Before you decide where to put your hens check the ‘poisonous plants and trees for poultry’ page, virtually everything we have in our gardens is toxic to them and when hens are young they will try virtually anything, they are happiest on grass if this is not possible use hard wood chip not bark chip this grows fungus which again is toxic. Do not put them entirely on hardstanding as they need to be able to dig and dustbath.
Next decision to make, do you want eggs all year round if so Hybrids, if not Bantams, Hybrids are Cross Breed hens and very hardy, they will lay for 3-4 years and generally live about 5 years, Bantams are Pure Breeds they are smaller and lay small eggs seasonally, so quite well during the summer but hardly any during the winter, they can be more sensitive so slightly more difficult to look after and are prone to Broodiness, they can lay for 6-8 years sometimes longer and generally live for around 10 years.
General care involves feeding and watering everyday, completely cleaning the coop once a week, powdering your hens once a month with Diatom for mites and worming your hens every three months with Flubenvet (initially 6 weeks).
Space, Hybrids like as much space as possible, the very minimum RSPCA run space per hen is 1 square metre, we prefer this to be 2 square metres, with Hybrids the bigger the better keeping in mind that for the last two years our birds have been kept entirely in their run for the best part of ten months due to the bird flu restrictions, Bantams are much smaller and would be happy in the one Square metre per bird, Please use 16 – 19g Square Weldmesh for your run, do not use Chicken wire this keeps chickens in NOT foxes out. Please note that when manufacturers advertise coops for sale they are stating the amount of birds that could sleep in the coop NOT the amount of birds that will happily live in the run.
Bantams and Larger birds are best kept separately, Bantams require a really clean coop with a nicely managed run area, the Omlet coops and runs are ideal, they are much more sensitive to mites and worms. Some Bantams, particularly Silkies, do not like wind and should never get wet. Pekins are generally quite intelligent but Silkies and Polands often need help to find their way to bed!
The recent Bird Flu outbreak where birds have to be in a covered run and not free ranged at all means that your run needs to be a good size in case they have to be contained, so please don’t buy a small run with the promise of free ranging as sometimes this just can’t happen.
Health, if you notice any health problems with your hens act quickly!! Because of the pecking order hens hide illness they won’t show weakness within the group so if they show any signs they may have been ill for several weeks, if you think that something is not right check your powdering and worming is up to date and do contact us for advice.
Hens are very sociable they all have different personalities and are great creatures of habit, they do require time and patience to get them hand friendly but once this is achieved they will follow you anywhere for a handful of treats.