Friday, 24 December 2010

Choosing a chicken coop

It's hard for a beginner to know what to choose! I was like this when pregnant and trying to work out what I needed... I didn't know a bugaboo from a babygrow and had no idea what a baby vest was! Well I feel exactly the same way now and a millions questions have been asked in the last couple of weeks: How big should the run be for when they're not free ranging? Should the coop be on the ground or elevated? How do I treat red spider mite? What if I get 'funny' eggs? And the big one - should I keep them at the allotment or at home??? Answers on a postcard please...

The matter's complicated because I plan on rescuing battery hens. The next BHWT ( rescue session for my area is at the end of January. So, it's going to be a bit chilly. They will have been kept in a small cage in constant warmth and light conditions and they're suddely going to be in the open air. They're probably going to be missing a few feathers and will need some help in the early days. So that all points to keeping the chickens at home - at least to start with. If that's the case then I'll have to get a small coop, with a smaller run, but on the positive side they'll be let out to free range more than if they're at the allotment. They'd need a much bigger run at the allotment to make up for the reduced time spent free ranging.

So, at least to start I think I'm getting a small coop and run for my back garden. I'll extend the run so that they can roam under the trees in my "woodland area" [aka the bit of the garden sheltered by next door's huge trees where nothing will grow unless I continuously water the area].

The next problem is not really a problem, but it does make it more expensive. I want a raised coop so that their is a sheltered area underneath for them to roam and also to keep things out of the coop (like rats!). I've read that it helps with damp problems too.

I've got to fox-proof the garden as well; at the moment there is a hole in the fence that a fox uses to wonder around the garden. That needs fixing. And my allotment friends who keep chickens suggested putting something around the base of the run to stop the foxes digging underneath.

Luckily my lovely partner David is buying me the coop for my Christmas and birthday present, but he has been prompting me to make a decision so he can get on and buy. And I think I've nearly decided... just need to ponder it for a few more days.

All this and I haven't even thought about feeders, food etc!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Dear Father Christmas

My daughter, my partner and I have been writing letters to Mr Claus. I thought it was about time to manage expectations - last year (at the ripe old age of 3 1/2) she became convinced she'd get a wishing box after having seen it on Disney's little einsteins late on Christmas eve. She woke up in the morning and went through the presents getting more and more disappointed... it was so bad she eventually started trying to hide her disappointment.

We eventually worked out what she wanted - a green box with red ribbon and a toy cat inside. So simple to fulfil if we'd only known!!! So this year it's letters to Father Christmas.

So why am I writing about Christmas on an allotment blog? Well, I've asked for seeds but also a book about chickens. I've been thinking about it for a couple of years now and think I'm going to take the plunge.

So, what do I need to get? A book for starters (although there are several chicken coops on our allotment, including my neighbour Tom so I should be able to get lots of advice and help). A hen house. Now there's a tricky one. I was quite keen on an eglu or eglu cube But have also seen this type of chicken house which I think looks quite good.

And the last, and most important question is: What type of chickens? I quite like the look of Buff Orpingtons and understand that they are nice hens. I've been told to get Rhode Island Reds as they are good layers. But I'm a bit stumped. Perhaps it will be down to what is available in my area?? Watch this space!