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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.

 

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.

 

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.

Posted on 2 March 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , , ,

Chickens are usually fairly hardy creatures and shouldn’t require a lot of human intervention to continue to thrive in the winter months. However, as temperatures drop and snow falls across the country there some things you can do to make your flock more comfortable this winter.

Like many poultry keepers you might find that your birds shut up shop in the winter and don’t lay eggs. This is perfectly normal so unless your chicken looks unwell you don’t need to worry.

Although your chickens might not be giving you anything in return for your hard work it’s important not to let care standards drop in the winter. Keeping them in tip top condition will ensure that they start their new laying period raring to go.

So, here’s how to look after chickens in the snow:

Housing

Generally speaking chickens don’t mind the cold, what they do mind however is draughts, wind, and rain – particularly if they haven’t got any shelter.

Houses should be waterproof, draught free, and with ventilation above head height. Ventilation is vital, as tempting as it can be to block all ventilation holes this can cause frostbite as any moisture in the coop freezes over night.

If your chicken house is usually in an exposed area of the garden it might also be worth trying to find a more protected place for it to live in the winter.

A thicker layer of bedding will also make your birds happy but remember the house still needs to be cleaned out regularly to prevent mould, bacteria, and fungal growth making your birds sick.

How often should your clean your chickens out?

We recommend at least a weekly deep clean that involves removing all bedding, allowing the house to air, and checking for any general wear and tear.

If you do have quite a thick covering of snow you might find your chickens prefer to stay indoors rather than get cold feet. If they do opt to stay in their coop then you will need to clean it more often.

Water worries

Providing your flock with fresh, clean water will probably be your biggest challenge during snowy weather. Drinkers tend to freeze or fill up with snow quickly so you’ll need to think of a solution to the problem before it happens.

Here are our top tips:

On very cold days check the water as many times as you can throughout the day

Remove drinkers at night and empty the water – it’s easier to refill a drinker daily than to defrost one

Move the drinker to a more sheltered spot

You may also want to consider investing in a heated drinker if you live in a part of the UK that is prone to extremely cold weather and snow.

Food for thought

In terms of feed your flock shouldn’t need anything different – although you may want to feed them more. They’ll also appreciate a warm mash on colder days and a few handfuls of corn before bedtime to keep them warm overnight.

Posted on 27 February 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , ,

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

Here are our top seven benefits of keeping chickens:

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 fat and cholesterol, and more Omega-3 fats.

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.

 

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.

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 for you!

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. Cleaning out the chicken house, plus moving feed sacks and bales of bedding is also a good cardiovascular workout.

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.

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.

Posted on 21 February 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , ,

Did you know there are well over 100 breeds of chicken being bred in the UK? Each breed has its’ own characteristics, attributes, purpose, and personality. The question is, how do you choose a breed that suits your lifestyle and needs?

Chicken breeds break down into three categories – chickens for meat, chickens for eggs, and chickens that are dual purpose. The majority of beginners want chickens that will produce eggs and are easy to look after.

Here are the top things to look for in any breed of chicken:

Is your chosen breed friendly and easy to tame?
Is this breed easy to care for?
Is this breed quite common? You’ll find it easier to get help and advice if your breed is well known.
If you want to keep chickens for eggs – is this breed known for high egg production?
If you want to keep chickens for meat – is this breed known as a good table bird?
If you want to keep chickens as pets – is this breed known for being docile and having a good personality?

Our top chicken breeds for beginners

Wyandotte

This breed ticks all the boxes as they’re pretty, practical, and produce great eggs. Not only are they incredibly friendly and placid but they’re also great layers so you won’t be short of eggs.

If you’re looking for a chicken breed to enhance your outdoor space then you’ll be pleased to hear that the Wyandotte comes in 14 different possible plumage variations in the UK.

Orpington

Whether you choose the large fowl or the bantam Orpington you’ll find you’ve got a great pet – especially for children. They’re not always great layers so if you’re looking for high egg production then this breed isn’t for you.

You’ll also need to make sure that your chicken house pop hole is big enough for the large fowl variety and consider keeping them separately if you have mixed breeds as the Orpington can be subject to bullying.

Warren

This is the most common hybrid breed of chicken and people will recognise Warrens as a classic brown hen – seen here in the popular Mercedes-Benz advert.

They’re friendly, docile, and love human interaction making them the perfect pets for adults and children alike. Originally bred for battery egg production they really are laying machines so you’ll never need to buy eggs again!

Silkie

If you’re not worried about egg production and you want a pretty pet then this breed is ideal. Silkies are small, incredibly tame, and have great personalities. They also have some unique features with black skin and bones and five toes rather than four.

They’re great mothers so if you’re looking to start breeding and want a broody hen to sit on eggs then get yourself a few Silkies.

Brahma

If the Orpington isn’t quite big enough then the Brahma is even bigger! They might not lay a lot of eggs but they are one of the friendliest breeds of chicken. They’re great if you have children but standing at up to 30 inches tall they might be a bit big to sit on your lap!

As with the Orpington, you’ll need to make sure your chicken house can accommodate these gentle giants – you might even want to consider a bespoke design.

Posted on 7 February 2018 in Chicken Chat and tagged under , , ,

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and if you know you’re further down the pecking line than your significant other’s feathered friends then maybe a chicken themed gift will keep you on the right side of the coop.

Here are our top Valentine’s Day gifts for the chicken lover in your life:

Chicken Love Mug

They can be reminded of you (and their love of chickens) every time they have a cup of tea with this gorgeous Chicken Love Mug from thanksalatteshop on Etsy. £10.99.

Sitting Hen Statue

This pretty, hand-painted hen from Wayfair will look gorgeous in any kitchen or on the mantle piece. £21.99

Personalised Chicken Family Print

A gorgeous gift that will really show that special someone how much you love them and your family. Seedlings Cards and Gifts at Not on the High Street. £17

Rose Gold Hen Necklace

If a rose gold hen necklace doesn’t say “I love you” then I don’t know what else will. Alex Monroe at Cotswold Trading. £132.

Chicken Print Scarf

A lovely chicken print scarf which will brighten up any outfit. Amazon. £7.99

Crystal Rooster

The ultimate gift for a chicken fan and one that’s sure to get you extra brownie points – who wouldn’t want a crystal rooster? Swarovski. £109.

A Chicken House

Who says a present can’t be a practical one? They say that home is where the chickens are, so how about treating them to a new home this Valentine’s Day? We also offer gift vouchers if you’re not sure which style they’d like best.

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