The Outdoor Boutique - Life in the Country: Keeping Chickens

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Chickens are the ideal first 'livestock' project and it is no surprise that so many people have taken the step to raise their own hens. The fantastic taste of eggs from your own free range chickens is better than any other egg you will have tasted and is just one of many rewards of keeping your own chickens. 

You don't need much space to keep a small number of birds which means that many people keep chickens in their gardens. You can lose track of time just watching the individual characters of the chickens as they interact with their environment and each other. We discovered that our hens went bananas for... bananas! So if we wanted to clean them out in peace and quiet just chuck them a banana away from the coop and crack on. 

Part of the fun was making our own coops. We found hundreds of different designs on the internet and in books and settled on one that we handily had off-cuts of roughly the right dimensions.  

You learn pretty quickly that there are always things to do with keeping livestock. Whether it is clipping wings, treating for scaly feet or mites in the coop you soon develop a routine. Of course the muck form the coop is good for the flower beds so you can put all that good stuff to use.  We were "given" a cockerel by a local farmer who no longer wanted him. We only discovered we were the proud owners of him when we went to feed the hens one day and saw the enormous cockerel strutting his stuff. The cheeky farmer simply chucked him in when we weren't there. Luckily with no immediate neighbours to hear his morning call we decided to take the opportunity to hatch our own eggs so after a short while we incubated 6 eggs in a table top automatically rotating incubator we picked up from the local farm store. All but one of the eggs hatched but it gave us three cockerels and two hens.

Chickens can be good pets and can be tamed if handled from a young age. A teacher friend of ours keeps chickens at the school which the children take care of. They love them and it creates an awareness of where their food comes from. This was the primary reason why we chose to keep chickens. We wanted to know that the meat we ate was well looked after and lived a happy live.

We encourage any one who is interested in keeping chickens to do it. Whether it is for egg production or for the table to see your birds thrive and live happily together. If you don't want to keep chickens then please consider where your meat and eggs come from and buy from a free range supply. Unfortunately there are still too many birds kept in terrible conditions. Consumers can play a role in changing things for the better.

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