Six birds or three?

choosing chickens

It’s far better to start with fewer birds and keep things easily manageable as you find your feet. Also, lower numbers will place less pressure on your house and run areas. 

Keeping the numbers down to begin with will also give you a chance to assess how suitable your new set-up is. Six hens in a smallish enclosure on the lawn will be perfectly capable of transforming the grassy surface to a muddy mess in just a few days. Then you’ll have to start thinking about alternative ground cover layers which will have to be paid for and maintained to help keep the birds healthy. 

Then there’s egg production to consider. If you’re starting with hybrid hens, then bear in mind that each bird will probably lay five or six eggs a week. So if you’ve opted for six birds, that’s at least 30 eggs to be eaten every seven days! This might not be an issue if you have a large family, or do a lot of baking, but it doesn’t take long for supply to start outstripping demand. While you’ll usually be able to find plenty of willing recipients for any excess, giving them away (or selling eggs for less than they are worth) seems a bit of a shame when you’re putting in all the time and effort to produce them. 

Pure breed or hybrid?
In many ways, the hybrid layer is the ideal ‘starter bird’. They are friendly, easy to handle, simple to look after, produce lots of eggs, are cheap to buy and available in plentiful numbers. These days there’s a decent range of colours, plus varieties which lay coloured eggs.

Many of our pure chicken breeds have been around for hundreds of years, and while some have lost their laying ability, due to having been ‘improved’ for exhibition, a few utility strains have survived. Our pure breeds come in many shapes and sizes, but the one thing they have in common is history, and the need to be preserved. The one downside to the hybrids is that egg production falls away dramatically once they reach 18 months old, but a good pure breed should continue laying well for at least three years.  

Whichever type or breed you opt for, when you go to buy them, take your time. Stand and watch them for five minutes, especially the quiet ones, around the edge. You are looking for any that are standing looking hunched, have their eyes closed, are sneezing or just look off-colour. If you see any of these symptoms, walk away. Don’t be embarrassed, just say you need to think about it.

We advise you to buy from suppliers recommended either via word of mouth or, in the case of the pure breeds, from breeders suggested by the relevant breed club.

choosing pure breeds

 

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