Before Getting Your Chickens - Some Frequently Asked Questions
Before you decide to get chickens, you are likely to have lots of questions. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked
How much space will they need?
As a rule, you will need to allow 1m² per chicken of run space for them. This depends on how much you will let them out in to your garden or in to free range conditions. Really as much space as you can give them! In terms of space to sleep in the coop’ a chicken is roughly a handspan width. At night your hens will perch together in a row quite closely, so as long as they have enough room to comfortably perch, your coop will be OK. Most coop manufacturers are very accurate with the number of hens that can fit into the coop, it is often the run that is on the small size. Also you will need one nesting box per three hens.
How many should I get?
I always recommend starting with as many as you have room for. If your coop sleeps six and you have run space for six, get six! They are such economical creatures to look after that it is just as easy to look after ten as it is to look after four. They will be addictive – trust me! You will only want more once you have started, and integrating hens together is not always easy, so get as many as you can initially. We will never sell a single bird, and I always recommend getting at least three to start with, that way if you lose one, you will not have a lonely solitary chicken.
Can I mix and match the breeds?
The simple answer is yes! Hens will get along (or not) because of their individual characters, not because of their breeds. There may be a bit of squabbling initially as the pecking order is established, but then they should all love in harmony. There are some exceptions however… Never mix a hen that is younger than 16 weeks old with older hens. The older hens are likely to bully the youngsters because of the size difference. Mixing bantams with large fowl can be done, but do so with caution; again because of the size difference. Some people do not mix hybrids and pure breeds. This is because hybrids are vaccinated and pure breeds are usually not. A mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated can pose a disease threat. Here at Warwickshire Chicken Coop, we vaccinate ALL our hens, so you can mix and match without worrying about that.
Which breed should I chose?
That is completely up to you! Many chicken keepers choose them for their looks, their personalities or the number of eggs they lay. Some breeds such as the White Star, Cornflower and Legbar are quite flighty in nature, so they shouldn’t be chosen if you want a ‘lap chicken’ they do lay white or blue eggs though! All the hybrids are really friendly and would be great for first time keepers as they are docile and lay a great amount of eggs. Pure breeds are a bit like ‘pedigree’ animals, do not lay as many eggs and sometimes take longer to tame. The exceptions to this are Orpingtons and Pekins, who are ideal back garden pets for children. All the pure breeds are really stunning in looks and many of our pure breeds come from show winning bloodlines.
How do I settle them in once they’re home?
Most owners have a coop and a run, so once you’re home, unload your chickens into the coop. Make sure the coop door into the run is open and they will come out and explore in their own time. Put the food and water outside in the run, there is no need for this to be kept inside the coop. The first night or two you may have to put your hens to bed at dusk, but they should get the idea themselves after a couple of nights. If you are planning on letting them free range in the garden, don’t do this until they have been in the run for at least a week. They need to know where their home is and recognise it as a place to go back to.
Will chickens get on with my cat or dog?
In all honesty, it depends on the cat or dog. If you’re dog is a trained gun dog, then probably not, but if your dog is a family pet, then I imagine they will be fine together. Let your dog see then hens in their run and do not leave them unsupervised outside the run together until you are 100% happy that they are used to one another. In my own experience, a puppy will want to chase and play with them hens, but there is no malice or kill instinct here. A grown dog may chase them, but will be fairly indifferent! Chickens are too big to be bothered by a cat, so don’t worry about this. You will probably find that the chicken puffs her chest out and shows your four legged friends who’s the boss!
Will the chickens peck me?
No. Not unless they are scared. If you have your hands all in the chickens face, she may try and peck at you to make you stop. Or if you have a broody hen, she may peck at you to go away. The majority of chickens like to peck at sparkly or colourful things such as earrings or nail polish – they are just curious though and don’t mean any harm. They also like shoe laces as they think they are worms!
Do they need any vaccinations or continued vet treatment?
All the hens from Warwickshire Chicken Coop are fully vaccinated and will not need boosters or any further vaccinations. They only things you will need to do with your hens is worm them every 4-6 months and apply louse powder every 6-8 weeks.
How often do they need cleaning out?
This depends on how many you have and the size of your coop. You will get in to your own routine, but we pick the poo out from the coop daily, and then do a total clean out every week. Once every two months you will need to do a thorough clean and disinfect too.
What shall we put in our chickens run?
We would always recommend play bark or woodchip. Be careful to avoid garden mulch as this can become poisonous to chickens, but hardwood is ideal. Grass, gravel and sand are also good, but grass will quickly become mud!
Is there anything we shouldn’t feed our chickens?
Make sure 90% of their diet is layers pellets or mash. This contains everything they need for a balanced diet and rich eggs. Don’t overfeed them on corn or vegetables as this may cause them to stop laying. Fresh vegetables are fine to give to your hens a couple of times a week as long as they haven't come through any food preparation areas, but don’t use them as a waste disposal for all your kitchen scraps. It is now illegal to feed hens anything that has passed through your kitchen. Poisonous plants: raw potato peelings, rhubarb leaves, ferns, buttercups, holly berries, mistletoe, deadly nightshade, garlic bulbs, azaleas and ivy. There are more, but these are the common ones in gardens or allotments.