In this article, I’m going to give a quick overview of the key things that need to be in place to keep chickens well. If you’re in Ireland or Northern Ireland, our chicken keeping starter packs have almost all that I outline below in the pack, so it makes it easy to have everything delivered to your door in one go.
A chicken coop is the first important piece of equipment that you need. This chicken coop will be where the hens sleep and lay their eggs. A chicken coop can even come complete with an enclosed run to keep the hens safe when you are not around.
A good chicken feeder is important. Yes, you could of course use an old bowl or something like that. However chickens like to scratch about and what you’ll quickly learn is how much feed that can be wasted. A proper chicken feeder will prevent waste, save money and reduce the chances of unwanted visitors to the feed area. A laying hen will eat about 150g of layers pellets per day, so this may help to judge a suitable sized feeder.
An adult chicken will drink about 0.5L of water on a normal day and water makes up 75% of the an egg. It is very important to have clean water with hens all the time. A good chicken drinker will supply hens with plenty of clean fresh water.
Laying Hens have particular dietary requirements. Feeding chickens scraps alone will lead to sick hens and no eggs. Feeding them correctly will keep them healthy, happy and laying lots of fresh eggs. This feed comes in the form of layers pellets and there is even an organic version of this food. We stock this food in our shop and can deliver it to anywhere in Ireland. Hens will not over-eat, this food should be available to them all day long in a suitable feeder as mentioned above.
If hens are free ranging they will typically find the grit they need. If they are confined to a pen it is well worth having some grit available. Oyster Shell Grit is best as it not only helps hens digest their feed, it also helps hens to make really good quality egg shells.
There are two types of bedding for chickens that we recommend are either clean dry soft wood shavings or chopped straw. These bedding are ideal as they won’t allow any mites or lice to live in them. Other bedding options can be used, these are the two that I prefer. At the moment we mostly use the chopped straw as I find it composts very well.
All hens are not the same and it is very important you get the right type for you. A good breeder will help you choose. We highly recommend hybrid hens if you are just starting out. Hybrid hens are great egg layers and for example our Clarabelle Hens or Snowbelle Hens will typically lay about 6 eggs a week pretty much all year around. Full vaccinated they are really trouble free to keep. Clarabelle hens are also very calm, docile and easy to handle. This is important for their monthly health routine, more details on this next.
On an ongoing basis it is important to keep on top of chicken health. This we recommend is done in a preventative manner and is similar to what is done when keeping a pet cat or pet dog. Because you are eating the eggs we recommend doing this as naturally as possible without the introduction of any pharmaceuticals.
This is easy to do. The first week of each month a mite prevention powder is placed under the hens wings and tail and a natural product to help prevent internal parasites and worms is placed in the food. Simple! We can help talk give you advice on how to do this if required. With the right type of hens as mentioned above this is very easy to do.