Chickens for Beginners - for the love of eggs

This year, we got our own chickens. I had no idea how much I would love them! My husband's family had kept chickens in the garden in South Africa when he was a child; I had no experience at all. Andy had wanted us to have chickens for years. I resisted, mainly because I couldn't imagine why you'd want them.

Then one of our fellow allotment holders got some hens for his allotment. Our sons loved them! I realised that, as part of embracing our new Almost Off Grid lifestyle, being able to source our own eggs would probably be a good idea. So we decided to get some chickens of our own. If only I had realised: eggs are merely a happy by-product of having chickens. There are so many other great reasons to keep them.

Keeping Chickens

We ordered a chicken coop online, and Andy put it together. Then on 1 April this year we picked up our young hens from Martins Wood Farm, a specialist chicken seller of point of lay chickens, located not far from us. We took our sons with us to help us choose.

3 is considered a good number of chickens for beginners so we chose: Phoebe (Black Sussex), Chica (Goldline) and Adeline (Columbian Blacktail). We brought the chickens home in a cardboard box with holes punched into it. We put the box into the coop and waited until the girls were ready to venture out. It took only a few minutes before they were all brave enough to walk into their new run. It was a love thing for all of us, right from the start.

The First Night

We were advised not to let the chickens out of their run for about a month whilst they got used to their home. Because of this, there was no risk of losing the chickens. But we needed them to know they were to go into their hen house at night to sleep. That first evening we basically gently herded the girls into their house by putting a cardboard partition at the end of their run. We then moved the cardboard gradually up the run as the sun started to go down, to encourage them to go into their house. We closed the door behind them, said 'goodnight' and hoped they would be ok.

The Next Day

We opened the door the next morning, and the three hens happily walked out and started to eat their pellets and drink their water. It was a weekend, and Phoebe, Chica and Adeline didn't seem to mind their frequent visitors - us.

The boys were gripped by them! We spent most of the day in the garden, looking at our lovely girls. One of our sons sat on a chair and chatted quietly to them for most of the afternoon. To our amazement: that evening as the sun set they wandered into their hen house without any encouragement from us at all. They'd got it straight away! So we closed the door behind them and said 'goodnight'.

First Egg!

Beginner's Guide to chickens

The farm had told us not to expect eggs for a few weeks at least. So imagine our amazement and delight when Adeline laid her first egg on Day 4. Never before was there so much excitement around a chicken laying an egg - the whole street must have heard us.

Within a week of that, Chica started laying. Within 3 weeks of arriving with us, Phoebe laid her first. Then all 3 hens were laying every day.

These 3 hens are amazing egg producers. We really weren't expecting this many eggs - we have had 3 a day just about every day from the end of April all the way through to now, October. We're waiting for their production to slow down as the winter comes as, seemingly, that's what we can expect. Obviously we're biased, but our girls' eggs are absolutely delicious!

Chickens for Beginners

Free Ranging

After a month, we checked all our fencing to make sure there were no holes for chickens to get out, or predators to get in. We then opened the doors of their run to let them wander free around the garden. They walked out cautiously at first, but it didn't take long for the girls to start digging. And digging. And digging !

We live in quite a rural area, though wherever you are around the country you run the risk of Mr Fox paying a visit. So we only let the chickens out when we're home so we can keep an eye on them. Andy built the chickens their very own ramp for getting from their cage down into the lower garden. I can't tell you how happy he was when they started to use it...

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The girls say 'Happy Weekend'! #chickensofinstagram

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If you are thinking of getting chickens, my advice to you is: do it. If I had known how adorable (and addictive!) chickens are, we would have got them years ago.

So much so that, a mere one month later, we acquired 3 bantam chickens from someone else who didn't want them anymore. And that's a story for another day...

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