Eight Reasons Why Keeping Chickens is a Great Idea!

It’s pretty safe to say we love chickens and there are thousands of other people all over the world that love their chickens too. Today, we’re looking at the top reasons to start keeping chickens.

I love chickens

We love chickens!

  1. Fresh eggs!

This is probably the top reason that people start keeping chickens and having a daily supply of fresh eggs is certainly a good enough reason for us.

Not only will you get the satisfaction of collecting your own eggs but you’ll also know exactly what went into making them. You are what you eat after all!

Coloured_eggs

  1. Chickens are educational

Keeping chickens in your back garden is a great way to teach your children a little bit more about where their food comes from.

Having any pet is a valuable lesson in respecting and caring for animals but having a pet that gives you a tasty treat back in return for your love and dedication is even better.

  1. Your garden will be bug free

If you let your chickens free range you’ll be amazed how quickly they get rid of all the bugs in your garden.

Worms, slugs, beetles, flies, snails, and spiders all make a tasty snack for hens so you’ll be provided with free pest control all year around.

chicken-little-in-the-garden

  1. Chickens are low maintenance

Most common breeds of chicken are hardy, easy to care for, and low maintenance making them an ideal pet.

Usually as long as your flock has food, water, exercise, and a clean shelter they’ll be happy. Of course, how fancy you want to make your chicken house is up to you!

  1. You’ll get free fertiliser

Whether you let or hens free range or not you’ll still have an abundance of glorious free fertiliser that your plants will love.

The high nitrogen content of chicken poo means that it turns into brilliant compost so put it on your flower beds and wait for your plants to thrive.

  1. You’ll cut down your food wastage

Chickens are like compost bins and will happily guzzle down your left over kitchen scraps.

A squashed cauliflower, a handful of sweetcorn, or a few pieces of bacon rind will always be a welcome treat for your flock.

  1. Chickens enhance any garden

Even the plainest breed of chicken is beautiful and there are plenty of ornamental breeds if you want something really spectacular.

MJ_porcelain

  1. Chickens are entertaining

In return for as little as 15 minutes per day of your time you’ll get hours of entertainment back.

You’ll soon learn that each chicken has her own personality and all of the different breeds have their own character traits.

Creating a cosy nest: the best bedding for your chickens

We all like to snuggle up in bed after a long day and your chickens are no exception but with so many bedding options how do you know which one is the best?

Straw, hay, shavings, paper, Aubiose, or a specialist poultry bedding – for first time chicken keepers the myriad of options can make creating a cosy nest for your hens a nightmare.

Easichick bedding

Easichick – just one of the bedding options!

 

Here’s a quick run-down of the most popular bedding materials to help you make an informed choice and create an inviting chicken house:

Straw & Hay

Straw – many people use straw as a bedding material, especially in nest boxes, but it compacts easily and isn’t the most absorbent option. This means that it needs to be changed regularly and might become an expensive choice.

Hay – hay should not be used be used as a bedding material as like straw it compacts easily and quickly becomes damp. Damp bedding encourages fungal spores to grow and can cause aspergillosis – a respiratory disease. If you do need to use hay then only use it in nest boxes and change it daily.

Wood shavings

Dust extracted woods shavings, not sawdust, is one of the most popular bedding materials for poultry because it’s relatively cheap, easy to use, and highly absorbent.

Our Twitter follower @louiselambert27 says: “for bedding I use dust free shavings (as they’re) better for respiratory issues”

However, if you’re rearing chicks or ducklings only introduce wood shavings after 4-6 weeks. Ducklings in particular see shavings as a tasty snack which can prove fatal.

Check your wood shavings are not derived from hardwoods and that they are as dust free as possible. Dusty bedding can cause respiratory problems, especially if there is poor ventilation in your hen house.

Shredded paper

Just like hay and straw shredded paper can be used as a bedding material but is best kept for nest boxes and changed regularly. It is easily compacted and depending on how thickly it is shredded it may not be that absorbent.

Chopped cardboard

Although this sounds like shredded paper it is less likely to compact and more absorbent, making it a good choice for chickens. It is also dust free and can be composted – which is ideal if you’re also a keen gardener!

Aubiose

This easily composted bedding was originally designed for equine use but is fast becoming one of the most popular options for chicken keepers because it’s so absorbent. It’s made from natural hemp and when spread on the floor of your hen house can provide an extra insulating layer during the colder months.

Easichick

If you’re looking for a bedding material that has been specifically designed for chickens then this could be the option for you. It’s dust free, highly absorbent, biodegradable, and free-draining.

Just like chopped cardboard and Aubiose it’s also easily composted and it’s been approved for organic farming.

 

Added Extras for Your Chicken House

Once you get everything set up keeping chickens really is a walk in the park, which is possibly why they’re such a popular pet even with the urban crowd. All you need is the right coop and a little bit of green space and your chickens will be happy.

