The things you need
Chickens are relatively easy animals to care for once you know the basics and have all the things that you need.
First you need a good hen house and run. The more space the better; lots of people like to have their hens running loose in the garden.
If you want a large secure space for your hens you should consider electric fencing; this comes in 25 or 50 metre rolls and can easily be put up and moved around. This gives your hens lots of room to run around and is a great defence against foxes. If this does not appeal to you then there are plenty of good quality chicken coops with attached runs; you can also buy extension runs.
Inside the hen house it is best to used straw in the nest boxes and shavings under the perches, or alternatively chopped straw in both areas. Do not use hay as it is too dusty and musty for hens and isn’t good for their respiratory system. The alternative is shredded paper, but this doesn’t look nice when it’s floating around your garden.
Your hens will need a chicken feeder and chicken drinker in their outside area. Hens drink a lot more than you would expect so get the right size for your number of hens.
As for feeders, a 3kg feeder is ideal for 4 medium hens. It is a good idea to get lids for the feeders to help keep the food dry. If you put your hen’s food and water in bowls you will find that the contents will soon be all over the floor. Their main food will be layers pellets and you should keep their feeder topped up with this.
Chickens also need a ready supply of mixed grit and oyster shell .Grit helps them digest their food, and the oyster shell has lots of calcium in it,which they need to make egg shells. This can either be put in a grit hopper or bowl attached to the side of the coop, or just thrown on the floor every few days.
Aside from the obvious good care, there are three specific things that we recommend you do for your chickens
First, you need to keep down red mite. These are tiny mites that live in the wood of the coop , they get on the birds and suck their blood, leaving them unhappy and you eggless. Red mite becomes a big problem when it gets out of hand so it is best to do something about them as you go along.
When you have a clean out about once a week, sprinkle some red mite powder around the edges of the inside of the coop and in the nest boxes. If you ever make your chickens a dust bath, this is also a great place to put red mite powder.
Once a month you will probably want to do a big clean, emptying the coop and hosing down inside. Once you have done this use a poultry designed cleaner, usually in liquid concentrate. Spray this around inside and it will kill any bacteria, making it hygienic for your birds, plus kill the red mite.
Next is worming. A bird filled with worms isn’t going to lay you any eggs so again it is best to take preventative action as you go along. We commend an organic wormer that either goes in their food or water; you don’t even have to stop eating the eggs whilst you use this.
Minerals and Vitamins
Last, we recommend to everyone to give their hens some extra vitamins and minerals to keep them in tip-top and shiny condition. This is very simple to do, there are some good tonics on the market.