A Guide to Keeping Chickens?

Remember: We, at Clogher Valley Eggs and Poultry are always available to support customers by discussing any problems you may have in looking after your chickens.

Andrew. 07818 138528

Questions to ask before you start?

Keeping chickens can be an extremely satisfying pastime with the added bonus of providing fresh eggs for family and friends. It does however require sustained commitment so before you start you should ask yourself some important questions.

Do I have time to give the birds the care they need?
A small flock requires minimal attention but they do require fresh feed and water every day. Chickens depend on you entirely for their well-being and you need to be sure you can provide the continuity of care required.

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Choosing a Breed

Hybrids.

Commercial hybrid chickens are particular commercial crossbreeds based on those originally selected in the 1950s for the battery cage producers seeking to vastly increase production over the traditional pure breeds. They are based on just a few of the more productive pure breeds and are generally brown in colour; of uniform size and shape; and produce 250 -300 eggs over 2 years. These will be cheaper than other poultry as they are reared in large numbers and are ideal where your primary interest is in providing fresh eggs for the family at minimum cost. Common examples are produced by Warrens, ISA Brown and Hy-line. Beware of very cheap stock which may be “rescued” from commercial units. While this may be very satisfying it can also be distressing as they are often coming to the end of their lives.

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Housing

As explained earlier housing for hens does not need to be large or elabotate as long as it provides the essential requirements of shelter, protection, and sufficient space to exercise their basic instincts to roost and scratch.

There are huge array of poultry houses on the market or you can make your own or adapt an existing shed or outhouse.

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Feeding

Poultry will eat most things but like all animals they require a balanced diet for good health and best performance. The best way to achieve this is by feeding ready mixed compound feeds. These are available from commercial manufacturers and are designed to meet the chicken's dietary requirements at every stage in its life. Such feeds are now generally produced in the form of small pellets to reduce waste. Typically a laying hen will require about 130 gm of feed per day containing about 16% protein. This should be supplemented with 20 gm of grain, such as wheat; scattered on the ground in the evening.

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Eggs

Young hens or pullets start to lay at about 20 weeks of age. Commercial laying hens can lay over 300 eggs per year although this is much lower for some of the older breeds and those bred for meat production.

Flocks do not require to include a rooster or cock if they are to lay eggs; only where fertilised eggs are required for breeding. Fertilised eggs, if collected and used regularly are perfectly OK to eat.

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Flock Management

It is helpful in managing any flock to understand bird behaviour. Chickens have a well developed social structure based on the “pecking order”. The dominant hen is at the top of this order and can peck all beneath her. The second tier can peck those below them but not the one above and so on. Once established this pecking order allows a flock to co-exist peacefully.

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Pests and Diseases

As with all livestock, chickens do occasionally fall ill and if in doubt you should consult a veterinary surgeon.

However good management will prevent many diseases and lead to early recognition of others. Four key principles will, if applied correctly, go a long way to minimising disease problems.

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Breeding and Rearing Chickens

Breeding and raising poultry can be very rewarding, especially watching them hatch as chicks and then grow into mature adults. You can either breed your own stock or purchase “hatching eggs” which will be already fertilised and ready for incubation.

If you decide to breed your own birds then you must select the breeding stock from healthy and fully developed chickens. Hens should be at least 1 year old and cocks at least 6 months.

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Keeping Chickens

  • Questions to ask before you start?

    Keeping chickens can be an extremely satisfying pastime with the added bonus of providing fresh eggs for family and friends. It does however require sustained commitment so before you start

    Read More
  • Choosing a Breed

    Hybrids. Commercial hybrid chickens are particular commercial crossbreeds based on those originally selected in the 1950s for the battery cage producers seeking to vastly increase production over the traditional pure

    Read More
  • Housing

    As explained earlier housing for hens does not need to be large or elabotate as long as it provides the essential requirements of shelter, protection, and sufficient space to exercise

    Read More
  • Feeding

    Poultry will eat most things but like all animals they require a balanced diet for good health and best performance. The best way to achieve this is by feeding ready

    Read More
  • Eggs

    Young hens or pullets start to lay at about 20 weeks of age. Commercial laying hens can lay over 300 eggs per year although this is much lower for some

    Read More
  • Flock Management

    It is helpful in managing any flock to understand bird behaviour. Chickens have a well developed social structure based on the “pecking order”. The dominant hen is at the top

    Read More
  • Pests and Diseases

    As with all livestock, chickens do occasionally fall ill and if in doubt you should consult a veterinary surgeon. However good management will prevent many diseases and lead to early

    Read More
  • Breeding and Rearing Chickens

    Breeding and raising poultry can be very rewarding, especially watching them hatch as chicks and then grow into mature adults. You can either breed your own stock or purchase “hatching

    Read More
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News / Blog

The Supply Chain Development Programme is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). Further information on the programme is available at www.countrysiderural.co.uk