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Thread: Keeping Chickens

  1. #1

    Keeping Chickens

    Afternoon All,

    I recall seeing a thread on here a few years back about keeping chickens and wondered if anyone has any recent experiences they could share?

    We moved last month from a house with a relatively small garden to one with over 60' of mainly turf with some shrubs/trees/bushes around the periphery.

    There is a decent boundary wall or fence to the whole garden although it is questionable whether it is 100% sealed off should any chickens or foxes wish to come and go. It is possible to remedy this but it won't be until the spring now.

    For a long time, and for a particular reason I won't bore you with here, I've wanted to get a few ex-battery/rescue chickens to come and see out their retirement days with me. I've registered with the BHWT and their next adoption locally (which unfortunately may be just a shade too soon for me) is coming up shortly.

    I had looked at the Eglu Go Up as a potential coop. I didn't want the wooden coops due to their propensity to harbour red mites. Plan was to get 3-4 chickens to live in plus the extended 3m run whilst I wait for the weather to improve so that I may free-range them during daylight hours when I am in the garden.

    https://www.omlet.co.uk/shop/chicken...ng/eglu_go_up/

    Has anyone done anything similar, and has anyone got any specific comments regarding the above? My only slight concern is that as a novice is winter the best time to be getting them or should I gently introduce myself to the world of chicken keeping when the nights are longer and the weather is warmer???

    TIA

  2. #2
    Craftsman
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    Hi

    I used to keep chickens. They were very enjoyable and very easy to keep.

    We looked at Egloo's but being tight I bought a Ketter plastic shed. I rigged up a couple of perches using some broom handles and made up two nest boxes which sat in the corner. Being a shed it was dead easy to get in to clean/sweep out. We initially built a chicken wire enclosure which was 8' x 8' which was more than enough for 4 chickens, but we wanted them to free range around the garden so eventually did away with the run. We live in a pretty rural area and had 6' fences around the property. We never lost any chicken luckily. We did clip their wings to prevent them getting over the fence (just taking scissors to the flight feathers on one wing prevents any escapologists!).

    When we got our chickens we had them two days and then there was snow on the ground, it never seemed to bother them.

    We bought an electronic sliding door with dawn to dusk sensor, it was brilliant and 98% of the time the chickens would put themselves to bed before the door closed.

    We do miss our chickens but when we moved house we decided they wouldn't fit in well with our new location. But I wouldn't hesitate to do it again and would do exactly as we did before/above. But I'm sure others will have had positive experiences with Egloo's and timber coops also.

    Good luck.

    Darren

  3. #3
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    Hi we keep chickens & have done for the last 11 years. We have got an eglu which although it seemed expensive at the time is still in use after 11years & looks good for another 11. One of the best things about it is how easy it is to clean & retrieve the eggs. We did get red mites once & even with the eglu they were proving difficult to get rid of using disinfectant etc until we used Multi-Mite which sorted them in no time. I did not use their small run as we had the room to build a proper run. We also have a deerhound & a lurcher & the lurcher would have had them at the first opportunity if they were loose. We live at 200mtrs above sea level so get some extreme weather but we do not shut the door to the eglu at night as it is a pain getting up early in summer to let them out. The cold, wind & rain does not seem to bother them. As the run is fox & badger proof we do not have a problem. If you intend to have any sort of a garden left then build a run as you will not believe the way they can destroy lawns & flower beds. Ours forage in the run & we feed them on Heygates country layers pellets which you can get from most country supplies stores. Your idea of waiting till better weather is probably sound as ex-bats usually have very little feather. Go ahead & do it as nothing tastes better than eggs from your own chickens. Ours are moulting and not laying at the moment so we are having to buy so called free range from shops. They taste rubbish in comparison. Hope this helps.
    Regards
    Pete Jones

  4. #4
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    I've got eight of the little blighters, and they're a lot of fun. They're allowed out all day during daylight - the (adult) foxes don't come in the garden during daytime, as I have three barky dogs, and the only time we really have to watch out is early summer when the cubs are exploring and have yet to meet my lurcher. Once met, never forgotten, and they tend not to come back after that. Note that my dogs have been brought up with hens and are very protective of them; they've never once made an attempt on them.

