What do I do when I get the Girls home?

Keeping chickens at home

What do I do when I get my Chickens Home?

The next 24 hours will be one of the most stressful times of your chicken's life (unless it meets up with the local fox). Assuming that the coop is fully prepared and food and water is inside, then the girls can go straight inside. If the run is small then leave the pop hole open so they can have a look around. Please do not introduce them to the children or other pets on this first day as it can be a bit too much. A little Poultry Tonic in their water will help reduce the stress or even a very small piece of bread with Marmite on. Next morning they can be let out at the crack of dawn and enjoy their new surroundings. To keep your chickens friendly it's worth picking them up and giving them a stroke every morning and evening for just 20 seconds each time during the first week. You will be amazed how they respond; after the first week they will be following you around like lambs!

Egg laying chickens

Why aren't my Chickens Laying?

Eggs do not simply appear, there are some factors to consider. The most important requirement is the correct dietary needs. If your girls are not laying for any reason simply remove all tit-bits and confine them to a small area for a few days, giving them access to only Layers pellets and making sure there is a fresh water supply nearby; this should then get them back on track to laying more eggs.

If the girls have had a fright from an attack by the neighbour’s dog or the local fox, this will put them off laying for up to 6 weeks. If you add Poultry Tonic to their water this will help to return the vital vitamins and minerals back into them. One thing to bear in mind is it's not only you who enjoys eating the eggs that your chickens have laid and if you are not quick enough picking up those eggs in the morning, there could be something else waiting to steal them. Jackdaws, magpies, rodents and even the neighbour’s dogs are all queuing up to collect that egg in the morning if they can get into the nesting area, therefore if your girls have a red comb and her tail stands upwards you would be correct to think that she is in lay, so a quick look around the garden, under the hedges, behind the dustbin - even in the outside loo - would be recommended before changing her diet.

Of course, there may be an issue concerning the health or fitness of your chicken, more of which can be found in the Common Health Problems section.

Keeping chickens - dangers and threats

Chicken Predators

We all know that the fox is just waiting outside the gate each night in the hope that you forget to lock your girls away, but please remember that he is not the only creature after a dinner.

Dogs are the largest killers of poultry in domestic settings. I have more phone calls telling me that the neighbour’s dogs have just killed the pet chicken than anything else. It's for that reason that the perimeter fencing should be secure.

Badgers are stronger than foxes; despite not being able to scale tall fences they are quite capable of using their powerful jaws to destroy any loose wire they can get their teeth into.

Birds of prey can be a problem in rural areas, but as long as your chickens have some form of cover on their runs this is not normally a problem unless you have small chicks on the ground.

Rooks, jackdaws and crows will also attack the smaller birds and they enjoy an uncooked omelette and seem to have a competition on how many eggs they can steal.

Rodents are attracted to any kind of poultry, however with good housekeeping these horrid things can be kept at bay. Making sure that your feed supply is stored in a suitable container and that scraps are removed from the chicken house floor each night will minimise the risk.

Secure housing and well-designed fencing will also reduce the risk of these predators savaging your pets. If you have an enclosed run, secure a sheet of weld mesh on to the base, laying it on to the grass; within weeks the grass will grow through, giving it strong support against the fox or any other animal trying to dig into the run, as they always try to dig at the edge and are not normally clever enough to think of digging 45cm away!

There are many suggested ideas on how to keep the fox away - hanging human hair in bags around the chicken house, leaving a flashing light near the coop, putting lion’s dung around the perimeter fences and even getting males to urinate alongside the house each night - but to be quite frank about the matter if a fox is hungry he will find some way to get into your chickens, so as long as you are happy with the security arrangements you have done your bit.

Persistent problems with a fox can only be solved by an expert shooter with a good rifle! Next section: Common Health Problems >