Keeping chickens

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DrGMc

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Still thinking of books and to be honest there is not one book that will give you the information - I learnt most of what I know by talking to fellow "owners", breeders and sensible sites on the internet (as with everything on the web there some real crap advice out there). What info do you most want to know about???
 

Leon103

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Well done you and welcome to the club:

First of you don't need a cockrel for the girls to lay eggs - and trust me unless you live in the sticks (we do) your neighbours won't thank you and might even get the local council on your case.

Second: whilst the chickens are new to you and presumably young get them used to being handled by you. By this I mean pick them up a lot and calmly hold them stroking them for about two minutes at a time. Gently put them down (on their legs) and idealy give them a treat immediately on the release - this all helps as they associate being picked up and held as a good thing.
You will need to be able to pick them up in the future to chck there health ...

How the hell do you pick up a chicken you ask???

Well if you are lucky they might "sit down" when you approach them and if so quickly move to that chicken and pick her up using a hand on each side to keep the wings into the body and put them literally on your hip - see holding legs for the next bit.
If, as in most cases, they make it clear that you can get 'stuffed' then you'll have to decide if you can literally corner one of them without too much induced stress (to you and the chicken). Its easier with two people and once there used to being picked up they fuss much less about it.
Eventually you will corner the bird and even though it will probably make a bold attempt at escape you will need to be prepared to firmly but still gently "capture" it - the more calmly and swiftly you do this capture step the better.
If she does not fly up then simply crowd her from above and either press semi-firmly on her back to make her squat and then pick her up.
If she does fly up you can either take her by the legs as she rises or cover her flight area with your hands/forearms and as she drops back to the ground "scoop" her either from the sides (unless her wings are still out and you would damage her) or above (if she still flaps try to press down on her back - but dont squash her into the ground just gently pin her onto the ground and I mean gently)

Legs???
Yep the best way to properly hold a chicken is by the legs (just ask any handler about the early times when the chicken racked the hell out of their forearms with the claws on those fast moving feet!!!)
Down to you but people tend to you either the middle finger or middle two fingers to get between the legs and then the index and little finger to hold the legs together. You'll notice she starts to calm straight away and if you let her breast bone (you can feel it on her easy peasy) rest on your forearm she'll sit as if shes roosting. When they are really calm they actually make a purring noise to each other as a way of saying 'everythings good' (at least in chicken language).

Thirdly: treats ... Chickens love treats and are so very easy to bribe. You'll probably condition your chickens as to what is a treat but to be honest keep it good honest food where you can - things they can peak or are really sweet get their attention and we often give them grapes cut in half, cornflakes and even crisps (but not too many if there salty). Get them used to seeing you (and your wife) as the treat provider and they will pay you attention

Lastly (for now): illnesses ...
In the early stages just concentrate on three main problems, lice, mites and worms (the ones that live in their guts).
In general
Lice live on the birds and chew their feathers reulting in a scruffy looking chicken with the down feather missing from their bums and thinning around the base of their tails - you can get a powder for this and even wash your chickens to ease the problem
Mites are a bit more of a problem as they live in the chicken house and only crawl onto the chickens at night - however they are blood suckers and really impact the health of your chucks. You can often see the red mites crawling about (they're tiny though) and there built like tanks so some harsh treatment is needed to get on top of the problem. The best I've found is diatomous earth that at their scale acts like crushed glass and cuts them to peices killing them (it does not harm to humans or chickens - although keep away from bees). There are silly prices for the stuff considering most of it comes from the beach (although any old beach) so don't pay too much for it
Worms - tricky to know if yours have them but typical is routinely to give them a treatment every six months. The treatment is available (but in bulk - smallest I saw was 100g) so best to find others with chickens and share the cost as you need so little per chuck you'll be left with loads of the stuff.

Thats enough advice for now, so just enjoy them keep them in plenty of sunlight (or at least give them access to sunlight) and they'll reward you with tasty eggs and free fertiliser (good luck with where they leave it ;-) )

A fellow beer brewer, beekeeper and chicken sitter
Thanks a lot of info there, appreciate the reply. Had two eggs today so good start. Handing them isn't a problem we are used to handling live stock but I think the chamois will need some treats to get her to behave
 

obscure

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Thanks a lot of info there, appreciate the reply. Had two eggs today so good start. Handing them isn't a problem we are used to handling live stock but I think the chamois will need some treats to get her to behave
Their is nothing quite like a truly fresh egg, I love them poached on buttered toast. Their are somethings about chickens which are a bit of a pain, i.e cleaning them out, but so many upsides.
 

Markk

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Anyone thought about ducks?
I had pet ducks a few years ago. Great fun and delicious eggs but they are very messy. I collected and saved a dozen of the eggs once and hatched them in a incubator. Nothing cuter than a day old duckling.
 

Alastair70

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Fresh eggs are one of life's absolute pleasures, particularly when one of your kids hand you one that's still warm with a look of excitement on their face.
The chickens also are a great conduit to convert spent grain into tomorrow mornings breakfast, and thank you for the opportunity in the process!
 

Dutto

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My Dad used to keep about 250 chickens and sell the eggs from the back door of his house.

Every Spring he would seek out the Mallard duck nests in the marshy area at the back of his bungalow, and lift all the eggs out of about three nests. The duck would re-lay enough eggs to re-create a clutch (anything up to 18 eggs) and then hatch them off. In the meantime, the eggs that Dad had lifted were put under a broody hen and when the ducks hatched off and grew big enough they were released back into the wild.

