There really is no comparison between the taste of an egg freshly laid by your own chickens compared with shop bought ones. Hens are just as easily kept in a town garden as a country one and can make great pets for old and young with their fun, inquisitive personalities.
So, if you’re considering keeping hens, here are a few basic tips:
How many hens?
Firstly, if you are new to keeping hens then best start with just two or three. Chickens like to live in groups too, so never keep less than a pair.
Three well-fed, happy hens should supply you with around 12 – 14 eggs a week, possibly more depending on the breed you choose.
Choosing your hens
You can opt for buying breeds or alternatively take on hens previously commercially farmed hens.
The British Hen Welfare Trust re-home former commercially farmed hens, which is a wonderful experience especially as these hens are ideal for beginners.
Keeping a few hens in your garden for your own personal enjoyment is usually ok, however do check your house deeds or tenancy agreement because these sometimes contain a covenant preventing hens being kept.
It’s best to also phone your local authority to check there are no by-laws issues.
You can buy purpose-built henhouses or convert a shed or make your own. In each case, it needs to be completely fox and vermin proof. Hens need plenty of space, so if you’re thinking of getting 3 hens make sure your henhouse is designed for at least 4.
It will need a nest box and perches and ideally a completely smooth interior (preformed plastic is great for this) to minimise hiding places for red mite which can cause serious problems to hens.
Position it so that it’s protected from sun and prevailing winds, ideally in a spot near a small tree as hens love the shelter of trees.
Caring for your hens
Just like any other pet, hens need daily care, feeding and a routine but the good news is they’re quite straightforward to look after.
Feeding and water
The average adult hen needs 100-120g of feed per day. The BHWT sells a ‘‘Thank You for Adopting Me‘ food mix, perfect for first time hen keepers.
It’s just as important to make sure your hens have a regular supply of fresh water as it is to give them food.
Make sure to give them plenty of fresh, clean bedding, changed and disinfected regularly. Straw, wood shavings or shredded newspaper are all great for this.
Hens love routine so feed them at the same times daily and let them stay out until late dusk, always making sure they’re all locked in safely before it gets dark.
One of the many joys of keeping hens is that they are very undemanding, and I hope the above information gives you the confidence to take the plunge and acquire 2, 3 or maybe more hens.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
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