These days many people are enjoying producing their own food, whether it be growing vegetables on an allotment or keeping chickens for eggs.
There is a real sense of achievement that is felt when eating food you have worked for yourself, and rightly so. Chickens have become very popular in gardens across the UK in recent years. With the prospect of fresh eggs each day as well as an interesting new feathered friend to keep children entertained, it’s easy to see the appeal. However before taking on chickens, you should realise they are a big commitment and may not be suitable for everyone. With my family having had personal experience of the ups and downs of chicken keeping, I’ve decided to produce this guide, which should help you decide if chickens are a good fit for your circumstances.
First of all, if you think keeping chickens is going to save or make you money, think again. The start-up costs, work involved and ongoing requirements means it is only worth it if you are a commercial enterprise, keeping a large number of chickens for eggs. For just a few chickens, it really isn’t worth it as a money saving endeavour. A house with a run could cost a few hundred pounds, ongoing feed and treatment, although it doesn’t seem very expensive, does mount up, and they require regular cleaning of their house and (preferably supervised) roams in the garden.
That said, there are so many positives to keeping chickens, such as knowing exactly where your eggs have come from, the unbeatable freshness and quality of home produced eggs (they really do look and taste much better than store bought ones), and the fact that you’re unlikely to run out of fresh eggs, since each chicken will usually produce one egg per day. Chickens are also great fun for families and brilliant for children to watch. If you an enclosed garden they will love to roam in and out of the borders, scratching in the ground and generally having a ball.
One downside is that if you like your garden to be immaculate, chickens are not recommended as they do enjoy eating the tops of emerging plants and scratching up seedlings, as well as dislodging stones from borders as they work through them. Another point to bear in mind is that, if you go on holiday, you will need to find someone to feed your chickens daily, let them outside if possible and collect the eggs while you are away.
The other thing to bear in mind was what brought my own family’s years with chickens to a sad end: foxes are very common in gardens across the country and chickens are easy prey for them. Two of our chickens were killed by foxes in broad daylight. Following these incidents we gave the remaining two chickens to another family who had a large enclosed section of their garden so they would be more protected. If you have foxes in your area, you should be aware of this and give the matter a lot of thought before deciding on chickens.
If you do decide to go ahead with keeping chickens, look out for my Pet Care Guide on the subject, which will be published on Mumtastic in the very near future. This will give you more detailed information on choosing and buying your chickens, what you’ll need in order to get started, and their ongoing care.