booze and fast cars: the rest of it I just squandered." [George Best]
  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,599
    rjsterry wrote:
    We've got a couple of rabbits rather than hens, but the Eglu hutch and run is pretty fox resistant.

    Yum, rabbit eggs.
    I don't do smileys.

    There is no secret ingredient - Kung Fu Panda

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    Parktools
  • capt_slogcapt_slog Posts: 3,709
    I used to keep them, years back at a former house.

    Mercia Man gave some good advice above.

    Further to that, my keep method was a lot different. I only had two hens.

    I had a shed in the garden onto the end which i built a chicken run. This would have been around 4 feet out from the shed, possibly 6 long and 4 high (forget if I could get in there or not to stand up.) this was a framework of timber with chicken wire over. Inside the shed I built a counter, around 3 feet deep, running along the same wall as the outside run, and normal work-top height. The counter had a hinged lid I think, and also a hatch to get to the inside. It was chicken wire too, connected to the outside run with a ramp, about a third of it was a nest box. So, I didn't lose an entire shed, I had room to keep stuff, and even a bit of workbench for gardening type tasks.

    The inside part was fill with wood shavings, I replenished these as they got dirty, and they DO get very dirty. Every few months, I had to go in there and remove the entire lot and start again, horrible job.]

    At night, I would go into the shed, the hens would come to see me, and I would drop the cover to shut them in for the night. (IMPORTANT I had to redesign this to work from inside the shed, they would follow me back outside otherwise :lol: ).

    If you're worried about rats, then you are living in the wrong place. If you have a garden, it's almost certain that the buggers are there already. I had mice a plenty in the chicken house, they used to try to live in my empty beehive parts which were stored in the same shed.

    The hens you want used to be called ISA Browns, they are the type used in battery farms (I think) and are great egg laying machines. We had more than enough for the two of us from two hens, and were able to give some away. Some people pick up ex-free range chickens at a year or so old. The local place to me sold them at around 75p recently, so not eggspensive :)


    The older I get, the better I was.

  • We have four hens. Given the cost of feed it would be cheaper to buy the eggs from a shop.
  • AnonymousAnonymous Posts: 79,667
    fence off a section of the garden....with a roof on part for shelter in the sun and rain etc ...put down bark mulch...they like to scratch it about looking for bugs and its easy to rake up and change when it gets soggy and full of sh**..Plus point being its good as a fertiliser on the plants !!

    Get an EGGLU...Plastic hen hut...easier to keep clean than a wooden hen hut and your hens are less prone to mites. They are pretty expensive but last for ages..Yiu can also fit an automatic door opener which is handy if your out at work...

    Minus points - like all livestock..when you are on holiday you will need someone to come in twice a day every day to feed and water, let them out and put them to bed at night..

    We have 6 ex battery hens...cost £4 each and they give us one or two eggs a day each. ( we had three each once but that was in the summer and they were young then)..down to one each in winter..But they keep the garden free of slugs and bugs --- but keep them away from bedding plants and they will tech them to death !!

    have fun !
  • bianchimoonbianchimoon Posts: 3,942
    careful if dogs have access to garden, my next door neighbours chickens were killed by a neighbours normally very docile spaniel. He thoroughly enjoyed his 5 minute romp, looked very pleased with himself, once he'd spat all the feathers out!
    All lies and jest..still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest....
  • For us, it's a split of fun pets and getting eggs. Because of this, instead of spending big money on a bred dog or vet visits for a pet like a dog........we bought a nice chicken coop.

    We bought a larger "eggloo". It is very well thought out and cleanable. Very durable. We've got 9 hens. Very tame, beg for scraps and let you pick them up. Ours free range and get locked up at dusk. We have lost a few in a couple years. Risk we take for them to have their fun free ranging.

    Research and don't buy any breeds that are more prone to go "broody".
  • pinnopinno Posts: 45,357
    Kept hens for years. What I am surprised at is those who have to 'shoo' them in to their hut. That's easy - put a light in the chicken shed. Mains if it's big or some battery powered LED device. Handy for cleaning it out. When it gets to twilight, switch it on and they follow the light. You can even put a candle in a jar. Simple. After a while, the hut becomes home and they just go there but I would not have them roaming the garden. What a mess.
    If you want to clear a piece of land of everything green - just put chickens on them!

    Make a concrete hard stand for the chicken shed as it's easier to clean and rotate the run around that stand as a central point (if you have the room) and as a mount for the hut. Chicken wire mesh is a PITA. Personally, get some weld mesh and some posts to make a run. It's more robust and easier to shift.
    A proper hut won't allow foxes in and anyway, ferrets and stoats are far more destructive and more difficult to keep out.

    Chicken censored does break down, so a midden where it's mixed with everything else for composting does the trick but it needs to be turned regularly so that rats don't nest in it and anyway, composting requires the rotation of decaying matter - it's not a methane production plant.

    Cockerels. We had one we called George. George was pretty unsuccessful at being Dad as all the hens were proper (vaccinated) hybrids but he kept them happy, was always last in to the hut shepherding them in and out and he was the gentlest Cockerel you could ask for. We could pick him up and treat the scales on his feet without any obstinacy or hostility. It's a fallacy that Cockerels are mostly aggressive. Anyway, 1 of them keeps hens happy. If you happen to get an aggressive one (buy a cockerel chick and hand feed it/handle it), just casserole him.

    With the price of point of lay pullets, mite treatment (paraffin), the odd vet bill, the price of the chicken run and the shed, broody chickens nesting, layers mash, remember this: A chicken always dies in debt.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • norvernrobnorvernrob Posts: 1,437
    We used to keep them. I built a large aviary type enclosure which was around 4x3m, it was high enough for me to walk around in and I also covered the floor in paving stones so cleaning them out was easy.

    We did let them out into the garden for a run around, but beware as they scratch constantly and will eat just about anything, including mice. I’ve seen them tear one apart in seconds. If it’s a really big garden and you haven’t got too many then you’ll get away with letting them roam in the daytime, but they’ll still eat whatever they fancy so you’ll find some stuff gets destroyed.
  • pinnopinno Posts: 45,357
    NorvernRob wrote:
    We used to keep them. I built a large aviary type enclosure which was around 4x3m, it was high enough for me to walk around in and I also covered the floor in paving stones so cleaning them out was easy.

    We did let them out into the garden for a run around, but beware as they scratch constantly and will eat just about anything, including mice. I’ve seen them tear one apart in seconds. If it’s a really big garden and you haven’t got too many then you’ll get away with letting them roam in the daytime, but they’ll still eat whatever they fancy so you’ll find some stuff gets destroyed.

    We used to give them kitchen scraps. You've never seen a roast chicken carcass decimated so quickly!
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • fenixfenix Posts: 5,437
    Yeah I'm not sure you should be doing that now.

    https://www.pets4homes.co.uk/pet-advice ... ckens.html
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