Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Keeping Chickens at Home - How many chickens should I keep?

Keeping Chickens at Home - How many chickens should I keep?

Keeping chickens at home UK
Before you think of how many chickens and what breed you want, you need to think of a couple of things.

Firstly, how many eggs do I want? The really good layers will pop one out almost every day. If you had six hens, that could mean 30-40 eggs every week. Is that too many or maybe not enough. You may be a keen cook and need the extra eggs. You and your family of four may love boiled eggs every day for breakfast. Only you know the answer.

Having said that, having spare eggs to give away to friends and family is great. You can even use them to 'barter' for other things from your neighbours. I personally have a 'Golden Rule'. Everything must pay for itself. I sell my surplus eggs and this pays for the feed and bedding for the chickens and effectively, I get my eggs for free. I have the same rule for all my animals. If keeping chickens is only going to be a hobby and you don't mind spending a bit of money on your favourite hobby then all well and good. You don't need to worry about it.

So get as many chickens as you think you need for an adequate personal supply of eggs. Six is normally a good number for most people.

The next thing to ask yourself is the most difficult question of all. Do you want to keep chickens just for eggs or do you also want to have the occasional roast chicken on a Sunday? Most people think the idea of eating one of their chickens is just plain horrible. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing pleasant about killing and preparing a chicken for the oven, but, unless you are a vegetarian or ONLY buy organic chicken, I think it's something you should seriously think about.

Avoiding the issue and continuing to buy battery farmed chicken from the supermarket is at best, hypocritical.

If you have a go at hatching some chicks (which is definitely recommended. I will cover this topic at a later date), you will be faced with the dilemma sooner rather than later, as inevitably, you will have boys as well as girls. The boys (cockerels) can't stay with the other hens as all sorts of problems occur. They will continually fight each other for dominance over the ladies.

You can of course sell them on, but most people have the same problem and they are hard to get rid of. The other (and best in my opinion) is to have the surplus cockerels for Sunday lunch. Like your eggs, they will taste fantastic and you know that they have had a great quality of life. I will show you how to kill a chicken and prepare it for the oven in a later post.

But if you simply want to avoid all this gore and heartache, just simply get some hens and collect the eggs each morning.

Do I need to have a cockerel? Contrary to popular belief, hens will quite happily lay eggs without a cockerel around. But a cockerel will keep the hens in order and stop them squabbling amongst themselves. Chickens always need to create a 'pecking' order and a cockerel does help to maintain peace. They also stop them wandering off and getting into trouble.

The biggest problem with a cockerel in an urban setting is the noise. A cock crowing at 3am in the morning will do nothing to help neighbourly relations and is the main reason people who live in towns don't have them. But if you do have the space and great or no neighbours, I think a cockerel is a great asset. And if you do want to hatch some chicks, you will have to have one, as chickens may lay eggs without a cockerel around, but they will not be fertile. That's the cockerels job.

You could 'borrow' a cockerel from someone and let him stay with your hens for a week or two. This will give you enough fertile eggs to hatch your own chicks without having to keep a cock.

So, have a good think about all the things I have mentioned and then you will be ready to decide what type or breed of chicken you want to get. Not as easy as it sounds and we will cover this in the next post.

Keeping Chickens at Home
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