Have you adopted hens from one of the rescue centers around Ireland? Or perhaps you have decided to take up chicken keeping for the first time and bought hens for a local chicken farmer? Here at FarmFowl.com, we like to share some of the tips we have learned over the years, so we have put together this short guide for those starting out with hens for the first time.
Like caring for any animal, chicken keeping requires time and effort, but is hugely rewarding! The basics you should think about before ever adopting or buying your first hens, are these three questions; Where will they live? How will I feed and water them? And How will I keep them safe?
So – let’s answer those questions now!
Where will my hens live?
Chickens need shelter, so you need to invest in a hen house, and wooden chicken coops are the most popular option. The most important thing for the hens is that the coop is dry and draft free, with some nest boxes and perches.
On the flipside, the most important thing for you, the chicken keeper, is that the wood is treated (with a pet friendly stain or wood preserver) and that if nails are used they are galvanised to prevent rusting. These two steps will ensure the coop lasts for as long as possible. You might also consider things like how easy the coop will be to access for cleaning and also how you will collect the eggs that are laid!
Chickens also need to get outside and the amount of space you can offer might vary from a chicken run attached to your hen house, to a larger fenced area within your garden. People often ask us can be keep chickens in our back garden in a town and the answer is yes! They make great pets, require a small amount of care and attention and plus there is the bonus of having fresh free range eggs daily! Read more about raising hens in a suburban garden in our recent blog here.
It’s great to give your chickens free range if possible as they will be nice and healthy and provide you with more eggs!
How will I feed and water them?
To keep healthy, chickens need a balanced diet and a supply of fresh water available to them. While chickens need “layers pellets” daily to ensure they get all the nutrients and vitamins needed for them to stay healthy, and to produce lots of lovely fresh eggs every day, they also like to eat other things! In a free-range environment, hens like to forage for greens, bugs, worms, seeds and other tasty treats. You can read all about what chickens need to eat to stay healthy in here, in the FarmFowl.com Learning Centre archive.
A good chicken feeder is important as it prevents waste and save money. If you put out the pellets in a regular bowl you will soon find that, as chickens like to scratch around, a lot of the food will be wasted.
Likewise, a hen drinker is very necessary in supplying clean water to your chickens at all times. An adult chicken will drink about 0.5L of water on a normal day and water makes up 75% of the egg.
And How will I keep them safe?
If you purchase a coop from FarmFowl.com it will provide a safe enclosure for you chickens and protect them against predators such as foxes, particularly at night. Foxes are the number one predators in Ireland for your hens, but domestic cats and dogs may also pose a threat, particularly to chicks. You should also be mindful of having your chickens out during the day and ensure they are in an enclosed area and safe from wandering too far into neighbouring properties or roadways.
By using the correct feeder, you should also be limiting your exposure to mice and wild birds who love to eat your chicken’s feed supplies.
We hope this article has helped give you some more information about how to prepare for keeping chickens for the first time.