Chickens. Keeping chickens at home Pin Image

Keeping Chickens

Author: Naomi Liddell

As I write this, we are set for a truly gorgeous impending Saturday. I’m planning on spending it knelt on a knee pad, digging in some colourful flower beds to our currently very sad looking flowerless garden.

When we bought this house in February, we were super gung-ho about the changes we wanted to make and the lifestyle we wanted to live (as I imagine most first time buyers are). After some plaster work, we are finally painting and the furniture is filtering in as and how we find the pieces we’re after. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect non-velvet indigo armchair though if anyone has any pointers?!

The changes so far are as we planned them, intentional and in tune with how we want to live. We’ve talked forever and a day about keeping both chickens and bees. The bees are a topic for a later date as I think we’ll require a bit more investigation and knowledge before making that leap (not to mention the fact that Ethan is currently terrified of them). But now that the last of the frost has (hopefully!) past, we’ve been debating the timing for investing in some hens.

Being 6 months pregnant, this has sparked a “before or after baby?” question. It’s one that Gavin and I are still trying to nut out. If we get them before, I imagine they’ll just become part of the family routine, but I feel like if we wait until after, we’ll end up delaying the investment until next spring… If we do it at all!

Therein lies the problem. It’s all very romantic and well-meaning to fantasise about harvesting your own eggs, but some serious research has lead me to the following pros and cons lists.

Pros

  • Big smacking obvious one – all the eggs. We eat quite a few eggs. I find myself buying a box of 15 free-range eggs each week if not more. Reason being, Gavin takes hard boiled eggs to work as snacks, I like two eggs on toast a couple of times a week and then once a week I reduce our food waste by making a big ‘anything goes’ frittata, not to mention our weekly batch of buckwheat pancakes and any other baking I eventually do. So yes, we would benefit from having eggs on tap.
  • Entertaining and educating the kiddos. Whilst I’m not one for a house pet, I do realise that kids get all sorts of benefits from interacting with and caring for live animals.
  • Hens are an excellent way of keeping garden pests at bay, providing awesome fertiliser for plants and eating certain food scraps, contributing to our little hippy household ecosystem.

Cons

  • One of the reasons I’ve never owned a pet before is because I do not take the responsibility of looking after a beautiful little animal lightly. I know that there’s daily work involved and that they’ll need to be looked after when we go on trips.
  • Apparently hens brutally murder your garden. I like the idea of buying a decent run for them but letting them roam on the 4 days a week that I’m at home to keep an eye on them. However, our garden plans also involve investing in growing a lawn, veggies, fruits and flowering plants, all of which hens love to get their pecking beaks into. So if we go for it, we’ll need to find a way of giving them space to roam, but containing them enough to mitigate the damage.
  • Foxes. We have tons that roam these parts, being semi-rural. And we have friends who returned from a night away, entered the house via the back garden, kids first and were greeted by a chicken massacre. Their poor 6 year old daughter was crying for days. Other hen keeping acquaintances have informed me that losing a hen or two is an inevitability, but that fox deterrents are getting better.
  • In my life, I’ve handled many a mammal, a tarantula and quite a few snakes (keep your jokes to yourself), but I have never actually held a bird. And to be honest, the thought of it kinda weirds me out. Flapping feathers and all. But keeping chickens and keeping them healthy means bird handling, wing clipping and checking for mites, so if we take the plunge I’ll need to get used to the idea real quick.

So have any of you ever entertained the idea of keeping hens?

Or are you a seasoned hen keeper and have any pro tips for me?

{Contributors}
Author
Naomi can’t decide which she loves more: adventuring with her boys or being left alone in a luxurious bath with a great book.
Follow Naomi on Instagram @naomiliddell
This post may include affiliate links.
SHOP OUR INSTAGRAM

22 thoughts on “Keeping Chickens

  1. I love this post; slightly random one off the usual RMS track 😉 I too would really like some chickens for all the reasons you mention above. The things that have held me back so far are 1) the smell- I’ve heard it’s ptrtty bad and our old garden was quite small so I held off until we moved. 2) we now have a bigger garden but covenants on our close suggest we cannot keep ‘livesrock’ I’ve not enquired yet about whether this includes chickens but j suspect it does and our neighbours are quite sticklers to the rules so we could be done with the idea before starting. Look forward to hearing how you get on with it and I would definitely recommend doing it now before the baby comes along! As you say it will then just become part of your family routine.

    1. Hmm, I hadn’t considered the smell. Although a quick Google tells me that if you keep the coop clean (which is pretty important anyway, that smell isn’t so much of an issue). And I must also check our house deeds to see if we have a livestock clause. Thank you for the reminder Anna!

