How to choose a chicken is a question that many people ask us. This is a huge topic. There are many many different breeds of chicken, and within those breeds there are many colour variations. For example: the Sussex chicken, comes in white, coronation, red, speckled, light, buff and silver. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder because not all hens are brown. It is nice to get a variety of hens for your garden flock, either to be able to tell them apart or just for interest. Garden hens don’t need to be kept in flocks of the same type or colour. Chickens are not focussed on colour or breed differences. Their society is much more complex than that but at the same time, refreshingly simple.
Our advice is always this:- choose your chicken based on what you like the look of. Almost all chickens will lay eggs, some more than others. Egg numbers depends on the breeding, age, health status and the time of year. Show chickens tend to lay less because they have been selected for breeding based on beauty, not egg numbers.
Which hens lay the most eggs
It is all too easy to get hung up on doing your research on how many eggs a hen will produce. Choosing a chicken this way comes under the banner of “how long is a piece of string”. Sure, a commercial hybrid such as a Warren or a Hy-line brown will lay an egg virtually every day but they will only do so up to the age of about 72 weeks. After that you will get a very diminishing return. A pure breed will lay fewer eggs, but over their laying lifetime, they could well lay the same number in total but over a longer period. It’s horses for courses. Hybrids will generally live fast die young, but pure breeds are more slow and steady wins the race.
We actually think that the value of a chicken is worth more than what they produce. They have hidden depths which are revealed to their lucky keepers as time goes by. Eggs are exceedingly fresh, very delicious and exciting to receive as a gift from your hens, but it will eventually dawn on you that hens are way more than just a quirky garden ornament. Choosing the right chicken for you is a matter of personal preference.
A chicken can be summed up as
Interested in you
Accepting of affection
Provider of purpose to lost souls
Provider of the most delicious eggs
Ambassadors for all birdkind
Garden designers extraordinaire
Source of mirth and joy
This is a very concise list but I could go on and on, but I will leave that up to you. Once you have discovered the joy of chicken keeping, you will be able to compile your own list. Some of the items on my list will I am sure find their way onto your list too.
Early in March 2019 we had an incubator hired out at Wirral Hospice St John’s in Bebington. I was a bit apprehensive to take it to somewhere that I felt might be quite a gloomy place given the massive healthcare issues the patients face. I could not have been more wrong. It is fair to say that they became ever so excited to witness the hatching of their eggs. Work stopped in favour of egg watching, you can feel the excitement in the air. The hot topic amongst patients and staff alike is not medical – it’s eggs and it’s chicks. The last thing on the patients’ minds was medical matters. They definitely are in the grips of chicken fever.
On Monday 12th March the 21st day of the incubator hire period, the first chicks emerged to greet the world. But the rest are still to hatch so the incubator must remain closed to make sure that the humidity remains constant.
The way an egg incubator works is you need to wait until all the eggs have hatched before you can open it up to get at the chicks because otherwise you lose the humidity. Chicks need the humidity to keep their shell membranes soft so they can break through them. Moisture laden air also assists the chick so it is able to spin inside the egg to unzip the top by creating a crack all the way round to make an escape hatch. Any remaining egg yolk is absorbed by the chick into its body before hatching and they live off it for the first 48 hours. The early birds are safe to remain in the incubator until the rest of the batch of eggs catches up.
And there’s more!
A day later passes and another 4 chicks have hatched. The brooder has been delivered and installed and there was a rush of staff to the incubation site so they could get their first experience of handling a bundle of cute fluffiness. There is much distraction around, staff making excuses to just have a peek on their way to another task. Patients with families and friends ogling the little tweeting fluffballs and a real sense of pride that they have produced their own little creatures. The incubator hire was a winner in more ways than one.
Therapeutic benefits of chickens
From what I have seen in care situations, chicks bring a sense of new beginnings. This is true for the elderly or the lonely or those who are very sick or dementia sufferers. They bring a real joy to those who witness it. It is something that I never tire of. It is no wonder that care institutions are bringing hens in as therapy. They are a source of chatter, where once there was none, and a thrill of excitement where there was numbness or loneliness. A humble chicken can provide a sense of being needed and of purpose. This is the superpower of a creature that seems to know exactly the right things to say to make all other problems seem to melt into the background. Chickens bring a feeling of well-being, cooperation and togetherness to all those involved in their care – such is their magic.
