Updated: Feb 26
Chickens are great company when you're pottering outside. They are a fantastic way for children to appreciate the natural cycle. They are good listeners when you've had a fight and need to vent. (Note: their attention span is short. Don't be disheartened if they walk away while you're pouring your heart out.)
Chickens, believe it or not, are quite cuddly too. Well, some of them. If they let you catch them. They are nosy, curious, easily excited by your every move and stick their beaks into the very space you are trying to work in. You won't regret getting them!
There are a few things you might want to plan for if you too are delighted by the notion of eating freshly laid eggs for breakfast (and a sustainable lifestyle perhaps?) and getting your children to understand that chicken isn't something that miraculously appears on their plates.
Firstly, location, location, location!
Secondly, think about security and Mr & Mrs Fox and cubs…
Thirdly, think about what you will do with all the chicken poo
So… you've found an ideal spot to build your chickens a home with plenty of sunlight, shade and dirt. They love dirt baths to protect them from mites. This is the easy bit. Now you need to fox-proof it.
Foxes will bite through, jump over, dig under any fence. And generally not be afraid of you standing there with a pitchfork. Some high level security planning worthy of most spy novels and your chickens' safety is needed. After all, prevention is better than carnage!
Make sure your chicken run area has good quality fencing mesh doubled up or small enough to prevent foxes getting their teeth in - don't forget, an adult fox can get through a 10 cm hole once they have bitten through that wire! Consider thicker (2mm) mesh with holes no bigger than 50*50mm or heavy duty chicken wire which is slightly thinner with smaller holes
Make sure that the fence is high enough to prevent a fox jumping in/out (6ft is easy) especially if your neighbour has a shed conveniently placed next to your adjoining fence. Trust no fox . They will test every inch of the boundary, top to bottom, and will happily tolerate some pain to get to their goal
Make sure you have underground barriers all the way around. Including the door. Foxes will dig.
If all this talk of mesh is too much, consider electric fencing.
You'll save yourself time as well as money on fixing and replacing fencing. The heartache when the fox kills your little feathery friends weighs heavily and you'll feel the responsibility.
You will have a hard time keeping the area nicely trimmed, it's going to look a little messy unless you're willing to do it by hand. But the chickens will live to lay eggs, which you will enjoy eating.
Spend time with your chickens, they love company and they can be really funny. Children will enjoy feeding them and playing with them and getting to understand nature!
Believe it or not, the happier and healthier your chickens are, the more readily they will lay fresh healthy eggs. We have a few mantras that we think work.
space to roam around and look for worms.
having nice dry soil to have a dirt bath in to keep the mites away
lots of fresh greens, water, corn and an occasional treat of milk-soaked bread served with a generous dose of affection
Finally, a caution to the wise, hen pecking is natural, leave them to it unless it's turning into carnage - rarely happens, unless you have an aggrieved chicken... What woman doesn't forget!?