Keeping hens and roosters in your garden – A hobbyist’s guide
- Published on Thursday, 18 May 2023 08:36
- Last Updated on 18 May 2023
- Monica Costa
- 0 Comments
Becoming more sustainable and in-touch with nature can be nothing if not rewarding, even if it does take a little time to get there. Provided you have ample garden space (or even live semi-rurally), and have a reliable budget to work with, keeping certain animals can be a lovely way to achieve this.
Of course, a basic, hobbyist smallholding should always start small. Keeping hens and roosters can be a wonderful place to start. While these little creatures do tend to be quite messy, they’re also very placid, can produce some of the freshest and tastiest eggs you’ve ever had, and compared to other farmyard animals, are comparatively easy to manage.
However, that doesn’t mean we should be negligent or hands-off in our approach to caring for them. This approach can sometimes feel like a part-time job depending on how many chickens you keep, so many sure you do have the time and adequate home environment to achieve this.
This post aims to work as a smart guide for keeping hens and roosters in your garden:
Building The Chicken Coop With A Chicken Run
Building a coop with ample space and room to sit comfortably within is important. Often, chicken coops will contain separate sections for chickens to rest and sleep in, as they sleep sat down. With a little straw, you can also absorb any waste, and clean this out to keep the space hygienic, also providing a comfortable area to lay eggs.
You can also craft shelters using cheap PVC roofing sheets to keep them out of the elements more easily. Additionally, a chicken run is an outside-bordered enclosure that lets your chickens graze, walk around, get fresh air, and do so safely within a contained environment. However, if you hope for them to stroll around your garden during the day (which they will), then you’ll find benefit in installing:
Fences & Gates
Chickens need to be contained because they’re often prey animals for foxes. For this reason, it’s important to make sure you implement the right fences and gates around your garden, ideally shoulder height so they can’t get out easily and wander into the road. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to add a little leeway, but it’s always best to be safe than sorry.
In addition to this, some owners choose to clip the wings of their chickens, which is a totally humane and safe procedure. This can prevent them from flying high and over medium distances, meaning they’re less likely to hop over your fence and into danger. Some chicken owners refrain from clipping their wings, as with enough open space to use, it’s better for the chicken to have ample means to escape from a predator if necessary. Depending on your garden and the size of your coop, you’ll know which is best.
Also remember that these feathers will regrow, and so it’s important to clip safely and correctly as and when needed.
Ensure Good Ventilation & Lighting In The Coop
Chickens might have simple needs, but they deserve a clean and comfortable environment too. A good coop with a window and ample lighting during the morning to help them wake will give them the ventilation they need. They tend to huddle together to share body heat at night, which means you won’t have to install heaters as long as they’re sheltered.
Natural lighting also means your chickens will know when to retire at night, and when to get ready for you to let them out of their coop in the morning. They’ll stick to this schedule well, heading to bed when the sun goes down.
Feeding & Watering Your Chickens
Just like us, chickens require a balanced diet. Luckily, you can purchase poultry feed from many farm shops, which often takes the shame of pellets or mash. You can also use kitchen scraps and vegetables, and certain meats like leftover beef, fish, insects and worms. Of course, it goes without saying not to feed them chicken.
A water trough that refills the levels of water available throughout the day can be a wise purchase, but make sure they haven’t knocked it over, because thirsty chickens can sometimes throw their weight around and deprive others of that water source. Also make sure the trough or feeder is clean so that it remains hygienic for them to eat from, usually blasting off dirt and grime with a house and washing it using non-toxic neutral soaps can be helpful from time to time.
Careful, Hygienic Waste Management
One thing you’ll notice is that chickens tend to perform their business quite often, and for that reason it’s good to be prepared. Wearing gloves is the most hygienic, as is footwear like thick Wellington boots can keep you protected. It’s important to remove the chickens from the coop or where you’re cleaning, scooping them up with a small shovel and removing the soiled straw appropriately.
Then you can hose down the area and disinfect their lodgings appropriately. This will prevent diseases and illnesses from breaking out. After drying, you can implement straw again, and ensure another comfortable few days. If the poop is on the grass, you can scoop and hose that away as appropriate, reseeding or aerating as appropriate.
This is the one downside of keeping chickens because you must be constantly vigilant about the buildup of chicken waste, and ready to clean or remove it. It also has a fairly distinct smell that you might become used to but may permeate your garden ever so lightly without regular cleaning. It’s wise to keep that in mind.
Common Chicken Health Issues
It’s essential to understand how to care for the chickens under your protection. Dewormers can prevent parasites while checking the condition of their eggs for particular issues that signify health problems is important. A good working relationship with a farm veterinarian can help you keep your chickens in good condition to that extent.
Medicated feds where appropriate, treating bacterial infections like bumblefoot, and making certain shade and adequate ventilation is available during the summer to prevent heat stress are all necessary practices.
Learning To Manage Chicken’s Social Behaviour
Chickens tend to be quite placid, but if something is wrong in their environment they can take out their space on one another. It’s important to make certain the “pecking order” of your coop is appropriate, that everyone is getting enough food, and that you discourage issues like conflict, wing flapping and pecking one another.
This can be prevented by offering ample space. If you have a rooster, note that he must be solitary, because roosters will fight one another, sometimes to the end. With multiple food and water sources, you can also prevent morning or evening fights over sustenance. Enriched environments like dust baths, perches, garden decorations and even toys they can peck at and be curious about can help.
It might sound odd having to watch over to make sure chickens behave, but discouraging unhealthy actions (like using a low-pressure setting on your house to scare off a chicken trying to bully another), shows them who the real master of your garden is.
While this list is by no means exhaustive, we believe it serves as a fantastic starting point for anyone who hopes to keep chickens in their garden. From there, you need to consider which breeds of chicken are best for you. Remember to take this slowly, and always source your chickens from reputable sellers and auctions. You can incubate them from chicks if you wish to, but make sure you have the correct equipment for doing so.
With this advice, we hope you can keep hens and roosters in your garden, and have a great deal of fun while doing it.
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums