I always fancied keeping chickens. My dad has for years, and I love knowing I’m 100% happy with where my eggs come from. My dad lives in the countryside and is retired, however, I live in a semi-detached near Bromley, London, and hold down a full-time job. Keeping ‘urban’ chickens came with a few more challenges than I thought.
Here’s some tips and tricks I’ve learnt since taking on the Golden Girls: Dorothy, Blanche and Rose.
What surprised me the most is chickens poo a lot and it’s huge. They come close to challenging our French bulldog! On the bright side the muck is good for your compost. Make sure you have some way of disposing of sawdust and poo if you can’t compost it. We put it in our garden waste bin when the compost heap is full.
Chickens are keen diggers and dig holes to ‘bathe’ in, and they love to scratch everything in sight. My girls’ favourite spot is under the rosebush and on top of the bluebells! If you want to keep your garden pretty with flowers, think about fencing off an area for the chucks, which is what I’m planning on doing.
Chickens can fly (kind of). If you want to stay friends with your neighbours, you’ll want to get those wings clipped, which can be scary. My dad did it for me, but he said once you’ve done the first time it’s easy as pie! Our chickens are very sociable and always come and say hi when me and my husband are in the garden. Some chucks are very affectionate; our girls aren’t currently keen on cuddles but I’m working on it.
Collecting eggs daily is something that will never grow old. But something to remember is most chickens stop laying through the colder, shorter months. A good layer gives you an egg a day, you’ll never get more than that. We get 3 eggs most days, but every now and then one of the girls takes the day off so I keep a small back log of eggs so I’m never out. Or when you’re out of eggs, have a look at our breakfast menu for free range eggs in the morning. If you’re getting chickens for the eggs, you need to work out how many to get and what breed.
If eggs aren’t the main reason you want chicken, think about rescuing some retired battery hens. There are a few charities around that do rescue drives such as www.bhwt.org.uk & www.freshstartforhens.co.uk . These girls may come to you a little scraggly and may take a while to lay, if they do at all. You’ll soon become attached to your little hens each filled to the brim with their own character.
You’ll need to look at space too. We have a good-sized garden and can section off a space for our hens, but I still wouldn’t get more than five. Find an area in your garden and measure it out: you’ll be giving up that area for good so choose well. Buying your coop and run is not to be rushed into, there are a lot of products on the market and some great choices for the urban hen but prices can be high. You’ll need to clean your girls out once a week so if it’s hard to clean don’t even give it a thought. Or if you’re handy get those tools out and build your own.
Remember those predators when choosing your coop. Mine is on concrete patio slabs so Mr Fox can’t dig in. You might want to extend your run too. I wasn’t happy with the amount of room, and this is where being handy really helps as you can build your own run.
Finally, get a good feeder and water dispenser. My girls drink a lot but don’t like to drink poopy water (even though they love making their water poopy). I haven’t tried one yet but I’m looking into a drip water dispenser to replace our floor water holder. The bigger the better as the more water they have the longer you can stay away knowing they will be okay.
Happy keeping chickens, please get in touch if you have any questions, and send us any photos of your urban chickens, we’d love to hear about your adventures.