    I've got a 20' x 10' run for them, roughly half of which is covered and totally secure - imagine a garden shed with a canvas roof and walls made of chicken mesh and you'll get the idea - but the entire perimeter is protected by a triple-height electric fence, running off a solar-charged high-power energiser designed to provide protection for up to a 40 acre farm. Mr Fox didn't know what had hit him the first time his snout touched the wire, and it generally keeps them out, though we have lost chickens over the years.

    I've got a medium-sized wooden coop/egg-laying box within this, which they like to stand on in summer and snuggle up in during winter. Red mites aren't a problem so long as you use Diatom powder regularly - this destroys the cuticle on the mites and they all die as a result. Totally harmless to the hens.

    The garden has 6' fences all round - those dogs, y'see - but foxes are good climbers and this wouldn't keep them out. Clipping (single) wings is a good idea - the hens are then unable to fly. Oh, and as Pete says above, they'll happily lay waste to much of your flower beds. Mine seem to delight in roaming over the timber pile we use to feed the logburners - plenty of little insects to peck away at.

    There's no particular reason to wait, I'd say. Hens are pretty hardy, and so long as they have places in the garden to shelter away from the wind, they'll be fine. That said, some ex-battery hens are very lightly feathered and might well feel the cold, so you'll just have to be guided by the BHWT. In wintertime I feed mine with wildfowl pellets (c.20% protein) which helps to keep them producing eggs and helps them cope with moulting, plus they get all sorts of scraps from the kitchen. Between the family, the dogs/cars and the hens, nothing gets wasted. In the summer I use normal layers pellets (c.15% protein) You may well have to start yours on mash and transition to pellets - all depends on what they've been fed previously.

    Dependent upon breed, you'll get typically an egg per day from a hen in summertime, and perhaps half that in the winter, due entirely to the light levels. Obviously as ex-battery hens yours might be slowing down, but you should still get a fair number.
    Last edited by Longblackcoat; 14th November 2017 at 16:07.

  5. #5
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    My dad and sister kept some. All I'd say is keep on top of Red Mites and remember that foxes can both jump over, and dig under, electric fences...

  6. #6
    Craftsman Kris's Avatar
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    Another Chicken keeper here. We had 3 hybrid and then adopted another 4 Ex Bats in September.

    I'd echo all the above points, chickens are hardy things so you don't have to spend a fortune on buying the latest high tech plastic coops, my 7 are currently living in a coop made from old pallets I made this summer. Winter isn't a problem as chickens are by nature pretty warm creatures, if it gets to freezing temps then just put vaseline on their combs and wattles (to stop them from drying and cracking) and make sure their drinking water doesn't freeze.

    The self opening and closing coop door does make life so much easier, although we do sometimes get to play chicken hide and seek as the clocks going back seems to have confused them a bit.

    Have a look for local poultry groups online and on F Book as you'll often find people offering cheap coops and other equipment as they upgrade or give up. A quick spray with animal disinfectant and Mite spray and its good to go.

    Be warned collecting Ex Bat's can be a bit of an experience, our 4 literally looked like walking, clucking oven ready chickens with no feathers other than on their heads. They regrew feathers within about a month ( you can help this by making sure they have a high protein diet during this time).

    They are very effective "gardeners" so anything you don't want eaten needs to be fenced off, either that or give up on growing prize winning plants for a while.

    They do make great pets and the Ex Bats are the friendliest, most inquisitive things you can imagine. It's amazing how they quickly respond to a little kindness.
    Leave the back door open and within seconds there are 4 hens wandering round the kitchen and family room looking for humans and food.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by RustyRoses View Post
    My dad and sister kept some. All I'd say is keep on top of Red Mites and remember that foxes can both jump over, and dig under, electric fences...
    Too true. I've got one strand of the fence 2" off the ground so if they got close enough to dig under they'd get shocked, and the chicken run fence is 6' high with several more strands of electric fence all the way up, so they can't avoid hitting it if they climb. That's still not totally foolproof as I need to ensure the battery is fully charged, given that the solar is much less effective in the short days; typically I'm swapping the 12v battery every three weeks between December and March, after which time the solar keeps it powered up.

