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Loose Chickens!

Updated on September 18, 2010

Chickens are Fun!

Until I kept chickens, I had no idea how much fun they are.  They are easy to care for, and will pay for themselves by the eggs for provide.

I have two ISA Warren hens - and would love more!  Be warned, this is a very addictive hobby! 

On this page you will find plenty of information on how to care for chickens, plus some cute photos of my little flock foraging around my garden.  And do watch the video of Hattie and Joyce pottering around - hope you enjoy the captions!

Chickens love to roam free in the garden.
Chickens love to roam free in the garden.
Foraging for bugs and a juicy worm or two keeps chickens happy.
Foraging for bugs and a juicy worm or two keeps chickens happy.
The beautiful plumage of an ISA Warren chicken.
The beautiful plumage of an ISA Warren chicken.

Life in the Chicken Coop

Chickens need somewhere warm, dry and safe from predators where they can roost at night and lay their eggs undisturbed.

There are many designs of chicken house, or coop. These are usually purchased as a flat-pack which you have to assemble yourself. The designs vary, some being more ornamental than practical. Prices vary widely too, soaring up to silly levels. If you are handy with wood, you could save yourself a lot of money if you make your own coop and run. Some of the books listed below offer design plans for various types of coop.

Before buying or making your coop, though, give some thought to how many chickens you want to keep. The size of the coop will limit the number of chickens you can humanely keep - and once you've discovered how easy chickens are to keep (and how much fun they are!) you can be sure you'll want more.

Inside the coop, you'll need clean, dry straw and/or hay for the birds to nest in. They love re-arranging the inside of the coop, no matter how tidily you set it out. Digging and rooting is in their nature. Mine drag straw out of the coop and into the run to build outdoor nests for sunbathing on. They lie on top of these messy heaps, with their tummies facing the sun, and lift each wing in turn to enjoy the warmth.

Chickens also need clean water. They wash their beaks in it, and also drink quite a bit. Initially I tried using a purpose-made water feeder but they kicked this all over the place as if they were playing football. The water spilled everywhere, of course. Now I use a metal dish which clips to the wire of the run.

Chickens eat non-stop. They love food! They will devour all your vegetable scraps - though mine aren't over-keen on potato peelings. They will also eat whatever grows in your garden. Mine demolished all my Valerian within a week. And they enjoy rooting through fallen leaves in the herbaceous border, foraging for worms, insects and snails.

Grit is an essential dietery need, as this aids in the deigestion of their food plus helps form the shells of their eggs. In winter, I also feed mine a commercially available chicken suet/insect mash which comes in pellet form.

If you buy grit and chicken feed from a farm outlet, you'll spend a lot less than you would in a pet store or supermarket. As for greens - let your birds roam round your garden and they'll help themselves to whatever they want.

Chickens get to know your routine. As soon as the kitchen light goes on in the morning, they know breakfast is on its way along with the freedom of the garden. At 3pm, they get fed again and as soon as they see me filling their seed and grit feeder they come rushing to see what they're missing.

My ISA Warren hens lay one egg a day each, usually around 10am but sometimes closer to mid-day if it's a sunny day. The pale brown eggs are larger than shop-bought ones, and the yolks are a gorgeous rich golden yellow - a much more intense colour than any mass-produced egg.

And my birds are happy, too - wandering round the garden together, talking to each other in their own way. They've even been known to wander into the house to listen to a spot of Vivaldi or Mozart.

Chickens love to root through fallen leaves looking for bugs.
Chickens love to root through fallen leaves looking for bugs.
Chickens never tire of looking for worms and woodlice.
Chickens never tire of looking for worms and woodlice.

Chicken Talk

Chickens love company - it would be cruel to keep one on its own. 

Mine are never very far from each other.  Even when one goes into the coop to lay an egg, the other will be nearby.  They like to walk around together, digging through fallen leaves and rooting around under bushes, and they communicate constantly with musical "pwok-pwok prrrr pwok" sounds. 

At night, they often share a roost spot even though there's plenty of room inside the coop for them to spread out.  In fact, the coop I have is big enough for four birds.  Watch this space for new additions to my flock!

At the foot of a young rowan tree, Hattie and Joyce forage for food.
At the foot of a young rowan tree, Hattie and Joyce forage for food.
One of their favorite hangouts is underneath shady shrubbery in the herbacious border.
One of their favorite hangouts is underneath shady shrubbery in the herbacious border.

© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray

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    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      8 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      You have hens in your house, Rebu? Mine wander in sometimes, but mostly they stay in the garden.

    • rebu profile image

      rebu 

      8 years ago from Coorg,India

      i like hens..i have it in my house too...great hub...

    • ButterflyWings profile image

      ButterflyWings 

      8 years ago

      That's the way my Dad feels about his goats. He should run an old-age home for animals. That would be the perfect job for him, if he could figure out how to turn a profit.

      I'm hoping I'll find I haven't gone too soft to act professional about my own herds and flocks....

    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      8 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      I think I'd make a hopeless farmer... I'd want to keep them all! Which is ridiculous, I know; roast chicken is one of my favourite meals...!

    • ButterflyWings profile image

      ButterflyWings 

      8 years ago

      Adele, my mother raises enough chickens most years for her family and a few others. Last year (when the pictures were taken), she raised the most meat chickens she'd ever done. Her mother had raised chickens for her family and a neighbor's, and she knew what it was like to care for and butcher them.

      She also occasionally raises laying hens, and is planning on expanding her selections there...trying a new breed (I don't remember the name right now) this coming spring. The pictures of the breed she had in mind were real pretty...maybe I'll do a hub on them. They're supposed to be real good for sitting and hatching their own eggs, too...something most chickens won't do consistently.

    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      8 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      Rope, as children we thought visiting Grandad's small-holding was a treat. Maybe it's from him that I have my love of animals. My various homes have always been full of pets.

      ButterflyWings, I take it your mother's a farmer? Those photos look like she runs a commercial set-up. Here, it's just one coop and two chickens (so far!)

    • ButterflyWings profile image

      ButterflyWings 

      8 years ago

      Adele, I love the pictures. My husband and I are almost ready to move out to our recently-boughten rural property, after several years of living in town, and I am looking forward to having hens, among other animals.

      My mother raises chickens, and I have learned to appreciate their eggs and silly, sweet presence.

      Here are some pictures of some of hers:

      https://pethelpful.com/farm-pets/The-Life-of-a-Chi...

      https://hubpages.com/animals/The-Polish-Buff-Roost...

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 

      8 years ago from SE US

      My grandmother had chickens and it was always a special treat for us to visit her. I don't thnk we were especially nice to the poor chickens since we often chased them for no reason but we did love to hear them and watch them perform their antics! Thanks for sharing.

    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile imageAUTHOR

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      8 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      My grandfather had a small-holding where, among other animals, he kept all sorts of chickens, ducks and geese. As a small child I was terrifed of the geese as they'd march round in a gang and bully anyone within reach - apart from Grandad himself, who'd only have to talk to them and they'd all waddle off again.

      Glad you enjoyed this Hub, Robert.

    • profile image

      Robert Elias Ballard 

      8 years ago

      When I was a kid my parents and grandparents had chickens and I always loved feeding them and gathering the eggs. Great hub.

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