This Article is by Virginia Shirt, author of
The Right Way to Keep Chickens
Virginia Shirt has
lived with chickens for over 15 years so her knowledge of these fascinating
birds is based on practical experience.
Her book is a revelation
and inspiration to every aspiring enthusiast.
It is so rewarding to go into your very own hen house and collect
your delightful eggs. Even if you only have a small back yard you will
still be able to house a couple of chickens and you need not pay the earth
to set up your back yard flock.
Where to Get Your Chickens
Many large egg producers only use hens for one year as their egg production
falls a little after the first year. Sadly this leads to hens being disposed
of when they have had very little chance at life. These chickens are often
sold off once or twice a year very cheaply compared with the price for
point of lay chickens. You will need to ask around to source these chickens
but it is so very rewarding to give them a happy contented life.
particularly rewarding to enhance the life of ex-battery hens. If you
do not know of any local establishment you can contact the Battery Hen
So you are not only extending the life of such unfortunate chickens but
you are saving money too! Ex-battery hens will lay many eggs for you if
you look after them correctly. Feed good quality food and ensure you always
have plenty of fresh water available for them.
Housing your Chickens
Setting up your hen house need not cost you a lot of money. I have been
to my friend’s house this week to see her new rescued hens. She has set
up her coop using very little money by converting a shed. The shed was
her biggest outlay and she shopped around for that to get the best price.
Chickens often nest where they want to -
Not where you want them too!
Perches for the hens can be made from any long pole like structure. It
just needs to be thick enough for the hen to curl her toes over. Many ex
battery hens will need encouraging to perch as they will never have done
this before. Although it is a natural behaviour some hens don’t do it.
So don’t worry too much if your hens decide they like the floor better
just keep it nicely bedded to keep there bellies dry.
Nest boxes can again be any hen sized object that enclose the hen nicely
and has one entrance which is the exit also. My hens being free range will
pick the most obscure objects to lay eggs in, these include the following;
- Three gallon buckets
- Rabbit hutches
- Underneath farm implements
- Milk churns (laid on side)
- Piles of stacked wood
Basically anywhere that provides privacy and dim light. So taking this
in to account, look around your home and sheds for items that could provide
this type of environment. I have used old bedroom units and cupboards placed
in a darkened corner of the chicken house. Fill the chosen nest box with
bedding and away you go.
You can make your own nest boxes from scraps of wood found around the garden
etc. Put the word out to your friends that you are looking for spare wood
and cupboards etc. It is amazing how much stuff is thrown out these days.
The second part of this article covers feeding, watering and protecting your
hens. Budget Chicken Keeping
There's a load of information on our sister web site The
Poultry Pages and
a great chat forum where poultry keepers exchange help, tips and advice.
G W Titmus offer a good range of poultry supplies online, including feeds
and feeds suitable for ex-battery hens - more