    Trying to outwit foxes is a major effort!

  8. #8
    Grand Master Carlton-Browne's Avatar
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    This thread needs pictures.
    Die Zeit verwandelt uns nicht, sie entfaltet uns nur.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Carlton-Browne View Post
    This thread needs pictures.
    Quite right.


  10. #10
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    We did it for a while.

    The novelty wears off quickly and you end up with a square mud pit inside the coop.
    My kids were no longer interested, so we shipped them off to my parents house to live with their chickens.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by andyb28 View Post
    We did it for a while.

    The novelty wears off quickly and you end up with a square mud pit inside the coop.
    My kids were no longer interested, so we shipped them off to my parents house to live with their chickens.
    That's a brilliant way of getting shot of your kids - wish I'd thought of it.

  12. #12
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    Very good.

  13. #13
    Grand Master seikopath's Avatar
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    Been there done that.
    Keeping rescue /ex batts is highly commendable, other wise they will likely just be destroyed
    If you are going to get others, get some bantams, alot less mess and alot more character
    Going for ex batts /rescue youre obviously not worried about egg count.
    Most rescue have had such stressful lives.
    If you have the space and can be arsed, i would, depending on the numbers you plan to keep, consider having a run you can move around
    Unless you've got loads of room for a fixed run, it can soon turn into a concentration camp type thing, chickens are so destructive.
    Last edited by seikopath; 14th November 2017 at 19:02.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Longblackcoat View Post
    That's a brilliant way of getting shot of your kids - wish I'd thought of it.
    Hehe, very good! (If only)

  15. #15
    Master oldoakknives's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by j0hnbarker View Post
    Afternoon All,

    I recall seeing a thread on here a few years back about keeping chickens and wondered if anyone has any recent experiences they could share?

    We moved last month from a house with a relatively small garden to one with over 60' of mainly turf with some shrubs/trees/bushes around the periphery.

    There is a decent boundary wall or fence to the whole garden although it is questionable whether it is 100% sealed off should any chickens or foxes wish to come and go. It is possible to remedy this but it won't be until the spring now.

    For a long time, and for a particular reason I won't bore you with here, I've wanted to get a few ex-battery/rescue chickens to come and see out their retirement days with me. I've registered with the BHWT and their next adoption locally (which unfortunately may be just a shade too soon for me) is coming up shortly.

    I had looked at the Eglu Go Up as a potential coop. I didn't want the wooden coops due to their propensity to harbour red mites. Plan was to get 3-4 chickens to live in plus the extended 3m run whilst I wait for the weather to improve so that I may free-range them during daylight hours when I am in the garden.

    https://www.omlet.co.uk/shop/chicken...ng/eglu_go_up/

    Has anyone done anything similar, and has anyone got any specific comments regarding the above? My only slight concern is that as a novice is winter the best time to be getting them or should I gently introduce myself to the world of chicken keeping when the nights are longer and the weather is warmer???

    TIA
    We had some ex bats. They were good fun and the eggs were a bonus.
    We built a run and used a wooden coop, never had any mite problems as we dusted it regularly with diatomaceous earth powder which kills mites.
    Used wood shavings or one of the other beddings like shredded rape stalks to put on the floor of the coop and changed it weekly and washed the sliding tray.
    Put straw in the nest boxes, the ex bats tend to sleep in them as they aren't used to perches a lot of the time.
    They can be mucky beggars so if a bit of poo puts you off don't bother.
    They will eat everything green they can get their beaks on. Grass, your fav plants and veg the lot.
    The more room you give them the better, they like to scratch about for bugs etc.
    If they are unwell vets fees are a lot for such small things, we had to use them a few times and it's hard to find one who takes hens seriously. (you get all the usual 'just wring it's neck comments' as well)
    You will soon start researching chicken ailments to find home cures.
    Don't feed them anything without checking first, they can get sour crop and impacted crop etc and they can be hard to cure.
    Mostly they will want Layers Mash for food which is a pain to find feeders that work with it.
    It sounds like I'm trying to put you off, I'm not.