In the past we’ve discussed the things you should look for when buying your first chicken house. This week we’re going to be looking at the added extras you can get for your chicken house that will make keeping hens even easier!

Here are some chicken house accessories that make your hen’s home more luxurious and will definitely make keeping chickens easier:

Easy moving

If you’re looking for a chicken house that you can move around your garden then you’ll need something that is easy to move by yourself. Moveable chicken houses are very popular and there are a range of wheels and handles you can get to make moving your chicken house quick and simple.

SS100351

Let there be light

Lighting your hen house during the autumn and winter months is a proven method of extending your chicken’s egg production period.

Solar hen house lighting kits are easily set up and because they don’t need to be linked up to a mains electricity supply they are able to be used even in the most remote areas.

Sunshine Solar_kit

Shutting the door behind you

Whilst getting up early to let them out is part and parcel of having chickens everyone likes a lie in sometimes.

This is where automatic doors for chicken houses become a really useful accessory. They are set on a timer to open in the morning and then safely lock your hens in at night. This is a good idea if you don’t get home from work until after dark during the winter to keep predators out of your chicken house.

Autodoorunitslide-600x600

Keep them where you want them

If your flock is free-range but there are parts of your garden you’d rather they stayed away from then you can invest in some electric fencing to keep them where you want them.

The poultry netting style of electric fencing for chickens is also a good deterrent for predators including, foxes, dogs, cats, and rodents.

BatteryFencingKit600x600

 

New Product Alert!

Jim is very excited to announce that he will be revealing two new poultry house designs at the Open Day on Saturday 19th September.

The first new product is a brand new design – the “Millie” Ark – named after a top Jim Vyse Arks customer. The ark has a run underneath (measuring 18″ high) increasing the available run area by over 50% and giving your flock plenty of room to roam.

The "Millie" Ark with Millie herself!

The “Millie” Ark with Millie herself!

The second new product is an improved version of the incredibly popular 6 Bird Chicken Ark and also features an under run. This makes our 6 Bird Chicken Ark far more versatile to use giving your birds both freedom and security – ideal for winter use.

Added Extras…

Jim is also pleased to announce that he will now be stocking some fantastic products from other suppliers.

Stockmax shavings, Secure Covers poultry shades, and Sunshine Solar chicken house lighting will shortly all be available to purchase via the Jim Vyse Arks website.

new product coming soon

 

Jim’s Chicken Tips: 10 More Things to Look for When Buying a Chicken House

JimVyse_SwissChaletChickenHouse_Collage

Last week Jim gave you 10 things to look for when buying a chicken house. This week he’s giving you 10 more things to look for so you’ll get the perfect home for your flock:

  1. Does your house have a low carbon footprint?

This might not seem important, but do something good for the environment and don’t ship a house in from China!

  1. Is your chicken house made from eco-friendly materials?

See point 1 – this might not seem important but you’ll feel better knowing you haven’t contributed to the loss of a forest. For example, all Jim Vyse arks are made from Forestry Stewardship Council approved timber, meaning that the wood comes from a sustainable source.

  1. Is your chicken house attractive?

Although a more utilitarian design is often more practical than some of the elaborate models on the market, you still want a chicken house that is aesthetically pleasing if it’s going to be in your back garden.

  1. Is the door/pop hole big enough?

Last week one of my points was that you should check your chicken house is big enough for the breed of chickens you keep, particularly if you keep large breeds such as Brahmas. The same goes for the door, your birds shouldn’t have to squeeze through a too small door.

  1. Is your chicken house easy to maintain?

A simple design will not only be easy to keep clean but will also be easy to maintain. You don’t want to have to spend your weekends fixing your chicken house, or find that it is cheaper to replace than to keep well maintained.

  1. Is the roof made of a suitable material?

Rooves shouldn’t leak or harbour a red mite infestation, so avoid houses with felt rooves. Felt rooves, and those made from similar materials, won’t provide adequate protection from the elements and are tough to remove red mite from.

  1. Are the dimensions right for your space?

Check, check, and check again the dimensions of your outdoor space and of the chicken house you’re going to purchase. Drawing it out on the ground can help you visualise what the house will look like when it arrives.

  1. Do you need a run?

If your chickens aren’t going to free range, is the house you’re purchasing suitable to have an attached run?

  1. Is the run big enough?

Chickens need room to do “chicken things” so choose a chicken run that offers them as much space as possible. You might also want to let them free range occasionally if your outdoor space is safe and suitable.

  1. Are there enough nest boxes?

Generally speaking you’ll need one nest box per three hens. Nest boxes need to be off the ground and hens prefer if the nest boxes are in the darkest part of the house, such as at the back.

