Quick Start Guide for Keeping Chickens
The basic equipment needed
It's very easy to complicate keeping a Flock in your Garden, we (including myself when I started) can go through page after page of information, buy books and seemingly study forever, so to start at the beginning I have made this quick start guide which will show you the minimum required for getting the Chickens in and eggs on the table!
1. A CHICKEN COOP
This can be either a tailor made product such as the illustration shows or you could convert a Garden Shed into a custom built home (
see Converting a Garden Shed
). Obviously if it's the latter you'll need to buy or build a Run.
Illustration is the Sussex Coop from Coops Direct.
2. BEDDING AND FLOORING
Most people use either Straw or Wood Shavings. Personally I go for Straw on the Floor and Wood Shavings in the Nest Boxes. Why? Hens have a habit of burying their eggs occasionally and it's a hard and sometimes sticky job shuffling through the straw to look! Straw obviously gives them a deeper bedding through Winter but remember our feathered friends are natural outdoor creatures so don't need too much. If I had the same the whole way through, I'd choose Shavings, but as I say, it's a personal opinion and I have a 6'x4' Shed so a fair amount of space.
3. DRINKERS AND FEEDERS
There are three choices here; Plastic, Metal or DIY. Most people seem to prefer Plastic, it's easier to clean, more 'attractive' I guess and although they may not last as long, they're cheaper. I go DIY but my Coop is the Shed with a secure outdoor Run attached, so I have low buckets and a Heath Robinson system for feeding down a shute into a length of Gutter (in another attached Shed).
The main two types of Feed (I mix half and half) are Mixed Corn and Layers Pellets. Buying some Grit for your Hens is an extra which will benefit them in so far as Egg Shells will be stronger, thicker and less liable to break. This does not mean you won't get the occasional soft shelled egg, but it helps.
You can feed them scraps but if you intend selling them this is 'officially' against DEFRA rules but I've never had any complaints from anyone I've sold eggs to (but I have to say it!). You can see a video on my feeding Chickens page
5. THE CHICKENS !!
To say there are several breeds and types of Poultry is an understatement, but somewhere out there is one who needs you whether it be as a Pet who also gives you an egg or two through to attractive breeds who lay all sorts of coloured eggs.
For information on the most popular Breeds go to the Breeds page and for lists of Breeders county by county, go to the Poultry Breeders UK Listings.
With the above items up and ready, you're ready to roll as they say.
You can spend as much as you want to spend starting out and there are many variations on a theme which I hope you will read more about in all the other pages. This is just a guideline for starters.
Oh - and one other thing you need...
6. A PROACTIVE KITCHEN
Think of all the things you can do with an egg; scramble, boil, poach, fry, pickle, use them in all sorts of Recipes from Cakes to Meringues and more! Any over you can sell. One tip though - don't tell the family or they want some every time you visit...for free!
For further and more detailed information, it's all indexed on the left