    They can be a lot of fun and it's surprisingly entertaining watching them. They will also recognise you believe it or not!
    Last edited by oldoakknives; 14th November 2017 at 19:53.

  16. #16
    Master
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    Good luck to all of you but please be smarter than my idiot neighbours.

    Bought unsexed chicks.

    2 were cockerels.

    We had months of crowing at 3 in the morning (they put this down to 'birdsong').

    Eventually the foxes got into the pretty but useless coop they had - armageddon on the lawn the next day but at least no crowing.

    They repeated this cycle 3 times before giving up.

    Rescuing battery hens sounds cool.

  17. #17
    Grand Master number2's Avatar
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    Great thread,
    We've been thinking about this for a while, sounds like it's really straight forward.
    👍
    Sent from My etch a sketch

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carlton-Browne View Post
    This thread needs pictures.

    I got some day old chicks for my daughters last summer. This was all without knowing the first thing about keeping chickens. Quite Irresponsible you might say!

    They came home in cardboard box and spent the next few weeks in my front room under a table lamp (for heat).







    At six weeks old we moved them out to the garage into a plywood box we knocked up:









    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  19. #19
    Grand Master Carlton-Browne's Avatar
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    I trust the story doesn't end there...
    Die Zeit verwandelt uns nicht, sie entfaltet uns nur.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by namzo View Post
    I got some day old chicks for my daughters last summer. This was all without knowing the first thing about keeping chickens. Quite Irresponsible you might say!

    They came home in cardboard box and spent the next few weeks in my front room under a table lamp (for heat).







    At six weeks old we moved them out to the garage into a plywood box we knocked up:









    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Once they outgrew their garage abode we got ready for the big move to a purpose built chicken run in the garden:


    The run itself consisted of 6 weldmesh fence panels and a couple of old timber pallets. I was lucky enough to source all the materials free of charge.


    Woodchip over the fox proof paving flags also kept them happy.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by namzo View Post
    Once they outgrew their garage abode we got ready for the big move to a purpose built chicken run in the garden:


    The run itself consisted of 6 weldmesh fence panels and a couple of old timber pallets. I was lucky enough to source all the materials free of charge.


    Woodchip over the fox proof paving flags also kept them happy.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


    Oh and the eggs are delicious !



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  22. #22
    Master blackal's Avatar
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    A very interesting read, guys......

    Al

  23. #23
    Grand Master
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    Some friends of mine tried keeping chickens a couple of years ago but gave up for several reasons. Apparently the chickens were attracting rats, I think that was the main reason they had to go.

    Maybe Iím missing a trick, but the only chickens I find remotely interesting are the ready cooked type that our local Morissons sells.

    Each to his own I guess!

    Paul

  24. #24
    Master oldoakknives's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by namzo View Post
    Once they outgrew their garage abode we got ready for the big move to a purpose built chicken run in the garden:


    The run itself consisted of 6 weldmesh fence panels and a couple of old timber pallets. I was lucky enough to source all the materials free of charge.


    Woodchip over the fox proof paving flags also kept them happy.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Did you lose some, or were they the cockerels?

  25. #25
    Many thanks for all the positive and great replies to this thread!

    The conclusion I have come to is that I will get them sooner rather than later (I will miss the next local collection but there are others that are still local upcoming) and tend to them over the winter.

    I have revised my plans slightly after reading some of the content here and now plan to move the Eglu around with much more frequency over the lawn, given their tendency to chomp their way through most things that are green! I will also not be blasť about red mites despite having the plastic coop.

    To answer a couple of questions that arose directly or indirectly:

    I'm not too bothered about how well they lay, as I don't eat eggs myself, though my wife does and is looking forward to collecting the odd ones as we go along.

