Having hens has been the most enjoyable experience of moving to a house with a garden. They are great pets – I know people suggest that you shouldn’t name or get too attached to your hens, but we did. We named them all and loved them like we do any of our pets. And they have all thrived, produce eggs daily and are our biggest fans. Infact, they are even a bit too cheeky now that they all live in luxury. We have an extra-large garden, which means we have made an enclosure for them so they can run around free (but safely) all day long.
We have both battery hens and a range of farm hens. And have been keeping them for 2 years now. We have picked up some hints and tips along the way which I thought would be great to share with you!
You really don’t need a lot of room for hens. A patch of grass will do! They are so rewarding. They provide such fun and great eggs. Nothing beats free range eggs than from your own garden:
- Apple cider vinegar : put a dash into their water once every so often perks up your hens, gives a feeling of refreshed wellbeing and also cleans them out from the inside. It gets rid of any bacteria.
- Egg shells : Bake and crush your eggs shells once you use them. They are a great substitute for buying pigeon grit. (Which is hard to get). The shells are good for their gullets, they have no teeth and often need assistance to help their food digest.
- Invest in a good quality house. Perches have to be higher than the laying boxes, which often isn’t the case with cheaper hen houses. A good quality house is beneficial for safety and also shelter.
- Don’t over crowd the houses. Houses that are too full may cause friction within the hen group and aggression. We have three houses for 13 hens which gives them space and choice.
- Sunflower seeds and dried corn are a great afternoon treat. It gives them something to forage for.. something they are built to do. It keeps them busy and their minds busy too! We also give them fresh corn as a weekly treat which helps produce bright yokes! (no yoke enhancers needed here!)
- Fox proofing. This seems like a silly thing to mention, but foxes are cleverer than we even know. We have our chicken wire dug deep down into the soil to prevent the fox digging under. Always check over your wire to make sure there are no breakages or gaps.
- A bail of fresh straw will give them hours of pleasure. They tear it apart themselves (again to forage) and they will spread it around the way they like it. An afternoon of fun.
- Worm your hens once a year. Keep them healthy.
- If you have a broody hen.. remove the hen as many times as you can from the nesting box. Try cool them down and make sure they eat and drink. Lift them up and let them flap their wings. Hens can overheat and dehydrate in their broody process. Broodyness generally lasts 21 days. (from experience)
- Teach them to sit on your shoulder. There is no greater party trick than teaching your little hen to sit on your shoulder like a trusty pirate parrot.