We’re often asked about keeping chickens in suburbia. Here are some of your top questions answered.
- Can we have a coop and two chickens in a town or city garden in Ireland? (Suburbs)
Of course you can! Just two chickens will supply about a dozen tasty eggs each week to a family home. In an urban setting, I’d always recommend starting with two or three hens, it’s a good amount and at the same time enough hens to start with. Remember, it is a lot easier to add extra hens than to take them away, so starting small and seeing how things go is a great way to begin a chicken keeping adventure.
- Do many people keep chicken’s in the town or city?
Yes, lots of people do. For example, we have customers in almost every part of Dublin. We even have a customer who keeps chickens on a Dublin city centre high rise roof top. As well as supplying tasty eggs, chickens make great pets and are just as easy to keep as any other pet, sometimes even easier.
We have as many customers in towns and cities as we do in countryside settings. Chances are if you live in an older city house, there may even have been chickens in your garden in years gone by when many people routinely kept them for eggs.
- We have three garden beds and want to turn the old strawberry patch into the chicken coop patch. We wanted to put down some grass to replace the strawberry patch. Do they need grass as the rest of the back yard is concrete?
This setting is ideal. Chickens don’t necessarily need grass but they do need greenery. A head of cabbage bought weekly from the local green grocer or supermarket is great for this purpose! Apart from the chickens loving it, it will help to achieve a beautiful orange coloured egg yolk! Yummy 🙂
Concrete is not an issue for chickens but they do like somewhere to scratch about. An old strawberry patch as you mentioned is ideal!
- Are chickens noisy?
Chickens are not noisy, in fact a close neighbour could currently hens and you would not even know. The loudest noise a chicken makes is when she lays an egg. This typically happens between about 8am and 12am each day and is a clucking sound for about a minute. For the rest of the day, they really make no noise at all. Male chickens or roosters are nosier and are best avoided in an urban setting.
- If we save battery hens, have they been vaccinated? Do they cost money? How much are laying hens?
Good on you for considering rescuing battery hens! For those who don’t know what battery hens are let me explain. They are commercial hens that lay the eggs people buy in supermarkets, the non-free-range eggs, the cheap eggs. These hens are about 1 to 1 ½ years old when they leave the battery hen house. Typically, these hens end up going to a mincer and making it into dog food. Very sad and not nice! However, some get a second chance and are rescued, re-homed and go on to lay eggs for another three or four years at least.
So, let me answer your questions. Yes, battery hens are vaccinated. In fact, they are vaccinated for life making them trouble free to keep. They are amazingly resilient and very-very rewarding to re-home. They typically do cost a little, around €5, but this is to help cover the costs of the animal rescues centres, such a Little Hill Animal Rescue in Kildare.
A non-rescue hen, or point of lay hen costs typically about €10 to €15. These are usually about 16 to 20 weeks old and will begin to lay their first eggs in 2-3 weeks after you get them.
- Is there anything that chickens are allergic to or if they eat something that is lethal to them? E.g. plants?
Let me start by saying I am not an expert gardener, growing grass and cutting grass is as far as I go I’m afraid.
Furthermore, I’d like to add that hens are not stupid. I have hatched and reared hundreds of chickens. I have never known one or heard from a customer about them eating a poisonous plant that was just growing in the garden.
It is us humans that need to be careful with what we give the chickens to eat and sometimes we can inadvertently give the chickens something we shouldn’t. For example, grass clippings can cause major issues. If the grass collection box from a lawnmower is emptied into a chicken run it can cause issues as it is very compacted, but chickens nibbling at growing grass won’t cause any issues at all.
All our starter packs come complete with a guide, this guide contains information on what to feed and not feed chickens which can be of help. In short chickens know what to eat themselves and if you are unsure if it is ok, just don’t feed them that. Also, slug pellets and the like should not be used, but chickens like eating slugs so this is a much more organic way of dealing with them than the use of pellets.
- Are chicken’s likely to hop over the wall into my neighbours?
Possibly, it really depends on how high the walls are. The good news is they will come back! ‘Home to roost’ as the saying goes.
It is easy enough to stop them scaling a wall of about 4ft or 1 .25m high, but you would need to clip their wings. This isn’t as bad as it sounds and it really is just like a hair-cut for us humans. It involves cutting a few feathers a little shorter and is painless if done correctly. There is information in the learning section on our website about clipping a chicken’s wing.
6ft walls will most likely keep a chicken in, just don’t have anything near the wall that acts as an improvised stair, i.e. a wheelie bin.
- There are cats in the neighbourhood, are they an issue or danger to my hens?
The answer is usually no. I’ve never heard where a cat was an issue to a fully-grown hen. Chicks are a different matter but an egg laying hen is typically too big. Here at Farm Fowl we currently have four cats and over the years we have had many more. They all have got on with our flock fantastically, the hens give the cats a harder time to be honest and will gladly eat the cat’s food! It is always a good idea to keep an eye on cats for the first while after the chickens arrive just to be safe side, but as mentioned it is usually not an issue.
- What about foxes, there are lots of them in the city?
Yes, you’re right. There are a lot of city foxes and they can be a lot braver than our countryside ones.
Foxes are not an issue, but you must have the right sort of set-up. Foxes are opportunistic and love an easy meal. Choosing the right type of chicken coop is important, one with an enclosed pen can be a good idea. Look at our coop range as many of them have this feature.
- My garden is small, do hens need much space?
Hen’s will easily swap variety for space and in almost any urban garden this can be achieved. A small chicken run, with heads of cabbage and treats such as grains can easily keep two or three happy hens. They can be in the pen most of the time but it is nice to let them out to wander about the garden at times.
If you have other questions, feel free to drop us a line via the contact us section, we’d love to hear from you.