Hens - the pros and cons for a newbie!
PyreneesPlot Offline
Mountain Dweller
#1
We've been thinking about doing the chicken thing for about a decade now (!) and one of the sticking points was having someone to keep an eye on them when we were way. But as going away no longer seems to be a thing, our neighbour no longer works away during the week and we have a couple of other friends in the village all who will exchange chook checking for eggs, it would appear that the time has come to think more seriously.

However MrPP needs some persuading ...

Honestly, what are the pros and cons? Especially the cons. Costs - how much do they eat, diseases, predation (we're surrounded by woods and see foxes and martens even in broad daylight). Are they more trouble than they're worth? They would probably be in a small run/hen house within a larger enclosure for when we're around, rather than roaming free. Our other neighbour was a small scale commercial free range egg producer, and kept a dog in with the hens to keep the foxes away, so this concerns me greatly.

And I'd like to combine young birds with re-hoaming battery hens.

With respect to the vegetarian members, I'm also pondering birds for the table as well as layers. Perhaps a Christmas goose?

Thanks as ever Smile
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Hautes-Pyrénées (65), France
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Small chilli Offline
Super Pest Controller
#2
Pros - fresh eggs/ meat . Very good company. Great personalities, they’ll keep you entertained for hours.
Con - initial costs house/ fencing ( especially making it fox & Marten proof ). Drinkers, food dishes.
On going costs feed, bedding ( shavings/ straw, stuff like that ), disease & pest prevention ( stuff like wormer, red mite sprays / powders ). Mucking out in the depths of winter. They’ll break your heart when they leave you.

Yes written down the cons out weigh the pros. Trust me once you’ve spent you first hour in there company and eat your first fresh egg. The con pale into insignificance.


A couple of geese would do the same job as a dog for protection. Security that produces big eggs and tastes good, it’s a win win. But you would need a considerably bigger enclosure with access to fresh water for feather cleaning and little paddle, they don’t need the water as much as ducks but they do enjoy it.
Isle of Mull
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Veggie Offline
Super Pest Controller
#3
My garden feels empty when its chook-less!

I agree with SC's list although I haven't gone down the meat road.

The initial set up costs can mount up but if you have an existing shed/structure that you can use or are handy and can build something, its a good start.
Some sort of enclosure to keep out pests, I've roofed mine so its also dry underfoot - as much for my benefit as theirs.Wink
Mine freerange whenever Avian flu restrictions/weather allow but, be warned, they like your veg plot as much as you do. Veg and hens need separating although I don't worry too much myself.

Give some thought to how many hens you actually need to keep you in eggs/meat or to share with others.
I made that mistake and started with 8 and had far more eggs than I needed.  I would sell eggs for a £1 a dozen to friends and neighbours and the cash went into a pot to pay for food etc. There was always more than enough cash to pay their food bills.

My ex-commercial hens were about 12 months old when I got them - supposedly reducing in egg production. The 3 chooks lay 2 or 3 eggs every day - about 18 a week.
The 4 hens eat a sack of layers pellets every month roughly - that £6/7. They also have mixed corn but that lasts a lot longer.

If you've been thinking about this for 10 years, go for it. Its the only way to get it out of your system.
Wonky Shopkeeper in Sunshiny South Wales
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Vinny Offline
Geordie living 'ower the watter'
#4
When I had chooks I said I will never be without them. Here I am a few years later with no chooks. Sick

I used to keep my chooks at the allotment and visited them every day, so they were tying to some extent. Holidays were a bit of a pain to organise.

The downsides for me where I live is , even though I have a reasonable sized garden, it isn't really paractical to allow them to roam freely
and I don't like the idea of shutting them up in a small area. Rats can be a problem, and if anyone finds a rat in the street they automatically assume its come about because of the person keeping hens. Whats more probable is that bird feeders have caused the rat problem, not the hens.

The positives are the eggs of course and the personality of each bird is different and a joy to behold. Big Grin
"The problem with retirement is that you never get a day off"- Abe Lemons
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Scarlet Offline
Super Pest Controller
#5
I love them but Fox proofing became a real chore for us. I had several electric fences over the years I kept them..I think one lasted 5 years, the others only 3 or 4. That was a big expense for us.

I had Sussex chickens as they are dual prurpose. If you hatch your own it's best to separate girls and boys as early as you can as fights over the girls start early on and they run around more when there lots of action going so don't put on much weight.

I also kept turkeys - I loved these so much but you have to put them to bed. They can get huge in one year so very much worth considering if you want the meat.
Though a little more delicate than chickens.

The ground requires work - either moving the run or letting them on one half and resting for the other half....not so bad if you don't have too many. As VC, numbers make a difference.

If you only want for eggs having 3 or 4 is more than plenty, won't dirty the ground so much, easier to clean and less issues with worm problems if kept on the same ground and in a small run.
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Can the Man Offline
Can the Man with the van
#6
PP I sent you a link on Instagram to a girl here in Ireland that has posted various stories about setting up her chicken coop and populating.
Coffee keeps me busy until it’s acceptable to drink whiskey.
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PyreneesPlot Offline
Mountain Dweller
#7
(29-01-2021, 12:05 AM)Can the Man Wrote: PP I sent you a link on Instagram to a girl here in Ireland that has posted various stories about setting up her chicken coop and populating.

Thanks! I'll have a look Smile

We were buying wild bird food today so I had a casual look at chook food with MrPP, but I think he missed the point!!
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Hautes-Pyrénées (65), France
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Veggie Offline
Super Pest Controller
#8
FYI, I've just had a delivery of Chicken feed & bedding from a local-ish company that offers free delivery. Saves me a lot of hassle and lifting as they bring it all to my door and I pay them when they arrive.

Heygates layers pellets £8 for 20kgs
Heygates mixed corn £8 for 20 kgs
A bale of chopped wheat straw for inside the coop and nest box £7.50.

Usually, I buy a bale of wood flakes (same price) but thought I'd try straw as it should compost more quickly in the Hotbin.

20 kgs of layers pellets will feed 4 hens for 4-6 weeks. Can't tell you for sure as I don't keep a check. They're eating more at the moment as they can't go out foraging because of Avian Flu restrictions.

The mixed corn lasts for months - they have a handful each at night and a bit scattered around during the day to keep them busy.
Wonky Shopkeeper in Sunshiny South Wales
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PyreneesPlot Offline
Mountain Dweller
#9
Thanks for the info.
I'm still dithering, mostly because of the foxes. And today we watched a family of wild boar cross the field opposite and I have no idea if they're a threat!
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Hautes-Pyrénées (65), France
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Mark_Riga Offline
Member from Cheshire
#10
(02-02-2021, 08:57 PM)PyreneesPlot Wrote: Thanks for the info.
I'm still dithering,  mostly because of the foxes. And today we watched a family of wild boar cross the field opposite and I have no idea if they're a threat!

They could may be make hole in any fencing for the fox to get in?
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