One of the things I was desperate to do when we moved to the country was to get some chickens. Along with growing vegetables, keeping chickens really seemed to demonstrate you were rural and self-sufficient (in omelettes anyway). I’m not sure why it has taken nearly two years to actually get the chickens, I think there was always a holiday on the horizon, or we hadn’t quite worked out the housing for them. However, we now made the leap and now have four chickens who have been with us for one week.
My father had a sturdy wooden coop that he no longer needed so it was just the run to sort out. This was the hardest part. We had allocated them a large section at the end of the garden and fencing is a little beyond us, so we asked someone to come and give us a quote for fencing off the area. It worked out about seven hundred quid for fencing which would end up being attached to the back of our neighbours’ shed and as we didn’t know them that well, it seemed a lot of money for a not ideal solution. Wooden runs seemed a bit small and hard to clean out, plus you still had the problem of foxes digging underneath to deal with. In the end we went with an Omlet walk in run. Even though our ground is a bit uneven, it has proved ideal. We have put some old wooden planks on the ‘skirt’ part to make it doubly safe but it means we haven’t had to dig down into the ground or put it onto concrete slabs, it has a roof and is expandable and moveable should the need arise. I am already planning on expansion to give them a bit more room. The floor is filled with wood chippings we got from the farm for this purpose (check whether the wood or bark is suitable, not everything is).
We were recommended a farm that sold point of lay healthy hens and decided on three different breeds. We have one blue haze, one coucou marans and two miss pepperpots (my eldest loved the name). We went for beauty and placid natures. The Pepperpots should lay a few more eggs than the other two hens but we thought we would have plenty for our needs. They are really lovely hens and we have become fond of them very quickly. They are in a secure coop in a secure run but still the second night we had them I was awake for two hours in the night terrified something was going to eat them. Luckily, they are still with us.
It has been recommended that they stay in the run for two weeks so they are used to their new home, after that, they can be let out for a little free ranging. Originally, I thought I would just keep them in the run but after seeing videos of chickens free ranging on twitter, I feel they need a little go themselves. They haven’t had their wings clipped so I will have to be careful they don’t flap into the neighbours but if something does try and attack at least they have a fighting chance of getting away.
I’m keen on have friendly chickens and the best way to do this seems to be to be friendly to them. I go in the run a couple of times a day just to say hello and give them a few treats so hopefully they will get used to me. The first few nights they didn’t seem to know they were supposed to go into the coop to sleep so I had to catch them and put them in and its good to get them used to being handled in case they need any kind of treatment in future. The walk-in run is good for this as most of those shorter runs it would be impossible to do this with.
All the chickens need to do now is lay some eggs! I am willing them on and asking nicely but so far nothing. I have every faith in my chickens though to come up with the goods and will keep giving them love and praise until they eventually produce.