Buying a chicken house? Get it right the first time!

After being in the chicken house business for over 10 years at Jim Vyse Arks we’ve heard it all when it comes to poultry house purchasing horror stories. Poor design, flimsy materials, and hard to clean nooks and crannies are among some of the most common complaints.

Swiss Chalet chicken house with wheels

Our Swiss Chalet chicken house with wheels & handles for easy moving

Many of our customers come to us needing to replace a cheaper poultry house that just hasn’t stood up to the demands of their flock or the great British weather!

Generally speaking when you buy a chicken house you get what you pay for and if to you want a top quality house that will last you for years to come then you’re going to need to pay a bit more.

Here are our top tips to make sure you don’t waste money on a poor quality chicken house:

Think about your budget

As we said above, you get what you pay for and you should expect to pay roughly £300-£400 for a high quality hen house. This might seem like a lot of money but when you think about having to replace a cheaper house every year because it falls apart you’ll realise the investment is worth it.

Looking around for discount codes or sales can be a good way of getting a top of the range chicken coop for a slightly lower price.

Simple or supercharged design?

It doesn’t matter whether you choose a minimalist design or something more elaborate as long as the house is practical. You’ll need to look at whether the house has the following features:

  • Easily moveable
  • Good ventilation
  • Easy to clean & maintain
  • High standard of welfare – consider space, perches, nest boxes etc.
  • Top quality materials

The same goes for the colour of your house – whether you want a natural look or a top class paint job make sure you use the right paint. We recommend Cuprinol Ducksback range to all our customers as it’s quick drying, long lasting, and comes in a great range of colours.

Goose House_JimVyse

Runs and enclosures

If your chickens aren’t going to have free run of your garden then you’ll also need to purchase a run or enclosure to go with your chicken house. The type of run you choose depends entirely on the space you have but you’ll need to make sure your hens have room to scratch around, stretch their wings, and carry out natural behaviour.

Runs can be built on to the house, attached separately for easy moving, or you could opt for a walk in enclosure for easy cleaning and maintenance.

Consider going bespoke

Normally when you hear the word “bespoke” you think of unaffordable prices but it isn’t always like that. Here at Jim Vyse Arks our bespoke service starts from just £350 so if you’re struggling to find a standard design that suits your needs then why not consider using our bespoke service?

A Jim Vyse bespoke chicken house and run

Whether you want a slightly modified version of a standard chicken house or something completely new we’ll be happy to hear from you – so don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Keeping chickens for the first time? Here’s what you need to know!

Keeping chickens is a brilliant hobby and if you’ve been thinking about starting your own flock here’s our list of top first time poultry keepers FAQs.

I love chickens

How many chickens should I keep?

How many chickens you keep is entirely up to you but as chickens are social animals you’ll need at least a pair of hens. Most people keep three hens as this usually provides them with more than enough eggs.

Where should I get my chickens from?

If you type “chickens for sale” into an internet search engine you’ll be snowed under with adverts for chickens but to ensure healthy, happy birds you should buy from a reputable breeder.

You could also do a good deed by rehoming hens through a charity such as the British Hen Welfare Trust or Fresh Start for Hens.

How much room do chickens need?

Chickens rarely go far from home so don’t think you need acres of space for your flock. A minimum of 10 square feet for three to four large hens is required by welfare laws, but we would suggest that 20 square feet is a better starting point for free roaming chooks.

Will free range hens ruin my garden?

There’s no getting around it, chickens will scratch in the grass, soil, gravel, woodchip, or any other surface they come in contact with. If you’re worried about them ruining your garden then investing in a purpose built chicken run or enclosure will keep your chickens and your plants happy.

What should I feed my chickens?

There are many brands of chicken food out there and you can choose from “layer’s pellets” or “mash”. Ask any poultry keeping friends which brand they prefer and always ensure your hens have fresh water to drink.

Chicken feed bucket

How long do chickens live for?

A healthy bird will live for 5+ years and a well-cared for chicken could live for even longer.

How many eggs will I get?

The exact number of eggs you get depends entirely on the individual chicken, their breed, their environment, and the time of year. However, as a rough guide you could expect 250-300 eggs per year.

Do I need a cockerel to get eggs?

Definitely not – you’ll only need a cockerel if you plan on breeding from your flock. If you’d still like to have a cockerel then there is nothing stopping you, just remember that your neighbours might not agree!

Will my chickens attract vermin?

Chickens themselves don’t attract vermin but their food can. You can combat this by clearing up left over food regularly and keep your food in vermin proof containers, such as a metal dustbin.

You’ll also need to make sure your chicken coop is of high quality and regularly maintained to keep your hens safe from predators like foxes, badgers, and feral cats.

Will my chickens fly away?