  2. Definitely get the chickens before you have the baby. We got ours last summer and I just love them. Honestly there are few things that make me happier than collecting the eggs first thing in the morning (how times have changed…). We were first timers (never had chickens before) and have bantams which are smaller than chickens (by about a third) and generally tamer, easier to pick up, don’t fly off so much etc. They lay 1 or 2 eggs every 1 or 2 days, and are a bit smaller than normal hens’ eggs (but just as tasty).

    Our 18 month old son ADORES the chickens, his first word was ‘coo-coo’ – his word for chickens. Each morning he trots off with me to look in the nest box for eggs. You’ll need at least 3 to start off with so they don’t get lonely, and get them at point of lay (about 16 weeks) so they start laying eggs straight away once they’ve settled in. We have a 3m run in the garden, with a coop / nest box all attached. (Look on gumtree / second hand / make one yourself as they’re quite expensive to buy new.)

    I’ve found with 3 that they don’t smell too much, we let them out for runs around the garden (they come back to the coop in the evening by themselves) or are happy in their run all day. Clean them out every 2-3 days, get a hanging feeder which again needs re-filling every 2-3 days and check the water every day. Honestly, they are so easy to keep and such happy little things, and they hardly need any space. We can leave them to go away for the weekend fine. Foxes are more tricky. Ironically not as much of a problem in the countryside as I think in towns now…

    1. Rebecca, I’m so happy you took the time to write this comment! It’s great hearing from a first timer. We had been looking at breeds, maybe the smaller ones are the way to go. Also great advice on the coop. We spotted one with a run but it was new and was about £400! You’ve got me all excited about it now. I’ll be sharing this with Gavin later, we’ll need to make a decision soon as I’ve only 3 months left until baby gets here!

  3. Ooh, I’m sitting on the fence of I would maybe wait. I find the daily poo poo cleaning and feeding (10 mins a day and 40 mins mucking their trays out weekly ish) quite time consuming. My kids are not at all interested. One is a bit fearful….!
    With a new baby and no one to watch them on rainy days while I get it.
    I love my chickens but they’re very much for me not the kids…!
    And I can’t hard boil my eggs as when they’re fresh you can’t shell them! Xx

    1. Sophie, I believe you left me a super helpful comment on my pets post on Rock My Family when I first mentioned chickens? I’ve still been referring to that comment when chatting to Gavin about it. Knowing how much time involved is really helpful!
      Ethan has taken great interest in the chickens at the farm down the road, but I wonder if that would change when it becomes a daily/boring home maintenance thing?…

      1. God I do not want to sound like a downer Deirdre about it all!! A neggy Nora! Ha! If it’s a dream that you guys have been thinking of for a while then go for it! There’s no time like the present. I think everyone’s experience and space available/garden/coop is different. We have a large run and they don’t come out much apart from when I clean out, so mess is contained but needs regular cleaning.
        You have a better kiddy age gap than mine were so maybe that will be to your benefit and Ethan can help.
        Have a plan for if/when one dies…..I’ve now dealt with a few and wish someone had told me that in the first instance…!
        The food bags are heavy so get stocked up in advance of birth…!
        The all- in frittatas you can prepare from your own fair hands are amazing! Xxx

  4. Thinking about them here too. The previous owners had chickens, a pig at one point and a Dove house cote thing. I’m quite tempted by the chickens as we have a chicken house (currently storing the crazy coupe like some ridiculous garage) but the masssre thing puts me off more than anything else.
    MIL had some and they didn’t destroy her garden, she had a veg patch at the same time and they didn’t eat anything. She meshed it over.

    Super impressed you’ve had people in already. Turns out workmen round here are worth more than the bloody footballers houses they do. You can’t get hold of someone to do something for love nor money!

    1. Well it’s reassuring that your MIL didn’t have any garden trouble. Do you know what breed she chose?
      We got pretty lucky with the plasterer, he was recommended by a few locals, works at a firm but does homers on the weekends. He came in one Saturday and did everything we needed done (arch pulled down, wall re-beaded and plastered, some walls patched, sockets/light fittings patched). He did a great job and was super reasonable. If you were based in central Scotland, I would totally recommend, but by the sounds of the fancy footballer’s houses, you might be further afield ☺️

      1. Think she had Bantams. Dunno really. One was black and two were brown….. **shrugs**

        We’re Cheshire. The non footballer bit. But they do snaffle all the workmen leaving nothing for us mere mortals who actually have budgets!

