If you’re thinking about getting some garden chickens you’re far from alone. In fact, recent research we commissioned revealed that there are now more than 1 million households keeping chickens in the UK, with hens now more popular as pets than hamsters!
Complex little creatures with big personalities, chickens make great pets and are incredibly sociable. And how many other pets can you say provide you with an eggcellent breakfast every morning? Yep- it’s no wonder that so many people are going crazy for chickens.
So, what exactly do you need to know before eggstablishing your very own flock? Read on for our roundup of advice on how to keep backyard chickens.
How to keep a chicken
If you’re reading this and asking yourself “can I keep chickens?” – the answer is more than likely to be yes! In fact, it’s actually relatively straightforward! However, before you buy your first birds, it’s really important to do your research.
Firstly, you need to decide how many and what breed(s) of chicken you’d like to keep. That’s right! Not all chickens are the same. In fact, there is an enormous variety of breeds to choose from, each with their own unique characteristics. Some are available as both larger and smaller birds (known as large fowl and bantams, respectively,) and some are only available as large fowl. Each and every breed differs slightly in the amount of eggs they lay.
It’s also important to consider where you plan to keep your fledgling flock. Chickens need a safe, secure home, as well as a secure, predator proof run, and it’s important that you give enough space to your girls. We’ve put together a handy guide to selecting the best hen houses for your flock, which you can find here.
Chickens are surprisingly cosmopolitan when it comes to food and are known to enjoy a wide range of tasty treats! However, it’s super important to do your research before you get your girls as there are some foods that they definitely should not have! Check out our handy guide to what chickens can eat for all you need to know about feeding your flock.
Best chicken breeds for the garden
With such a wide variety of breeds to choose from, how do you know which ones would be right for you? Are some chickens better suited to the garden than others?
If you’re a keen gardener, be aware; some chickens’ habits can play havoc with your horticulture. Pecking and dust-bathing- an essential grooming ritual for your feathered friends-can disrupt your planting or leave them covered in a dusting of soil.
Feather-legged bantam breeds, which have feathers either half of fully covering their feet, are a much better bet in this instance, as they cause much less damage with their feet when scratching. Because they’re smaller, they take up less space.
Your Chicken have put together a roundup of their best backyard chicken breeds, including:
Beautiful little birds with distinctive speckled marking, Sablepoots are also known for their sweet nature and make lovely pets. Be aware however that they’re not prolific egg layers, so not the best choice if you plan to reply on your girls for a regular morning treat.
Pekins are another super friendly breed and come in an array of colours. Cuddly and friendly, they’re great for young families and smaller gardens.
Brahmas have extremely feathery legs, making scratching difficult, so they’re another ideal choice for the garden. They come in both bantam and large foul sizes and, while they do need plenty of space, they don’t fly so are easy to keep in a run.
For more ideas, check out Your Chickens’ comprehensive guide to the best UK backyard chickens, which you can find here.
Keeping chickens in your garden
Under UK law, you’re allowed to keep up to 50 chickens in a garden without registering with DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Any more than 50, however, and you will need to make sure you sign up to the Poultry Register, so you can quickly be notified of any disease outbreaks that specifically affect poultry.
However, just because you’re covered by UK law, that doesn’t automatically mean that you are free to fill your garden with feathery friends. Be sure to contact your local council to make sure there are no by- laws or covenants which prevent you from keeping chickens in your gardens.
It’s also a really good idea to check with your neighbours before keeping chickens in your garden, especially as you wouldn’t want to fall fowl of the 1996 Noise Act – remember, chickens aren’t silent birds!
And finally, it’s absolutely vital that you conform to the Protection of Animals Act 1911, which was created to prevent any cruelty towards animals in a human’s care. The Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Laying Hens states that your girls must have ‘freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.’ It’s also important that they have the space and freedom to express their natural behaviour and have access to a comfortable environment which includes both shelter and a resting area.
In other words, make sure you keep your feathery family well-fed, well-watered, safe, comfortable and happy- and you can’t go wrong!
If you’re thinking about keeping chickens at home, remember that there are lots of tools out there to help make life easier and keep your chickens safe. Ensuring coop doors are closed at the right times is paramount for keeping your feathered friends out of the clutches of predators. That’s why we developed our automated chicken coop door opener, that makes sure your chickens are safely locked away at night.
Thinking about keeping chickens and have some burning questions? Head on over to our Facebook today where our friendly ChickenGuard family are on hand to help! We’d love to hear from you!