    I'm more motivated by helping some ex-batts have a nice retirement as I am against the concept of keeping a living creature in such conditions just to produce cheap food. About 20 years ago as a sixth-former I worked at Sainsbury's on the deli counter and we had rotisserie chickens for sale cheaper than the frozen ones on the aisles. I often wondered how we could sell them so cheap but eventually the penny dropped when I realised we were cooking ex-batt hens that had such poor bones we could halve them when cooked with a pair of blunt scissors. For whatever reason that concept that there was something fundamentally wrong with doing this has lingered in my mind and now I would like to do something about it, hence my own personal decision to adopt and provide upkeep to them for pretty much no other reason than I would want to save a few of these from the fate I previously meted out to them so that someone could have some cheap protein.

    I'll keep the thread updated with some pictures when we get them.

    Thanks again :)

  26. #26
    We've had an Eglu (original) for about 8 years now, started off with 2 pure breds, went up to 6 ex-battery hens at one point, but then a family of foxes pulled off an amazing level of predatory teamwork and dug an actual tunnel about 8 feet long in to get them.

    We moved house not long after that, and have sunk heavy wire fence into the ground all around where the Eglu currently sits, to look after our beautiful Marans. They're the perfect garden bird imo, as they don't scratch too much (the ex-batts could ruin a lawn in an afternoon) as they're too busy preening and trying to look pretty, and they lay between 3-5 absolutely beautiful large eggs (with a propensity for double yolkers) a week each, so you're not inundated with them. When we had the ex-batts we were getting 8, even 10 eggs a day in total. Our friends got bored of the free eggs after a while, and the egg boxes stopped coming back to us! They also cost us a fortune in Layers' Pellets.

    Anyway, I think they're a brilliant pet to have - our kids love them, they give you delicious eggs, and are easy to clean (if you have an eglu!).

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldoakknives View Post
    Did you lose some, or were they the cockerels?
    Yes we ended up with 4 cockerels, 3 of which had to be 're-homed'

    We tried keeping them all, but as they grew in to adult birds they were often fighting with each other and also wearing the hens out!

    A couple became aggressive even towards us!

    We read that 1 cockerel per 10-12 hens is the perfect balance. But its not necessary to have a cockerel at all, unless you want to hatch chicks or annoy the neighbours.

  28. #28
    Grand Master seikopath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by j0hnbarker View Post
    Many thanks for all the positive and great replies to this thread!

    The conclusion I have come to is that I will get them sooner rather than later (I will miss the next local collection but there are others that are still local upcoming) and tend to them over the winter.

    I have revised my plans slightly after reading some of the content here and now plan to move the Eglu around with much more frequency over the lawn, given their tendency to chomp their way through most things that are green! I will also not be blasť about red mites despite having the plastic coop.

    To answer a couple of questions that arose directly or indirectly:

    I'm not too bothered about how well they lay, as I don't eat eggs myself, though my wife does and is looking forward to collecting the odd ones as we go along.

    I'm more motivated by helping some ex-batts have a nice retirement as I am against the concept of keeping a living creature in such conditions just to produce cheap food. About 20 years ago as a sixth-former I worked at Sainsbury's on the deli counter and we had rotisserie chickens for sale cheaper than the frozen ones on the aisles. I often wondered how we could sell them so cheap but eventually the penny dropped when I realised we were cooking ex-batt hens that had such poor bones we could halve them when cooked with a pair of blunt scissors. For whatever reason that concept that there was something fundamentally wrong with doing this has lingered in my mind and now I would like to do something about it, hence my own personal decision to adopt and provide upkeep to them for pretty much no other reason than I would want to save a few of these from the fate I previously meted out to them so that someone could have some cheap protein.

    I'll keep the thread updated with some pictures when we get them.

    Thanks again :)
    good man
    i started in keeping chickens with the same idea, just giving ex batts some sort of retirement home

    anyone who wants to have a look at the way we as humans relate to other animals as a food source should watch 'earthlings', pretty hard hitting, almost impossible to watch at times.

    yes, it is propaganda, but anyone that gets their meat in the supermarket, or buys so called 'barn eggs' basically has their head buried in the sand , and for a very good reason.

    the impact on other species of our methods of food production definitely deserves to be looked at.

  29. #29
    Are there some breeds which have a quiet(er) cockerel?

  30. #30
    Grand Master seikopath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kingstepper View Post
    Are there some breeds which have a quiet(er) cockerel?
    Bantams are less noisy. Loads more character, less mess, less noise.but why would you get a cockerel in the first place?

