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Posted on 15 May 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

If you’re still on the fence about chicken keeping, or you know someone who is, there might be hidden benefits of poultry keeping that you haven’t considered.

Here are our top benefits of keeping chickens:

  1. You’ll have a better diet

Chickens that are allowed to free range and eat a wide variety of plants and bugs produce healthier eggs – fact. Your hen’s eggs will contains higher amounts of Vitamins A, D, and E, they’ll have less saturated fats and cholesterol, and more Omega-3 fats.

  1. You’ll be doing chicken welfare a favour

If you have your own eggs at home you won’t need to buy eggs, therefore you won’t be financially supporting chicken factory farms. Of course, buying free range eggs are a solution but the definition of “free range” isn’t always what it seems.

  1. You’ll be doing your bit for the environment

Chickens love to eat weeds and protein packed bugs so you won’t need to use chemical bug sprays or weed killer. Their waste also makes great fertiliser so your plants will look wonderful without any chemical intervention.

  1. They’ll improve your soil

If you’re a keen gardener having chickens scratching over tired looking flower beds will improve your soil no end. Put a layer of compost on your beds and they’ll be more than happy to mix it in with the soil!

chicken in the garden

  1. You’ll get outside more

Fitting exercise into a busy working week can be hard but keeping chickens means you’ll have to spend a certain amount of time each week in the garden. Moving feed sacks and bales of bedding is also a good cardiovascular workout.

  1. Chickens are a natural antidepressant

When you stroke a pet a stress reducing chemical called Oxytocin in released leaving you feeling calmer, and more contented. The calming effect of chickens on a persons’ mental state can be so strong they have even been used as therapy animals.

  1. You could prevent extinction of heritage breeds

The commercial farming of chickens has meant that many breeds are no longer kept and are now facing extinction. Getting involved in keeping rare, heritage chicken breeds means that their genes are preserved and valuable genetic material isn’t lost.

Buff Orpington

Posted on 13 May 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , ,

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

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 at 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.

  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!

bespoke chicken house and run

  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 just wait for your plants to thrive.

  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.

  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.

chicken joke

Keeping chickens is a fantastic pastime, one that people have flocked to in recent years, and chickens could make a fantastic addition to your garden and your family.

Here are the most common questions people that are new to chicken keeping ask:

#1 – Do I need permission to keep chickens?

If you live in the UK then you shouldn’t need permission to keep chickens. However, some old houses have bans on keeping chickens so it’s important to check the deeds to your house first.

You might also want to phone your local Environmental Health Officer just to cover all bases. And of course, asking your neighbours if they mind is the polite thing to do!

#2 – What do chickens eat?

Chickens are omnivorous which means that they’ll eat pretty much anything! The majority of your hens’ diet should be made up from a commercial pellet or layers mash which you can buy at your local feed merchants and some pet shops.

You’ll also find your hens look for their own food including grass, worms, and bugs.

#3 – How much do chickens eat?

The exact answer to this question depends entirely on the number of birds you keep and their age, sex, and breed but here’s a rough guide:

  • Laying hens = 4/6 ounces of food per day
  • Bantams = 2/3 ounces of food per day

Larger breeds, such as the Buff Orpington or Jersey Giant, need more feed and all chickens will need an increased food intake during the colder winter months. Chicken keepers usually make sure food is available at all times so that hens can help themselves throughout the day.

#4 – How do I put my chickens to bed?

Chickens usually put themselves to bed at dusk, although this doesn’t always mean they’ll go to bed in their hen house!

For the first few weeks you may need to herd them in at “bedtime” or lay a trail of food to the chicken house door for them to follow. Chickens are creatures of habit and it shouldn’t take them long to get into a routine.

If you keep your chickens in a run then you could also try not letting them free range for a couple of weeks. After this point they should know where “home” is and put themselves to bed without you needing to get involved.

raised chicken house

#5 – How long do chickens live?

This varies from breed to breed and of course depends on whether your chicken is injured or becomes ill. Generally a healthy bird will live for between eight to 15 years, although chickens have been known to live for as long as 20 years.

