The planet is our home; we need to be more responsible. Here's what I do.
Our Friends son is keen to get chickens. They asked us for advice for him so I thought I’d share it.
It’s quite simple to do.
Think about money. Remember that three hens is a good number. They are social animals and work well as a three.
Bantams are small hens and very easy to handle. Their eggs are smaller too but still good to use for eating and cooking.
The omlet site has lots of information about breeds but remember that the place you get them won’t have every kind.
You might be better going to the dealer and seeing what they have and want they recommend. Ask for quiet, child friendly breeds and tell them you have a budget.
Don’t forget that cost is about food as well as the birds.
If the birds are very young they’ll need a chick feed to start with but otherwise a large bag of grains for chickens should be easy to get. Sometimes from the shop you buy the birds from.
They do skirt their food with their feet which means it looks like they are eating more than they have so don’t be too generous. Think about a hanging feeder.
Chickens love dandelion leaves and other weeds. A bunch will keep them busy for a while.
Vegetable scraps especially apples, carrots, green leafy vegetable leftovers and the odd piece of bell pepper are also popular. It’s a source of vitamin C.
Broccoli and cauliflower is also good.
Don’t give potato peelings, onion, or Apple pips.
They love cooked porridge with marmite and cider vinegar mixed in. They also like a thin scrape of marmite on toast!
Fill a plastic bottle with seeds with some holes in the sides. It helps them to pass them time if they chase it around the cage.
Hang things up or use a clothes peg to clip things to the bars.
You can also grind up egg shells finely and mix it with their feed as it’s great source of what they need to make shells.
Dried meal worms give her extra protein. She needs protein to lay.
They only start to lay when
-they are at least 16 weeks old
-they have settled in
-they are happy with their environment and food
-there is plenty of daylight
Get used to picking them up and they will get used to you. Both hands around the body. Tuck her wings in around her and hold her firmly. She won’t peck in a serious way. They are easy to handle not nasty. Then let her settle against your tummy. She will like being warm. It’s not much different to holding a cat or other animal. Let her get used to you. Stroke her feathers. Look at her feet and her beak.
Cider vinegar in the water is good for her feathers
Garlic in the water is good for her tummy against bugs
You should get a bug spray like you do for cats and spray the hens under their wings and feathers. Follow the instructions.
Antibiotics. If she does bright green poo then you might need to get some antibiotic powder from the pet shop. The shop people will tell you..
If your chicken has a wound the you can put cream on it. Again from the pet shop.
Every now and again they loose a lot of feathers for moulting. It’s natural but she won’t lay eggs then as it takes energy to grow feathers. It’s usually temperature related but they moulting at the end of the summer to so they can grow winter feathers.
They will perch. They can’t see in the dark so don’t frighten them when it gets dark.
They need thick layer of clippings in the nest box. Keep it added to but you only need to clean them out around every two months if the layer is thick enough.
When you do clean the house out sprayit against little mites. We use a natural eucalyptus spray. It’s antibacterial and smells really nice.
You can put the dirty bedding in the compost. Be aware there will be lots of seeds in it though.
They will dig and weed every plant you have. They are very funny to watch. Only plants with a thick stem that are taller than the birds they can reach will survive! But the only that do will benefit from the weeding. And the fertilizer the birds provide. You’ll have to think about predators based on your garden. If the cage is very secure then a fox would have trouble but if there’s any doubt you will prefer to shoe them into the house.
You can use a spade to make a really thin gap and put chicken wire into the ground potentially.
Chickens can be very happy for two weeks if they have enough food and a water. It may be a case of asking the neighbor to keep an eye but they don’t need a lot of work.
So feed them every morning. Change the water regularly. Talk to them every day. They will be nosy and they will always know when you are at home!
a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, international life...