Over a period of about 25 years Dad must have hatched off and released about a thousand Mallards back to the wild.

I started to keep chickens up in Scotland and decided to buy a few duck eggs and put them under a broody hen just like Dad had done. Everything went like a dream with just the one problem; unlike my Dad, I had a fairly large pond in the garden.

The first day that the ducklings were let out of the chicken shed was high comedy. The duckling took one look at the pond and dived in and the chicken that had hatched them off went absolutely bonkers! It wasn't hard to imagine that all the clucks and screeches translated into "COME OUT OF THERE - YOU WILL DROWN!"

As the duckings got bigger and the chicken realised that they probably wouldn't drown, the clucking became less frantic, but Mum was never happy with what her babies got up to!

Alex Mann who drew the sketch of the house and pond in the garden even put in one of the "babies", which by the time we had finished the cottage was a magnificent Lilac Muscovy duck!

Happy Days!

IMG_1684.jpg
 

Hoddy

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I’ve just rebuilt my old chicken coop and run after losing 10 chickens to a badger about a year and a bit ago. I’ve gone for a smaller flock of 6 this time and a smaller but more secure run this time as well.

All just hybrids though so nothing posh like @Leon I’ve got a light Sussex, Maran, white star, arnacua, bluebell and Rode rock. They are all POL so should start laying in about 2 weeks.

good to get some livestock back in the garden for the summer.
 

DavidHatton

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So I have finally given in and said the wife can have some chickens. She said it would keep the kids entertained whilst they are off school. Picked up three birds today and although I have read the basics I wouldn't mind getting a book a out keeping them. Amazon brings up shed loads.
Any recommendations.
Also any tips on keeping them.
Next door neighbour has 8, hope your neighbours live a good distance away as they would very likely be waking up everyone in a 30 metre range, :laugh8::laugh8: my neighbours live right next door on a terrace street.
 

foxy

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I’ve just rebuilt my old chicken coop and run after losing 10 chickens to a badger about a year and a bit ago. I’ve gone for a smaller flock of 6 this time and a smaller but more secure run this time as well.

All just hybrids though so nothing posh like @Leon I’ve got a light Sussex, Maran, white star, arnacua, bluebell and Rode rock. They are all POL so should start laying in about 2 weeks.

good to get some livestock back in the garden for the summer.
Rats will be glad too.wink...
 

Leon103

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Next door neighbour has 8, hope your neighbours live a good distance away as they would very likely be waking up everyone in a 30 metre range, :laugh8::laugh8: my neighbours live right next door on a terrace street.
So far they are quite but neighbours aren't an issue. One neighbour usually as lambs in the garden this time of the year. It's a farming community so everyone is used to it.
 

Leon103

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After some advice.

From day 1 two of the birds have been laying. Yesterday one of the eggs had cracked so I left it for them to eat.
I presumed they trampled on it as it was laid right by the exit to the coop.

This morning I have gone and let them out and one as laid over night (they have been laying mid morning). All that is left of the egg is a bit of York. I need to double check that it is an egg and not some s**t/sick. But it looks like they have eaten it before I got there. Is there something I can be giving them to stop this, or make their shells harder
 

obscure

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You can give them grit, it’s basically crushed oyster shells, or limestone, and can be bought from the same place you buy your chicken feed.
 

Leon103

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You can give them grit, it’s basically crushed oyster shells, or limestone, and can be bought from the same place you buy your chicken feed.
Was thinking that. Thought they would pick up enough grit from around the garden but will get a bag
 

SafetyThird

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If you have chickens, you'll end up with rats. They will come for the chicken feed and there's not much you can do about it. However, the thing we found that helped the most was buying a grandpa's feeder. They're not cheap but it's absolutely the best way to keep the feed secure and the rats out. Had ours for 6 years and would buy another tomorrow if needed. There are cheaper versions out there but the original is built stronger and works better than the others I've seen. Grandpa's Feeders Automatic Chook Feeders
 

Leon103

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If you have chickens, you'll end up with rats. They will come for the chicken feed and there's not much you can do about it. However, the thing we found that helped the most was buying a grandpa's feeder. They're not cheap but it's absolutely the best way to keep the feed secure and the rats out. Had ours for 6 years and would buy another tomorrow if needed. There are cheaper versions out there but the original is built stronger and works better than the others I've seen. Grandpa's Feeders Automatic Chook Feeders
That looks decent and a good investment, especially when we are allowed to travel in our caravan again.
 

Richie_asg1

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When I kept a flock of 50 I found that wood ash thrown in the coop first before old hay really kept the mite problem down. It also helps the used bedding when it eventually composts.
The wood ash seems to be very alkaline and fills all the small cracks that the mites would normally live in. Along with a dose of powder now and then it did help keep them healthy.
For keeping feed we used small steel dustbins from Ikea.
 

SafetyThird

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Wood ash is good for several things. I made a dust bath for them, I cut the bottom 10” off an old plastic barrel and fill that with a 50:50 mix of wood ash (from our wood burners) and diatomaceous earth, which I buy in big tubs from the farm supply place. They love fluffing themselves in it and it kills any mites they may have on them. Lasts several months before I need to refill it.
 

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