#6 – How many eggs will my chickens lay?

Again, this depends entirely on the breed and age of your chickens. Commercial hybrids, such as the Warren, could lay 320 in a year. Pure bred or rare breeds tend to lay fewer eggs.

You’ll also find that hens lay fewer eggs as they get older but most breeds are fairly productive layers during their first laying year.

eggs

#7 – Do I need a cockerel to get eggs?

No, and your neighbours would probably appreciate it if you didn’t! You’ll only need a cockerel if you want to start breeding your chickens and need fertilised eggs.

#8 –  What do I do if one of my chickens is ill?

Because chickens are prey animals they don’t usually start to look ill until it is quite serious. This means that if one of your flock does become ill you’ll need to act quite quickly.

Remove the ill bird from the flock, place it in a warm, quiet place with food and water, and watch for any changes. If your hen doesn’t improve then consult a chicken friendly vet – finding one can be a challenge, so it’s worth sourcing a good vet before you purchase your chickens.

#9 – What do I do with my hens if I go on holiday?

The easiest option is to make friends with another chicken keeper and take it in turns to look after each other’s flocks when you go away. Another option that is gaining popularity is to send your chickens on a “hen holiday” where they’ll be cared for until you return.

A quick internet search should turn up a company that is local to you.

chickens on suitcases

#10 – How big does my chicken house need to be?

This is another question that entirely depends on the number of birds you have and their breed. As a general rule your run or enclosure should provide 2/3 square feet per bird. If your birds aren’t going to free range then you should look at an enclosure that gives them 10 square feet per bird.

 

One of the great things about keeping poultry is that they don’t take a lot of time on a daily basis. As long as you have time to feed, water, collect eggs, and cast your eye over to flock for any problems then you’ve got time for chickens. Add on an hour or so once a week to thoroughly clean their coop and accessories and you’re done.

However, it’s always nice to be able to save a few minutes here and there. After all, those few minutes mean more time to relax and enjoy your hens once the chores are done.

Luckily there are plenty of products on the market, and DIY projects you can do, that will help you save time on the boring (but essential) jobs involved in chicken keeping.

Automatic chicken coop doors

Automatic door control units are usually solar powered, so you don’t need an electrical supply, and keep your flock safe as well as saving you time.

You can set the timer for whenever suits you, normally dawn and dusk, and this will ensure that your flock are shut up safely for the night if you can’t be there to put them to bed when the sun goes down.

automatic door

Automatic feeder systems

Feeding your flock doesn’t take a lot of time but if you’re running late or you tend to your chickens before you go to work knowing that they’re fed without needing to lug around bags of feed can be useful.

There are many different designs of feeder available online and in pet/poultry shops. However, if you fancy a weekend project we’ve found a great video from Rob Bob’s Backyard Farming showing you how to make a DIY poultry feeder.

Automatic poultry drinkers

Automatic poultry drinkers are also a great time saving invention and not all designs require mains water to work. In fact, some drinkers can even be attached to a water butt so you could collect rain water and hydrate your chickens for free!

Check Ebay for low cost poultry drinkers.

Remember, automated poultry keeping products are great, but they still need to be checked daily and cleaned weekly to ensure they are working correctly.

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. In fact, Jim often delivers houses to local customers which even further cuts down the carbon footprint of the houses.

  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 houses from Jim Vyse Arks are made from Forestry Stewardship Council approved timber, meaning 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. Don’t forget, wood stain or paint is an easy way to make your chicken house a pretty edition to your garden.

painted chicken house

  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. Pressure treated timber and heavy duty metal fittings will extend the working life of your chicken house and keep maintenance to a minimum.

  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? In light of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, and the outbreaks in recent years, having a run may be something that will protect your birds in the long 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.

 

Here are Jim’s top 10 things to look for before purchasing your chicken house:

  1. Good ventilation

Poor air flow can lead to hens that are too hot, too cold, or have serious breathing problems. Ventilation holes at the top of the house will let clean air in and draw stale air out without leaving the house draughty.