  5. We have had hens for a few years now off and on- but really invested in them in 2016 as part of a Rock My autumn challenge- can’t remember what it was called- but we built “Fort Fox” a dedicated 8x4m pen area with 6ft wire fence, wood chip floor and all. We used to let our chooks free range anywhere and still let them out as a treat if we are at home- but they poo everywhere and we had a big buzzard problem- they would just vanish while we were at work! One also got run over by a tractor… so yes, recommend keeping them in the run of you aren’t around!

    They are lovely to have, especially if you go for ex caged hens who are very used to people and friendly! I really recommend doing this via British Hen Welfare Trust as even if they do get snaffled by a predator every day they have with you is a day they wouldn’t have had otherwise. If you do get rescues have some sudocrem ready for the red sore patches they will inevitably have when you get them.

    Daily care is fine, it’s just the mucking out and red mite dusting every week or every other week depending on how much time they spend in the coop. Ours don’t even roost in theirs so it doesn’t get mucky fast. Speaking of coops, the plastic ones are spendy but way better as you can hose them or jet wash and they are better for avoiding the aforesaid red mite. Only thing I would say is it’s bloody hard mucking them out heavily pregnant as reaching in the coop with a bump is uncomfortable.

    We got 3 new additions at the weekend (did you see my IG?) and they are still settling in and have to be caught and put in the coop at the end of the day. It’s just practice and confidence handling them: they get scared and huddle down so you can get your hands over the wings around the chest then no flapping.

    DM me if you need any more tips! Happy hen keeping

    1. Lucy I did see your IG! Those poor wee things. It definitely got me considering rescue hens (which forgive my ignorance, but I didn’t even know was a thing). The sudocreme thing makes me sad, my MIL thinks I’m crazy for buying more expensive free-range eggs in the shops, but I just can’t stand the thought of supporting the battery industry. Good tip on the plastic coop and I didn’t realise that the red mite dusting had to be done once a week! If/when we take the plunge, you’ll likely be hearing from me!

  6. I think you also have to factor in that they attract rats! Although I too have a yearning for chickens….just not sure I want them decimating the garden. Also….get hens not a cockerel, unless you enjoy insanely early wake up calls!!

    1. Charlotte do you know if the vermin thing is just if the coop isn’t mucked out regularly? Definitely won’t be getting a cockerel. I think I’ll be getting little enough sleep as it is!!

    2. You just get a couple of feral rescue cats… it’s a bit like the old lady who swallowed a fly 🙈🙈

  7. Fab post! I would love, love, love to have chickens but we have three dogs, and one is definitely a hunter so it just wouldn’t be fair on the hens. One dad though.

    Can I also suggest you look at rehomed ex-battery hens? I support the British Hen Welfare Trust (http://www.bhwt.org.uk/) and they do an amazing job – and have a really nice (free) monthly newsletter. Btw, I’m not affiliated to them in any way, just love their work!

    1. Maike, I am so up for getting ex-battery hens (now that I know its a thing!) and thank you for pointing me in the direction of BHWT. I had never heard of them before and will definitely be supporting them now xo

  8. Naomi I really do enjoy all of your posts ☺️ I would say go for it with the chickens. My MIL (a lifetime hen keeper) brought my son four Peeking Bantam chickens for his first birthday. They are very small and very easy to look after. To be honest their eggs are small but with four laying four eggs a day that’s probably the equivilant to two normal eggs. My kids love them, they are like pets. And due to the bantams being small can pick them up, take them for a ride in the toy wheelbarrow, nearly four years on the novelty has not worn off. We got a plastic hen house and movable fencing from here, it’s really easy to clean. https://www.omlet.co.uk/shop/chicken_keeping/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIzf-x9v3Q2gIVzbHtCh17CglcEAAYASAAEgJxNfD_BwE

    Look forward to seeing house progress! x

    1. Aw Ella thanks for the encouraging words, it’s so nice to know when someone’s enjoying reading! I’m so intrigued by these coops you’ve linked to! Which model do you have?
      Also, what a unique gift from your MIL!

  9. We have about 30-40 hens of all different breeds, mostly bantams. I definitely agree about the troublesome red mite, it is a constant battle, my husband is a traditionalist so will only have wooden houses and is always cleaning them out as the red mite gets into the corners, so would definitely recommend a plastic house that can be jet-washed. We thought all our pens were fox-proof but one still got in a killed six one night, so be aware, they will get in if they can. The eggs are amazing, much better than supermarket ones but saying that we feed them on the best food (twice the price of normal feed) and my husband will not feed them scraps either, although I’m sure they would love them. Keep in mind, if you have pure breeds, they don’t lay as many eggs and also read up on the different breeds as some go more broody than others and will try to sit on the eggs for days.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *