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Keeping chickens

(33 Posts)
MrsPickle Fri 17-Apr-15 19:02:51

We are about to take the plunge Chicken ready, point of lay supplier ready, but what breed/hybrid?
Anybody any experiences re chook keeping?
And what to do with the eggs?
All in all...... any help gratefully appreciated!

loopylou Fri 17-Apr-15 19:05:54

We had bantams, prolific layers and easy to care for.

merlotgran Fri 17-Apr-15 19:21:07

Go for a Rhode Island Red/Light Sussex cross if you want prolific layers that won't go off lay for very long in the winter. Marans lay those lovely dark brown eggs and are a good hardy breed.

Buff Orpingtons are tame and make good pets if you want to involve DGCs in their care.

Cream Legbars lay white or blue eggs, Bantams are a good choice if you don't have much space.

What to do with the eggs?

EAT them!! grin

janerowena Fri 17-Apr-15 20:56:02

I agree re breed if you are after the eggs mainly - RI/LS cross. Some of the crosses have their own name now, such as Goldline and Lohmans, which are pretty much the same. I have kept all of them over the years. they lay brilliantly but don't tend to live as long.

If it's long-lived but fewer eggs that you want, cream legbars are very good. Bantams are wonderfully funny, but tend to go broody frequently, when they can be quite ferocious for a puffball! So funny though. They also moult and so lose time laying then as well. As can many other breeds, although the cross breeds don't tend to spend as long in moult. I had araucanas that always moulted in cold weather. Keeping them warm and dry in freezing temperatures was a nightmare.

If you have a broody chicken, you may want to have a small hutch with loads of ventilation to keep them in, as they tend to disrupt the others and can put them off laying.

It's great though, I love having chickens. I go for cross breeds in one pen and pure breeds in another. The cross breeds tend to be more docile and let you pick them up quite soon after you have got to know them - I sit in with the newcomers for quite a while until they are settled, to show that I am their protector and the real boss, no matter what the other chickens may think.

Deedaa Fri 17-Apr-15 22:19:14

When the children were small we used to keep half a dozen ex battery hens. They adjusted to life in our garden in a couple of weeks and grew lovely plumage. The farms used to get rid of them when they were a year old, but for a household egg supply they still had several years of productive life ahead of them. We tried a few fancy breeds - Polish which didn't really lay at all, and a Maran which laid occasional very brown eggs but ended up getting drowned in a water butt!

boheminan Fri 17-Apr-15 22:47:27

I agree with Deedaa. I had 12 battery hens at one time. They're worth getting, to give them a good life -they cluck and argue and fidget the same as any other breed, and they lay eggs that taste the same as the posh breeds. They should be given a chance to live a free life

jennycockerspaniel Fri 17-Apr-15 22:59:30

I have always had bantams, smaller for handling with children pooh smaller and love the eggs as more yolk than white I have had ex battery girls as well its so lovely to see them snoozing with the suns on there back and to see them feather up and they have there own characters good luck what ever you choose ,my Ex Battery girls Rainbow,Bella BB and Nosy Norah laid all winter

merlotgran Fri 17-Apr-15 23:01:41

What is your definition of a posh breed bohemian?

jennycockerspaniel Fri 17-Apr-15 23:11:35

I had a Polish two hens and as you said did not lay well and also l they preferred to roost in plum tree and make such a different noise but I loved themx

boheminan Fri 17-Apr-15 23:43:28

Posh breed? merlotgran Hens that cost a lot of money. I agree it's important that rare breeds are nurtured, but at the end of the day if all you want is eggs, eggs is eggs, no matter what rare breed or hybrid lays 'em

Faye Sat 18-Apr-15 04:57:09

My three children all have hens, both DDs had battery hens to start with and it was nice to see them flourish and there were plenty of eggs. I also noticed DS's hens lay more eggs when they are let out to roam for a few hours each day. DS lives in a house on the corner and his hens never go past the front gate and they put themselves back in their coop at the end of the day.

DD2 has around fifty hens now and they are free to roam around every day. They wait patiently until someone opens the gate for them and then off they go, running along with their groups until they find their favourite spots. DD has different breeds and they normally hang around with their own breeds. Five of her six ducks disapeared and the duck left teamed up with the hens until one day she brought home two ducklings. The ducklings immediately waddled over to the single duck and they stick together now.

Iam64 Sat 18-Apr-15 10:08:36

Hybrids for me - they are regular layers and the eggs are delicious.

merlotgran Sat 18-Apr-15 11:33:22

We have six Rhode Island/Light Sussex which are the best hybrid layers.

Our posh hens are Welsumers, Barnevelders, Cream Legbars, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Marans and Silkies - chosen for their looks, egg colours and temperament.

They look beautiful free-ranging on our field or round the outskirts of the garden....Living art!

janerowena Sat 18-Apr-15 11:51:56

They are, aren't they! So pretty. Yes, araucanas etc. can cost a fortune. I would like some beautiful lacy little wyandottes. We are lucky to have regular poultry auctions very close by.

jennycockerspaniel mentions an important factor if you like to make meringues - bantam eggs are nearly all normal sized yolk with less white, so hopeless if you want to make meringue or an egg-white omelette. Wonderful for GCs and boiled eggs though.

DBH calls my posh chickens 'designer chickens' grin They are all very spoilt though, and have very pretty blue and grey houses and in the summer they have shabby chic spotted sailcloths to keep cool under. I have a horrific antique chicken waterer obsession. I got them all out the other day to clean them. Oh dear. Most of the time they drink from old washing up bowls anyway! With a brick in the bottom so they don't tip it over. They do have a tendency to sit on the old-style water pots and tilt them over as they take off.

janerowena Sat 18-Apr-15 11:54:16

I have been a subscriber to this newsletter for years, the lady who runs it lives nearby although she has subscribers from all over the world.

It is very funny sometimes, and very informative. She is extremely knowledgeable and will happily answer any questions you may have.

Gagagran Sat 18-Apr-15 12:42:09

I have 4 hens, Whittaker, Peck (Gregory), Hen(rietta) and Webster. The first three live outside and eat nothing. Webster lives on the hearth next to the woodburner. The outside ones light up at night. Forgot to mention - they are all made of metal. (Sorry!) grin

merlotgran Sat 18-Apr-15 12:50:37

Are they the Fabian Eagle auctions, janer? We go to the Mildenhall one.

My chicken coops are ready for a coat of paint this summer I think DGS3 will be looking for some pocket money so might be a job for the holidays.

crun Sat 18-Apr-15 14:05:02

I don't have any chickens, but I had a letter from the Council last summer, telling me that a neighbour had made a complaint about the noise they were making. Anyone close enough to hear next doors chickens is also close enough to see that they're not mine.

apricot Sat 18-Apr-15 21:16:15

My daughter had ex-battery hens. They only laid for about a year then died off one by one. They had a lovely life, free-range in her big garden, but were not much use at supplying eggs. Also, made a terrible mess and attacked her little dachshund, surrounding her and all going STAB! STAB! STAB! at once.

Mishap Sat 18-Apr-15 21:20:47

We nearly went for having chickens, then a friend told us that the food attracts rats - and since we already had a rat problem it rather put us off!

TriciaF Sat 18-Apr-15 21:57:37

We've had chickens for several years now, we've got about 12 at the moment. We buy them from a neighbouring farm, just brown barenecks. And we have a few white ones that we got from the market, they're good layers.
We get a few cockerels which are more meaty for eating. The brown ones are about 7€ each.
The only problems are that you need to protect against predators, and they're tying - if you want to go away you need to find someone to come in twice a day.

janerowena Sat 18-Apr-15 22:51:09

Yes Merlot! We go to Holywell Row or Swaffham. Mostly Holywell Row. It's like going to Hobbit Land, isn't it? grin Especially for the Christmas auctions, when we go to buy a goose.

merlotgran Sat 18-Apr-15 23:06:40

When you say going to Hobbit Land you must have spotted our good friend Paul (Butch) Smith. He's not very tall, has a long ginger beard and wears navy blue shorts - even in the depths of winter. grin

Good place for plants as well.

janerowena Sun 19-Apr-15 15:47:31

grin I'll keep a look out for him. It reminds me of hobbit land because we often go in the winter months, and you know how muddy it can get there! So what you see is a sea of rotund people (all dressed in many layers of clothing so making them look fatter) with huge boots that are caked in several pounds of mud, many not very tall and the males all wearing flat caps.

Yes, the flowers/plants are really reasonable. I bought a rabbit hutch and rabbit for my son there years ago too. Several men there thought I was crazy to buy a huge hutch for £20 that I had seen online for well over £400! They said they were only prepared to go to £15. grin So I would never sell anything there.

mishap yes, the rats do come, but as they are there already because our neighbours keep chickens, sheep and pigs we just think, we might as well join them, and we do have very long gardens. I am extremely careful about what goes in my compost heap and rat poison is sadly a fact of life. I didn't have any rats at all until my next door neighbour decided to keep chickens too. I suppose two lots of feed was just too attractive.

merlotgran Sun 19-Apr-15 16:09:04

Yes it does get very muddy although we tend to go in the spring and autumn. DH likes to buy lengths of wood as it's so cheap but it means bringing it home on the roof rack which I hate as I'm always scared it's going to work its way loose and end up through the windscreen of the car following us.

I love the deadstock sale. Full of rubbish but every now and then there's an absolute gem. I managed to get a full sized milk churn for £10 which looks lovely packed with nasturtiums tumbling down the side. A large box ball in a terracotta pot for £6 was an absolute bargain.

Sadly, we can no longer go in term time because I have to collect DGS from the school bus at 3pm and as it's 45 mins away we'd have to leave before all the good stuff goes up for sale.