Back in August 2017 I wrote about research I had done into keeping chickens (here). Well, 6 months down the track I am absolutely loving our girls and am so happy I took the plunge and just went for it.
Our chicken coop arrived at the end of August and it was exactly as it appeared in the photos. It came like a flat pack with each section already assembled. I just needed to screw it together which was fairly straight forward. I bought a sheet of polycarb roofing and cut it to size, then fixed it to the coop to give more protection from the weather.
We moved the coop into the garden and then went to buy our girls. We were a tad overwhelmed when we saw dozens of chooks to choose from so we left the decision to a very helpful young lady who chose 3 different looking girls for us. We named them Belle (white feathers on her back, at the front), Doris (dark brown, on the right) and Ginger (light brown, top of photo).
When we got them home, we put them in the coop for a couple of days to help them settle into their new home, and gave them water and their seeds in old ice cream containers. When we let them out to explore the garden, the kids and I had so much fun watching their antics. What a delightful surprise that was, I never expected chickens to be funny! But as much fun as they were to watch, they were messy as they love to scratch in garden beds and flick bark everywhere. Their dust baths were hilarious, but not when it’s right next to your plants and they get squished in the process.
After a week or two, we made a start on their enclosure. We used wood that we had lying around in the garden which we had kept from an old gazebo we had removed. Hubby made a simple gate using some of the thinner bits of wood, and cut the posts to size. The chicken wire we used was given to us by my brother (thanks Si) and the only thing I had to buy was a latch and some concrete.
This enclosure wasn’t designed to keep out foxes. We make sure we “tuck the girls in” at night by ensuring they’re in their coop which is securely locked at sunset. We also remove their seed at night to discourage any wildlife wanting a free meal.
We have two feeding stations for the girls so we know they all have access to their seed. We use a metal feeder which they stand on the pedal to open (did not take them any time to learn that!), as well as an icecream container which we keep under their ramp in their coop to minimise the risk of them standing in it and tipping it over. They also get tid-bits from the kitchen.
The chickens didn’t start laying right away. We bought them at around 21 weeks old and they were around 25-26 weeks when they first started laying. We got 2-3 eggs every day.
A couple of weeks ago my brother (same one) lost a chook and only had one left. He asked whether we would take her as chickens don’t like to be by themselves. We introduced Peggy to the girls who promptly started pecking them all until she worked out her pecking order. It was distressing to see, but we were assured this was normal and should settle down quickly. Sure enough, by the next day all four of them were getting along and we got 4 eggs the day after, so they’re all happy.
Some things that I’ve learnt over the last 6 months:
- When introducing a new chicken to your flock, be prepared for some mean-looking pecking. It will usually settle down in a day or two, but you may need to separate them for a while if it doesn’t settle or becomes nasty.
- Research different ways to use up eggs. You’ll need them.
- Think about having two different feeding stations to ensure all your chickens have access to food. Some girls can be super bossy and hog.
- Clean out their coop every week or two, they’ll be a lot of poo under their roost. Add it to your compost as it’s amazing for your garden.
- They love eating cold watermelon on hot days and it’ll be gone before you get back into the house.
- They soon learn the sound of the back door opening/closing and will rush to the gate in expectation. Make sure you bring them something yummy otherwise you’ll feel mean for dashing their hopes.
- You don’t need a lot of equipment. A standard coop, container for water and a couple of containers for food is pretty much it. An ice cream container is fine, but they do tend to tip it over to find the good seeds at the bottom.
- Make sure you secure them in their coop at night. They’ll make their own way into the coop at sunset, but make sure they’re safe from night-time predators.
- If you have a backyard which is a blank canvas, you may not need an enclosure as they’ll be happy foraging around the garden. However, if you have garden beds with plants you’d rather not get squashed or bark you like kept in one place, an enclosed area for them is definitely a good idea.
- Chickens are wonderful to have and I am so glad we tried it. If you’re thinking about having some at your house, do your research and then just take the plunge. They’re not difficult to look after at all and are a great addition to your garden.