The Basic set up
To keep chickens successfully you don’t actually have to spend vast amounts of money as you on;y need a few basic items to get started:
The most expensive item will be the actual coop. It needs to be strong and safe from both predators and the elements. It should also have a nesting box and perches for roosting. There are three basic types:
Ark: these are triangular in shape and only really suitable for a few chickens. Some include a run but the triangular shape can limit the interior space.
Coop: A good basic coop and run will be sufficient for the beginner. They have alot more space inside compared to the ark and many basic designs come with a run attached.
Eglu: These are usually heavy duty plastic, making them easy to clean but making them very expensive.
Chickens will need fresh water everyday and as they can drink up to half a litre each a day, it is worth buying a large one rather than a small one, especially if you are thinking of having a minimum of four chickens. A good tip for the drinker is to try and hang it up inside the coop, just off of the floor. Chickens love to scratch about so by raising the drinker, dirt and bedding cannot get into the water, and also from being knocked over.
As with the drinker, it would be of benefit to purchase a large feeder. Chickens can eat up to 125g of food a day, each.
Just like us, chickens need a balanced diet, scraps alone will not give them the nutrient that they require. Fortunately, there are feeds that contain the correct balance of vitamins and minerals that will keep your chickens healthy. They come in the form of pellets or mash and corn is also available. It is also advisable to give your chickens oyster shell grit and flint git. The oyster grit is full of calcium to help them make strong egg shells and the flint grit helps them grind down their food, they don’t have teeth!
Bedding needs to be put down on the floor, that is safe, easy to replace and absorbent. Straw, dust-free sawdust and wood shavings are all suitable for bedding. Whichever you choose to use you must also put some in the nesting box.
Now comes the hard part, choosing the type of chicken you would like. Think about what you want from your chickens! Do you want just chickens? or would you rather have good egg-laying chickens? Maybe you want yo go one further and actually raise your own chicks! Also, be mindful of what size chickens you would like and how many your garden can accommodate!
In general, Hybrid chickens are better for beginners, usually they lay better, are friendlier and are less flighty. Pure breeds can be expensive and you may have to travel farther afield to find them. Do you want a Cockeral? Do you want to breed your own? You don’t need a Cockeral for just egg laying chickens and also consider the neighbours, they may not want a Cockeral either!
It is best to buy all of your chickens in one go, from the same place. Chickens are very sociable and recognise each other, introducing stranger can be unpleasant as they have to re-establish the pecking order!
If the prospect of getting the ‘right’ chickens seems a little daunting and you require a little more advise, then please come down and visit us. We will help you every step of the way to make sure that you choose the best chickens that suit your requirements.