We have just started to stock these coops called Henlays Chicken Coops. They are easy to clean because there is no stooping or bending needed to make sure they are clean. We think they suit the needs of a care/medical/support organisation more than any other coop we have yet seen. Check this page for more info or view the specifics on our shop page
Spread the love
If you know of someone or somewhere that can benefit from the therapeutic benefits of these bridge-building creatures please ask us to see if we can assist you get up and running via our contact page. They don’t call them a gateway livestock for nothing.
Our waiting list is a mailchimp list whereby we can send an email to all our waiting list subscribers who would like to know as soon as we have some chickens for sale. You can find the waiting list option on our contact form here
We have plenty of stock at the moment of all ages so the waiting list is not needed. Please contact us if you wish to purchase hens via our contact form or call us on 01244-/646/026
WE HAVE BEEN INCUBATING IN 2022 SINCE APRIL AND WE HAVE SOME STOCK READY TO GO
Covid 19 and Avian Influenza
Many people decided to take up chicken keeping once covid hit us and Avian Influenza raised its head again over the winter of 2021/2022. There are growing growing numbers of Bird Flu infections in August and September 2022, so the likelihood is that breeders will keep their stock very low again over the 2022/2023 winter period. Feed prices have sky-rocketed, therefore both events will take their toll on general chicken supply. In response to the almost weekly rising price of feed, many poultry breeders are cutting their losses and reducing their breeding flocks. Demand is brisk but mainly for point of lay birds which obviously take some time to grow.
This year 2022
So far in 2022 we have been getting deliveries of Black Rocks from the Muirfield Layers hatchery in Scotland. They also do a Brown Rock which is a Rhode Island Red over Light Sussex resulting in a brown chicken with a black tail. We are hatching as fast as our incubators allow so there is usually something we can offer you. Give us a call on O1244646O26 to find out what is available or to ask any questions.
How old are chickens when we sell them?
Chicks are sold whenever people want them. Unsexed chicks are available from day old. (There is a risk that they could be cockerels so please bear that in mind). We can determine the sex of our chicks at 6-8 weeks old and we offer a hen guarantee with those. Any that turn out to be boys will be swapped in line with our guarantee. We don’t swap boys when we have specifically sold them as unsexed. If you are looking for hens (albeit rather cute youngsters) then take a look at our latest stock post. We update our availability here on our blog page. We will be having Ixworth, Swedish Flower Hens, Coronation Sussex and Salmon Faverolles. Various hybrids will be available at some stage during year. We also have “guest” hatchings of breeds such as Cream Legbar, or Marans from time to time.
Essential things to do while you are waiting
Research the Care Requirements by joining our Instant Access Online Course
While you are on our waiting list, you may wish to research some good chicken husbandry minimum requirements. Chickens don’t require much but they do require the correct care to enable them to lay well and remain healthy. Get a jump start in your chicken knowledge by looking into doing our online Chicken Keeping Course. The course can also make you realise that perhaps chicken keeping is not for you once you have more knowledge on the subject. This is a two edged sword because if your heart isn’t in it, you will have wasted money on setting yourself up to no avail if you decide at a later date that it doesn’t fit into your lifestyle. Either way it is money well spent.
Day Old and Young Chick Care Research
If you are looking for day old chicks or young chicks then it is very wise (essential) to consult our blog article on the care needs of these more delicate creatures. We will be asking for proof of your preparedness. It you don’t get the conditions right to look after young chicks, they will die. We have another course running on incubating and rearing chicks if you want to start from scratch.
It is coming to our attention that some people are of the opinion that they can just dump chickens in the garden and they will stroll around popping out some eggs every day. Chickens require housing for safety and also some weather protection. We have been hearing of people feeding them on old bread and left-over takeaway rubbish. Their welfare needs to be high priority so this is quite shocking. Chickens need to be fed well with a diet that is properly formulated and best suited for avian digestive systems. They are not feathery dustbins. Feeding them household scraps is not legally allowed and is certainly not going to give them a diet which will allow them to be their most productive or healthy. Based on the saying rubbish in, rubbish out; with hens it is definitely rubbish in, nothing out.
Attend to Foxproofing as high priority
Most important is how to avoid your new hens from becoming a convenient take-away snack for a hungry fox or badger. Check out our chicken foxproofing post for tips to safeguard your chickens
Avian Influenza Current Information
We have a blog page devoted to the current regulations relating to Avian Influenza which had raised its head again in the winters of 2020/21 and 2021/22 in the UK. Make sure you are up to date with what you MUST do to comply with the current laws. There are unlimited fines and probably imprisonment for those not heeding the requirements. There are currently no housing restrictions in place BUT it is always wise to be prepared so building a confinement area that is big enough for the birds to be happy will stand you in good stead should an avian lockdown be forced. It might not happen every winter but if it does then this forward planning will allow you to feel quite smug and prepared.
