Keeping chickens in your back garden has suddenly become more and more popular. Concerns about battery farming and wanting to know where your food is coming from, and Jamie Oliver’s campaign to raise awareness on animal welfare have fuelled the desire for many of us to ask the question – is keeping chickens for us?
Some things you may like to consider before you get started in keeping chickens.
Although keeping chickens can be good for your garden (they eat bugs and slugs, they scratch and turn over the soil, they are a source of rich manure), they can also destroy it if allowed to roam freely. Chickens scratch around in search for those juicy insects and bugs – and they don’t care if it’s where you have planted your vegetable seedlings. They are also partial to a bit of greenery – including grass. Therefore you will have to consider fencing a bit of garden off for them, or having a moveable chicken run.
As to the amount of space needed for a run there is no set rule for this, however a minimum of 2m2 should be considered for 4 chickens.
If you are going to let your chickens roam free, then you need to make sure that they cannot escape (and ruin your neighbours borders) and that predators cannot get in. So you may need to put up some more fencing or chicken coops. Learn what are chicken coops.
Finally, if you have a pond you need to make sure it has shallow edges and that the chicken will easily be able to get out if she falls in – chickens cannot swim!
Although cats may be partial to a bit of cooked chicken for dinner, they are not partial to live, unprepared chicken. Therefore, if you’re keeping chickens then cats are unlikely to bother them, in fact they tend to ignore each other. Cats prefer to sit and bask in the sun, while chickens prefer to scratch around in the shade of a bush.
Dogs could be a problem – but it depends on the dog, their training , their breed and their nature. You will know (hopefully) if your dog is likely to chase and kill the chickens. Most dogs, once they are introduced to the chickens and perhaps after the initial barking, will settle down and live quite happily beside the chickens. In some ways dogs can be an asset in deterring predators or warning of their presence.