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by seikopath View Post
    Bantams are less noisy. Loads more character, less mess, less noise.but why would you get a cockerel in the first place?
    Someone here said 1 cockerel to 10-12 hens is good ratio. I know nothing about them, just this thread has got me thinking I'd like some. I like the sound of a cockerel in the morning but I guess neighbours may not.

  32. #32
    Master luckywatch's Avatar
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    Those ex battery hens don't last that long. Great to give them a home and mine would follow me everywhere and eat out of your hand. They are bred to lay everyday for one season then they have to go.
    Omlet great idea if you are happy at the price. Just shift it every week/fortnight to fresh grass. Easy to clean with a pressure washer. I have traditional wooden coops that I Creosote every year.
    Pekin bantam hens are very easy to handle. Lovely pets, they do not lay as many eggs as the larger hens but you will still have plenty with four hens. The boys make a lot of noise so if you have neighbors that are not used to it stick with hens. They are a bit cheaper if you buy then younger before POL. Just make sure they are off heat. Now is as good a time as any but make sure you have set everything up first and made all secure. If a fox gets in its your fault and its not nice. I have nine cats so no rats. I dispatch any foxes that approach.
    I keep Trios, that's one boy with 2 girls.

  33. #33
    Grand Master seikopath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kingstepper View Post
    Someone here said 1 cockerel to 10-12 hens is good ratio. I know nothing about them, just this thread has got me thinking I'd like some. I like the sound of a cockerel in the morning but I guess neighbours may not.
    I don't know why anyone would want a cockerel. You do know that they can start as early as 3am don't you?

  34. #34
    Grand Master seikopath's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckywatch View Post
    Those ex battery hens don't last that long. Great to give them a home and mine would follow me everywhere and eat out of your hand. They are bred to lay everyday for one season then they have to go.
    Omlet great idea if you are happy at the price. Just shift it every week/fortnight to fresh grass. Easy to clean with a pressure washer. I have traditional wooden coops that I Creosote every year.
    Pekin bantam hens are very easy to handle. Lovely pets, they do not lay as many eggs as the larger hens but you will still have plenty with four hens. The boys make a lot of noise so if you have neighbors that are not used to it stick with hens. They are a bit cheaper if you buy then younger before POL. Just make sure they are off heat. Now is as good a time as any but make sure you have set everything up first and made all secure. If a fox gets in its your fault and its not nice. I have nine cats so no rats. I dispatch any foxes that approach.
    I keep Trios, that's one boy with 2 girls.
    Batt hens dont last long, because they have been so stressed. My last lot, fluffy, toughy and roughy, completely stopped laying after i had had them a year. I wasn't that bothered. Fluffy and toughy lasted another couole of years before pegging it, roughy did a runner and i think lived a couple more years in the woods behind the house. (never had a problem with foxes round here due to people with guns shooting them at every available opportunity)
    My favourite chickens were three bantams called elvis, night sky and marmalade. Night sky was in a run at the top of the garden, minding her own business. Friend of mine came round with an over exuberant chocolate lab who immediately bounded right up to the cage and barked its head off. Night sky just fell over and conked out. Her heart must have just gone pop. I was gutted. I really loved that chicken.

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by seikopath View Post
    I don't know why anyone would want a cockerel. You do know that they can start as early as 3am don't you?
    In the summer at dawn I suppose so time to rise!

    Wouldn't bother me TBH but probably not good in our suburban road.

  36. #36
    Master luckywatch's Avatar
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    Meet Ludwig. One of my big boys. He is a Lakenvelder





    Only a youngster in this shot.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckywatch View Post
    Meet Ludwig. One of my big boys. He is a Lakenvelder





    Only a youngster in this shot.
    Exactly the reason you'd have a cockerel!

    Handsome fella.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  38. #38
    Master oldoakknives's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckywatch View Post
    Meet Ludwig. One of my big boys. He is a Lakenvelder



    Only a youngster in this shot.
    The only thing I regret about keeping hens. I never had the chance to have a big boy like that!!

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