How to get notified of new stock
Please use our Contact page to be added to our waiting list. Tick the waiting list option along with the “opt-in” to give us permission to contact you. Our mailing lists, which are infrequent, have an easy unsubscribe link to unsubscribe at any time. We do not wish to annoy you by emailing you unnecessarily. Please know that we take your privacy very seriously and will not spam you without permission. As we say, spam is for fritters and we hate fritters.
Update your Chicken Coop equipment
We are now stocking fabulous coops called Henlays Roost which are easy to clean and are easy to manage from a Red Mite eradication perspective. If you need to have a lie-in in the morning instead of living in “chicken-time” then invest in a Chickenguard. This will let your chickens out at a time of your choosing so you don’t have to rise with the lark at stupid o’clock. It will also shut them away safely at night thus rushing back to close your coop is now a thing of the past. We now have Chickenguard for sale on our web shop. Nestera Coops (previously Green Frog Designs) have approached us and we are happy to be providing these coops also in the very near future.
Today I spent a good few hours rearranging all my pens to keep the age groups in one place. I have chickens all over the place so it was time to make it more organised.
Well after I caught them up, they ran off, so I caught them again. They didn’t like their new pen because it was obviously a scary place. So inconsiderate! Considering I spent ages digging in some lime to disinfect the area. It also rearranged my hair as I got it caught in the netting. Dragged through a hedge backwards is a recurring theme for me these days. They then made a bolt for the door every time I brought another 2 over. I don’t know about them, but I found it quite stressful. It certainly increased my step count for the day according to my fitness phone app so not all bad!!
When I finally finished I took a picture so I could see what I had and which colour mixes I had. This is not the only batch of chickens I have either so I might have to give myself a stern talking to.
These are now ready to go to their new homes. We have Brahma in Pyle, and Buff Columbian. We have some Orpingtons in Lavender and some Swedish Flower Hens Crossed with either Leghorn or Ancona.
That moment when you realise exactly how many chickens you have. Chicken maths – aka chicken addiction – is a real thing, especially here.
For the uninitiated, the term Chicken Maths relates to a Phenomenon (excuse) for why numbers of chickens get out of control. It starts off by getting a flock of 3, then because you cannot add a single chicken to an existing flock, you end up with 2 more. If you lose one and need to replace it, you end up with another 2 minimum. And so it goes.
Of all the seasons I hate the Autumn the most. I find it hard to find joy in anything. The balmy warmth of Summer is retreating and only dank damp decay is creeping over the still landscape. I am looking out of the window now and I can see partially bare trees with limp leaves which can hardly muster enough energy to look alive. Yes, the colour is there but there is no wind. Autumn has a sort of stillness as though it is waiting to be something else. Dismal is how Autumn makes me feel. It’s as though I have just lost a friend that I will not see again for ages. I am feeling maudling today.
It’s time to go and see my chooks. Sitting with them always cheers me up. They should bottle the sort of therapy they give me. At one time once Autumn raised her stifling blanket of dreariness I never left the house. Now I have a reason to be outdoors, which is helpful. It gives me some much-needed exercise too. Roll on Winter. Now winter is a proper season. It is invigorating, wild, stark, architectural, crisp and bright. Winter isn’t pretending to be anything it’s not. I love winter.
Welcome to our world of chicken keeping. A place where everything is not quite what it seems. A world where once there was no noise in the garden, where no crooning from contented voices happened and where chicken poo seemed something only mad people even looked at – let alone touched. This has become our world and we welcome you to it.
Now I am not the most prolific blogger in the world as you may find out but I do have an enduring passion for these lovable and interactive creatures. They are my guilty pleasure and also my happy place of calm. So much so, that I could not imagine life without them.
This is Doris. She is a Lohmann Brown and an ex-batt. She was one of our first chickens. A very lucky girl as she was rescued through the British Hen Welfare Trust from a battery farm existence and was destined for the knackers yard. She came to us virtually oven ready, with two friends that we called Queenie and Beryl, and she blossomed into the lovely hen you see here. We are so lucky to have rescued her as she taught us a lot about chicken-kind and so our unlikely story began….