Living the good life is a dream that many of us have at some point in our lives, an idea of being self-sustained and eating only produce that we have cultivated ourselves in some way.
This is one of the reasons why chickens first became a popular addition to gardens everywhere. The notion of getting up every morning to collect fresh eggs for breakfast and hearing the clucking of these gentle animals as you sprinkle grain for them to eat is certainly an attractive one. But what is the reality of keeping chickens and is it worth it? We have taken a look at some of the benefits of rearing your own poultry and at the amount of work that goes into it.
You may not realise, but chickens are full of personality and can make fantastic pets. If you are choosing to have chickens only for eggs rather than meat, you can enjoy the act of naming them and taking time to create their own little sanctuary at the bottom of your garden. They are incredibly relaxing to watch and are known to be therapeutic in terms of coping with anxiety, depression and loneliness.
Chickens are a great way of teaching children how to care for animals and can be very educational. It teaches them about the responsibilities involved in terms of feeding, cleaning and health, as well as the realities of life and death which can sometimes be hard to explain to younger children.
Of course there is the benefit of having fresh eggs within easy reach every morning, whether to enjoy in the comfort of your own home or to sell to others. Be aware that chickens are most productive in laying eggs during the first two years of their life, so you will need to decide early on whether you want to have the commitment of caring for them once they cease to lay.
You must be clear on what goes into caring for chickens before taking the leap. They will need a good amount of space in your garden to roam in, with plenty of room to exercise. It is important to create a safe and secure environment for them to live in, as there are often predators that will take any opportunity to steal one and kill it. A high fence is a great idea, with deep roots that a fox would struggle to dig underneath. They will require a good sized house for laying their eggs and for sleeping in, as it is important to shut them away each evening, again to keep them safe from predators.
You will need to have friends or family who are willing to care for them if you are planning to go away for more than a day. Chickens need their routine of being let out and fed at certain times of the day, as well as being checked on to make sure they are safe.
Chickens can also make quite a lot of mess in a garden, so it is important to keep on top of cleaning out their house and mucking out the surrounding area where they spend their time. This will help to ensure that it does not smell, but also that bacteria and disease does not get a chance to breed. The winter can be a hard time to perform these tasks as it can be so cold and wet, so be sure that you are willing to make that commitment.
If you are happy to undertake any hard work that keeping chickens can bring, you can start to plan for your new arrivals. As mentioned before, you will need to invest in some good fencing and a secure home for your chickens to live in. Aside from that chickens are fairly low in cost to keep. The correct food will need to be bought, as well as some stable drinking containers for fresh water, but chickens themselves can be acquired fairly cheaply.
If you wish to start making some money from your chickens, depending on how many you have, you could sell fresh eggs each day. If you had always intended your chickens to be eaten, then selling them for meat can be profitable. If you are willing to give more of your time, there is an option to hatch your own eggs in order to sell the chicks.
You can also sell chicken manure as compost. It is known for adding potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen to the ground, which makes it more nutrient rich and will help plants and vegetables to grow more healthily.
So after looking at everything there is to gain in keeping chickens, what are the downsides?
The condition of your garden may be more mud and less grass, as your chickens will be walking on the area all day in all weathers. The repetitive pecking at the ground looking for food can also take it's toll on the surface appearance.
You will need to be home every morning and night to let them out and shut them away. As mentioned previously, it might be that you need to arrange someone to do this for you if you're planning a holiday. This can be very restricting if you usually like to go away at the last moment.
You will need to invest money into your chicken project to get it off the ground. This is to cover any costs of setting up a living area and secure housing, something that is vital and cannot be avoided. If you don't think you can afford to do this straightaway, then you should wait for a while and save until you can.
If you have decided to start keeping your own chickens, we have a range of starter kits that will help you to prepare. We have options that are with or without coops, in case you are planning to build your own, as well as an option to include a chicken run, if you would like some extra security in place for them to roam safely. Items such as conditioner, disinfectant and sanitisers are also included, which are all equally as important in keeping your chickens fit and healthy.
If you are prepared for the responsibility and hard work that can be involved in keeping your own chickens, then they are fantastic pets to have in your garden. They have wonderful personalities that your family will embrace, especially children, and the idea of fresh eggs for breakfast is certainly a perk that you will appreciate.