  1. Make sure your chosen house is easy to clean

Cleaning should be a quick job so you can get back to the important task – enjoying your chickens! Removable roof panels and nest boxes make it easy to give the house a thorough clean without it taking all day.

chicken coop cleaning tools

 

  1. A high standard of welfare

Welfare should be paramount when choosing any poultry housing. Ensure that you have a house which is the right size for the number of chickens you intend to keep. If you think you’ll be adding to your flock then you may want to consider buying a bigger house.

  1. Easy to access nest boxes (both for you and your hens!)

Well-designed nest boxes help keep eggs clean and make collecting them a doddle! Perches located higher than the nest boxes should discourage hens from using them overnight, keeping them clean for egg laying during the day.

chicken house enclosed run rear view

  1. Is your chicken house practical?

Pretty chicken houses are nice to look at but elaborate designs don’t always do the best job. A traditional, rustic looking chicken house that is well designed will always be better than something that looks pretty – and chicken houses are easily painted if you fancy some DIY!

  1. Is your chicken house robust?

Your chicken house should be made of good quality timber that will stand up to the Great British weather year after year. Structural exterior grade pressure treated timber ensures a working life of your chicken house for at least 15 years.

  1. Does the chicken house have enough perches?

Chickens need around 30cm each to comfortably perch so if you have a large number of chickens you may need extra perches. The perches will need to be 4 to 5cm wide, with rounded edges, and a rough surface to allow your birds to grip them securely.

  1. Is the chicken house big enough for your breed of chickens?

If you keep larger breeds, such as the Brahma, a standard chicken house design may not be big enough. You’ll need to look at the height and width of the chicken house, as well as the size of the door. You may want to consider a bespoke design to ensure their comfort.

  1. Can you move the chicken house easily?

Wheels and handles on larger poultry houses make moving them easy without the risk of damaging your back. Larger houses can have skids fitted to make moving them with a car, quad bike or tractor a simple task.

wheels on chicken house

  1. Is your budget big enough?

Cheap isn’t always cheerful and what you think is a bargain may end up costing you your hens’ health. Think of your chicken house as a long term investment. After all, chickens can live for 10+ plus years so you don’t want to be buying them a new house before every winter.

If you already have chickens but you want to add some webbed footed friends to your flock, we’ve put together a few tips for happy mixed species poultry keeping.

chicken and duck

For some people the idea of keeping ducks and chickens together brings them out in a cold sweat, and even if they keep both species, they are kept in separate enclosures.

Both species are social animals and many people keep ducks and chickens together, usually in perfect harmony. However, they do have different care needs so it isn’t always plain sailing.

Here are some things you’ll need to consider if you’re thinking about having a mixed species flock:

Keeping the peace

Chickens and ducks will squabble both with their own species and with each other. This behaviour is normal and as long as this doesn’t turn into bullying you won’t need to worry about the occasional ruffled feather.

It’s important to provide your flock with enough room for them to be able to avoid a fight. You may find that they need separate poultry houses within the same enclosure and ensure there are plenty of water and food sources so everyone gets their fill.

30 bird chicken house

However, if there is a squabble, damage can sometimes be done by chickens’ beaks, which are far sharper than ducks. Fights are more common between drakes and cockerels during the breeding season than between female birds.

Having an all-female flock, bachelor groups, and removing overly aggressive birds should help to resolve this problem.

Feeding time

As said above, having plenty of food and water stations will mean that the entire flock doesn’t crowd around one place at the same time.

Chickens and ducks also have different nutritional needs, especially when they’re young. Generally speaking it’s not advisable to keep young chickens and ducks together as they should be fed on different food.

duck treats

Adult birds can both be fed chicken layers pellets/mash but care needs to be taken to ensure the ducks are getting enough Niacin (Vitamin B3) in their diet. This can be done by adding Brewer’s Yeast to their feed or a Niacin supplement.

