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Note For Beginners

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Notes for beginners dealing with poultry in Derby, Wolverhampton, Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Walsall.

For anybody considering keeping chickens for egg production on a commercial basis, it may be prudent and beneficial for them to visit the DEFRA web site, or to contact their local egg inspector at their local DEFRA office.
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07946 761 435
We cover Derby, Wolverhampton, Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Walsall.

For smaller keepers, the following points may be of interest:

  • Whatever the type of poultry housing you choose, remember that if you want to keep 3 hens today, you may want 6 in a month's time, so ensure that your hen house is large enough to begin with
  • Whichever type of house you choose, it should be situated preferably in a sheltered position with some protection from the direct sun. The house itself should be warm, dry and draught free, but with adequate ventilation.
  • In smaller arks, the birds will be happy enough sleeping on the floor, but in houses with enough height, they will enjoy roosting on perches at night. Perches may be any height above the floor, but there is probably no need to go much higher than 1m.
  • Allow about 15cm per bird of perch space, although 6 hens on a 2m long perch will probably all cram together at one end.
  • Nest boxes can be purpose made or very simple, a bucket on its side in the corner of the shed will suffice, or boxes of 30-45cm square will be fine, with a small lip at the front, to prevent the eggs rolling out.
  • Some chickens may choose to sleep in the nest boxes, this is not a problem, but may result in the boxes becoming soiled, and needing cleaning more often.
  • The floor covering in the house can be straw or wood shavings and straw should be put in the nest boxes as well. Keep away from hay, as this can contain undesirable insect pests.
Food & Water:
  • Food and water can both be given inside the house, the food can be given in a hopper or twice daily by hand, hens will only eat until they have had enough, so do not give too much or food will be wasted and could result in a vermin problem.
  • Water can be given in any vessel large enough which cannot be tipped over, and water should always be clean and fresh.
  • For birds of point of lay age, layers pellets can be fed and these are a complete and balanced diet, although your hens will enjoy mixed corn as well should you choose to offer it to them.     
  • Poultry grit can also be given, to aid digestion, although free range hens will probably pick up enough for themselves. Some brands of layers pellets will contain grit as well and so no extra will be required. Oyster shell should also be available to your hens as this is an important source of calcium which the chickens need to produce good egg shells.     
  • Younger birds should be given a slightly different diet, but this should be discussed with the breeder.

Creag Mhor offer this advice with help for new arrivals:

  • When your new chickens arrive place them inside their new quarters all together, shut the door and leave them to settle down.
  • If there is an enclosed run attached to the house, they can be allowed access to this, but if the door leads to the great outdoors, they should be kept in for a couple of days before being allowed out.
  • Hens will generally return to their house on their own at night and also to feed and lay their eggs, so you do not need to worry about them running off.
  • Cockerels are only necessary if you want fertile eggs, hens do not require a cockerel to lay eggs, but if you do have a cockerel with your hens it does not affect the edibility of the eggs at all.
  • Point of lay hens are generally about 16 to 18 weeks old, and should start laying at about 20 to 23 weeks old, depending on the breed. The eggs will start off small, known as pullet eggs, and they will become larger day by day, until they reach full size.
  • Your hens will quickly become very tame, especially when you have tasty titbits for them so be aware that they will enter your house without hesitation if the opportunity presents itself.
Wing Clipping:
  • Everybody will have a different opinion about clipping wings; personally, I would not bother unless it is really necessary. More often than not, a wire fence of 2 inch mesh, 90cm high is perfectly adequate to keep your hens in place. Granted, sometimes one of your chickens may venture over the wire, but this is usually by accident rather than by design.
  • If there is a solid rail along the top of the fence, then undoubtedly your hens will fly onto this and then over the other side, but they will not usually fly over chicken wire. They will however, go under or through a fence if the opportunity arises. 
  • If a wing is to be clipped, it should be fanned out and the ends of the flight feathers removed, using a sharp pair of scissors. This will not hurt the bird but will help to stop it getting off the ground. If there is any doubt about what you should do, seek professional help.
  • Keep the chickens house as clean as you can. The amount of cleaning out you have to do will depend on the number of birds you have and what size the house is.
  • Ensure to remove all soiled material and replace with fresh. Every couple of months you should spray the interior of the house with a recommended insecticide making sure that you cover all the little nooks and crannies, which provide shelter for insect pests. The floor should be disinfected periodically as well, but allow this to dry thoroughly before allowing the birds back inside.
You will very quickly develop your own way of doing things, as everybody does in all walks of life, but hopefully these pointers will help to give you some direction and understanding of poultry management, whilst you are learning for yourself.
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