Helpful tips on getting started with your own home chicken coop, and the problems you may face. I share my experience of maintaining my garden, my hens and my sanity, as I embark on a new found part of living the ‘good life’…
I imagine that many of us remember that popular British sitcom The Good Life, and wish we could pull off such a wonderfully sustainable way of living.
Well last year I made my first step into my ‘good life’, by growing as many herbs and vegetables as possible at the end of the garden; sweet peas, potatoes, onions and courgettes have all been a success.
But this year my partner and I, as well as our new little arrival, have decided to take on a new challenge. Keeping hens!
Starting from Scratch
We began by purchasing three rescue hens. These hens were previously caged, partially bald and had never had the chance to roam free.
Having looked over all the posh Eglu houses on offer, we decided instead to build the run ourselves; scrap wood from the tip, hay from a local farmer and reams of chicken wire have all served to set our chickens up in good stead. It took a whole Sunday, but we managed it, and the hens were very content!
As the owner of a dog, we had to be certain that our chicken wire defences were strong enough to make sure we didn’t wake up to a chicken massacre in the morning!
And Then the Problems Begin
Eggs started to arrive quite quickly (with each hen laying one a day); however our garden has definitely paid the price for the eggs. The patch that we had given over to our feathered friends had taken a battering after a relatively short period of time. So, if you are a little obsessive about keeping your lawn uniform, chickens may not be for you.
First of all we realised that the worst damage was done to my potted sweet peas and tomato plants on the patio. It turns out that chickens will eat almost anything! These plants have now been rescued by placing them in our conservatory. If you don’t have a conservatory, I recommend that you get a plastic pop-up green house.
Next, I found and recycled some old PVC and used it as a guard along the bottom of their pens. This stopped the hens from escaping and damaging the edge of our lawn, and rescued them from certain dog-related death!
We decided to use old boards of plywood to firm up the walls of their enclosure, with the idea that if the dog couldn’t see the birds, it might lose some interest!
Not too long after the hens moved into their pen, there was a downpour of rain. This turned the floor of the pen into a mud-fest, and so naturally the hens became a state too. But our local farming store sold us a large amount of cheap sawdust that can be thrown down to prevent this, keeping the hens dry and relatively mud free.
The Future Run
We realised that we needed to give some serious strategic thought to the section of the garden that was going to be dedicated to a chicken run. This run can then easily be moved around to other areas of the garden in the future, although you may have damaged your lawns and flowerbeds in the process of setting it up on the first place, so be careful you don’t accidently ruin your whole garden trying to house your clucking companions.
Another thing you will have to think about is supplying some extra bird food or chicken feed as they quite quickly pick the area you have placed them in completely clean!
We’ve decided that it would be best to sacrifice the parts of the garden that were a bit too tough to grow veg in this year, before swapping them over next spring.
So there is my hen filled tale on how I protected my garden. Do you have any tips and tricks on keeping these lovely creatures?