Chickens have been a part of life amongst people in the UK for centuries. Of course they are associated with human diet, however more and more people are keeping chickens as pets or for egg laying. Their convenience coupled with the fact they are easy to keep makes them excellent pets. As with all animals, chickens have special needs and requirements in order to keep them successfully.
The cost of keeping hens depends largely on how you wish to keep them. There are a number of factors that will affect how expensive they will be, but in terms of farming chickens it is certainly possible to even make a profit from them.
Factors to consider
As with taking up ownership of any animal, it is important to prepare a place for them to live. Chickens require a henhouse that can provide shelter, roosting space, food, space to roam and a place to lay eggs.
The size of house will depend on the number of chickens you wish to keep, the space you have available and the budget you are working to. Of course a henhouse should be kept in a garden, so providing the means for your chickens to roam as well as shelter at night is mainly down to the garden space you wish to dedicate to them.
You will find that the more space you give your hens, the happier and healthier they will be, and the less attention you will need to give them. As they will eat worms, bugs, seeds and corn, much of their diet may be found in the garden, so the more space available the less poultry feed you will need to give them.
The breed of hen you want will depend on their purpose and the space available. Some hens are bred to be easily handled, making good pets, while some are excellent egg layers. It is suggested you start with a couple of hens and build your flock up gradually up to a maximum of six. With more than six hens you will find the ones at the bottom of the pecking order will be bullied and will suffer.
Hens will produce eggs with or without a cockerel there, though of course those eggs will not be fertilized without the cockerel. The best egg layers include Light Sussex, Maran, Welsummer and Rhone Island Red breeds. The best egg laying hens will consume the most food and therefore do the most damage to your garden.
Cockerels and neighbours
If you choose to have a cockerel with your hens, you must be prepared for the arrival of chicks. If you want to avoid having chicks, but keep the cockerel at the same time, it will mean collecting the eggs before they are incubated by the sitting hen for too long.
Before setting up a part of your garden into a henhouse, it is important that you check local council laws on keeping hens, and also it would be polite to discuss you plans with neighbours. Although hens are not rowdy animals, they can make a considerable noise at times, especially in the early hours of the morning. A cockerel is usually the noisiest of the chickens, crowing at dawn and various points throughout the day.
Foxes and other predators
Your hen house should be protected from predators and children. Dogs and foxes are a hen’s biggest enemy, and will use any form of easy entry to gain access to the hens. A fox will devour an entire flock of poultry within minutes. Dogs will also kill hens, but usually for fun rather than to eat. Children should also not be able to access them as hens can peck or scratch if feeling too threatened. Though generally they are very peaceful animals that can be handled in considered tame enough.
Costs to consider
The biggest cost with keeping chickens is the henhouse. Prices will vary and they can certainly be home made. They are usually made from timber with a felt roof protection and a door that can be shut at night. The outer part of the house, also known as the ‘run’ will give the chicken’s free range. This should be sealed off with chicken wire.
Hen feed is another high cost. Corn and grain can be purchased from farm shops, poultry farms and pet stores. Hens will need to be fed daily and water should be available 24 hours a day. It is a good idea to give any human food leftovers to your chickens to vary their diet and maintain good health and happiness. Chickens will eat all vegetables and some meats as well. Chickens should not be fed chicken meat.
|Chickens||£15 – £50 per chicken (depending on age and breed)||2022|
|Coop||£300 – £1000 (2-5 chickens)||2022|
|Chicken run||£50 – £100||2022|
|Fencing||£50 – £100||2022|
|Bedding, feeders||£70 – 120||2022|
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