If you keep drakes you’ll also need to be aware that chicken feed has too much calcium in it for drakes. You’ll need to provide your drakes with wheat to keep their protein levels up and they’ll regulate their intake between wheat and layers’ feed themselves.

Keeping water clean

Of course, both species need water to drink but ducks also need water to wash in and this can lead to water sources becoming dirty quickly. There are a number of ways to combat this.

One common solution is to put a drinker higher up and provide perches for your chickens to access it. Nipple style drinkers, in addition to a trough or small pond, ensure that your flock can stay hydrated without your ducks making a mess of the only available water source.

chicken drinker

Posted on 12 April 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

Alice had the pleasure of visiting Jim Vyse customer, and poultry breeder, Millie Jarvis at her home in the outskirts of Bristol and meeting her lovely chickens.

Who is Millie?

Millie specialises in breeding Pekin bantams, Silkies, Old English Game, and Modern Game birds. Her future project is to increase the number of Silkies and Porcelain Pekins she breeds.

Millie of Millie's Bantams

Here’s what Millie has to say about her chickens and being a Jim Vyse Arks customer:

Alice: What first attracted you to chicken keeping?

Millie: I started off with a few hybrid chickens. Unfortunately a family crisis meant that I had to give them up but I had the chicken bug and it wasn’t long before I replaced them.

Having a pet that gives something back is just so rewarding!

A: How did chicken keeping turn into chicken breeding?

M: I love cockerels! They’re more flamboyant than hens. I started off with Barry and went from there.

You have to choose your breeds and colours carefully but you start buying trios of birds because you love the colours.

My favourite are my Porcelain Pekins.

Another reason I got into breeding was because of something my Dad said. He told me about my Grandmother breeding Rhode Island Reds during the war. I’m a lot like her, so it’s in the blood!

A: Why did you choose your current breeds?

M: Pekins and Silkies are just so friendly. They’re also easy to handle and come in a variety of pretty colours. They’re brilliant back garden birds because they’re not as destructive as larger breeds of chicken. They make good “broodies” and lay decent sized eggs, so really they’re a great all-rounder.

I started breeding Modern Game and Old English Game because I love the Red colour, especially cockerels. They’re another small, pretty breed of chicken, but they don’t have feathery legs, so they’re a good alternative to Pekins and Silkies.

red pyle game bird

A: I know you’re not meant to have favourites, but if you had to choose, who is the favourite in your flock?

M: If I really had to pick it would be all of the boys. Their colours and personalities are just amazing. Cockerels are great, if you respect them, they’ll respect you.

But I love all of my birds really!

A: What advice would you give to first time chicken keepers?

M: Invest in secure housing and be sure you’re ready for chickens. If you just want eggs and no real commitment, buy eggs from the supermarket.

There is so much involved in chicken keeping you shouldn’t get them on a whim, there’s more to chickens than their eggs! Keeping chickens shouldn’t be a chore, if it becomes that then you know you need to give it up.

Also, make sure you research everything before you buy your birds.

Finally, keep an eye out for parasites and predators. Prevention is better than a cure!

Millie chicken house

A: You’ve mentioned investing in secure poultry housing – what made you choose a Jim Vyse ark?

M: I was unimpressed with other products that I had previously purchased so I started looking for replacement housing. Jim had a decent website and his products were great.

His bespoke order service is great as well. I just emailed him a picture and a few measurements and he produced exactly what I wanted. It’s brilliant!

A: What words do you associate with “Jim Vyse Arks”?

M: Quality, friendly, great service. You get the personal touch and you can put a face to a name. You definitely get what you pay for.

A: Does that mean you’d recommend Jim Vyse to other poultry keepers?

M: If you’re getting chickens, get a Jim Vyse Ark. He’ll even deliver it for you.
Don’t go anywhere else!

A: Finally, how do you like your eggs?

M: Poached on toast with loads of black pepper and butter.

porcelain pekin bantams

 

We want to feature more of our loyal customers on our blog, so whether you’re a breeder or just a hobby poultry keeper, we’d love to hear from you.

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