Chickens aren’t known for their flying abilities but if you are worried about them making the Great Escape over your fence you can clip their wings (one wing per hen). If you’re not confident doing this yourself then get your chicken supplier to do it for you.

free_range_chicken_flock

How to make your new chickens feel right at home

If you’re considering getting chickens in the future you’re going to be thinking about how they’re going to settle in. Luckily chickens are pretty hardy creatures and it won’t take long for them to feel at home.

homesweethomechicken

However, that doesn’t stop you worrying that they won’t like their new living situation.

The “eggcitement” of a new flock can almost be overwhelming if you’re a first time chicken keeper, but your feathered friends will be just fine.

To help you feel at ease, here are our top tips for helping your new chickens feel right at home:

 

Preparation is everything

The first thing to do before you set off to pick up your chickens is to make sure everything is ready to go at home. Get their chicken house, predator proof run, and all their accessories in the right place so you can make sure everything is working properly.

You don’t want to be running around filling feeders when you get back or worse, find out your automatic drinker doesn’t work!

Is it bedtime yet?

The best time to collect chickens is in the late afternoon/early evening so they can go straight to bed when you get home. If they’ve had a long journey, or it’s a warm evening, you can put a drinker in their house.

If you’ll be collecting them during the day then it’s best not to let them free range so make sure their run is ready for them. You might need to catch them in the evening to put them to bed until they learn where home is.

Keeping them in their run for the first few days or a week is also a good idea as you might find it hard to put them to bed if you let them free range straight away!

Keep calm and love chickens

The early days of chicken keeping can be tough. You’ll see squabbles, nervousness, and unruly behaviour. Don’t worry about this, they’re just trying to establish a pecking order and this should stop within a few weeks.

Now is a great time to really make friends with your flock and food is definitely the way to a hen’s heart! Start by putting food near your feet to get them used to you being close to them. Before long, you’ll have them eating out of your hand!

Eggcellent!

Coloured_eggsThat’s the last egg joke, we promise!

Moving to a new home can upset your hens enough to make them stop laying for a while, but this shouldn’t last long. Once they’ve adjusted to you and their new home you’ll have plenty of eggs.

Soft shelled eggs are also quite common when you’re settling a new flock in. Making sure they have a healthy, balanced diet should combat this. You can also mix grit or ground up egg shells in with their feed to keep their calcium levels up.

 

How to predator proof your chickens

Unfortunately your chickens are never going to be 100% safe from predators but we’ve got some tips to make an attack less likely.

Mmm chicken nugget!

Mmm chicken nugget!

Predators can be one of the biggest worries for chicken keepers, especially if you live in an area with a large fox population or the neighbourhood cats have been a little too interested in your flock.

Unfortunately there isn’t a way to make sure that your chickens are 100% safe from other creatures, but there are some things you can do to make their environment safer.

We’ve got some top tips to keep predators as far away as possible:

Don’t use chicken wire

Avoid purchasing a run or chicken coop that uses chicken wire as predators can easily break through. Chicken wire was originally designed to keep chickens in rather than keep predators out so it isn’t a suitable material for runs, closures, or houses.

Welded, galvanised ¼ inch mesh is a far safer option and is as fox proof as you’ll get. Members of the weasel family will also find it extremely difficult to access your hens.

Get digging

If you’re building a permanent enclosure for your flock then dig a 12 inch trench around the enclosure to bury the mesh. A 12 inch apron of mesh around the enclosure is an alternative if you don’t want to dig a trench but chicken keepers report that this isn’t as effective.

Remember, a hungry predator will happily dig to get a meal, so start digging before he does!

Teach your hens to “go to bed”

Chickens roosting outside overnight are extremely vulnerable and you could lose your entire flock in one night if they’re not properly shut away. Dawn and dusk can be dangerous times for chickens so you might find that an automatic door is a good option to keep your hens safely shut inside.

Raise your coop

A raised chicken house will stop pests such as rats and mice being able to hide or burrow underneath your house. Not only can rats cause damage to your hen house but they will also steal eggs, kill young chicks, and will sometimes take on hens, especially bantam breeds.

Clean up leftover food daily

Rats will also be attracted by the leftover food that your hens scatter about the place. Remove food overnight and clean up anything left in the coop at the end of the day by hand or with a rake..

Even if pests are only trying to get the food waste they’ll upset and stress your hens in their efforts to get in the enclosure and may also turn on your hens.

Invest in “guard chickens”

This method might not be for everyone but many chicken keepers report that keeping bigger breeds of chicken such as Brahmas, Jersey Giants, and Orpingtons act as a deterrent to predators.

There’s no exact science to this and it might not work for you but if you are thinking about expanding your flock consider purchasing a larger breed to keep the smaller members of the group safe.

Next week we’ll be looking at how to give your chickens a bath whether it’s for a show or just to freshen them up!