I have dreamed of keeping chickens for a good couple of years now. In my last home it just wasn’t possible as the garden was too small. After a year of badgering Him Outdoors, he finally relented and said ok a couple of months back. So then started my research in earnest on all things chickens. Firstly the coop. There are just so many options out there, it’s a bit of a minefield really and prices do vary wildly. I did find out that coops with the roof felting on (like you get on sheds) is a no no really as it is perfect for red mites. They are horrible little things that feed off the chickens at night when it’s dark. Pretty vampirey huh! They can be prevented provided you maintain good habits with looking after your coop (so I have read anyway); and I am diligently following all advice in the hope it works beautifully in the long run.
I went to a few pet shops and looked at coops. I then found Chicken Coops Direct and fell in love with the Sussex House with the run. I liked the fact there is a covered area for shelter and shade and it looks pretty easy to clean out. Exploring the website further you can sign up for the chicken keeping guide with videos. Even though I had already read a huge amount, I thought why not and really enjoyed receiving the daily emails for a week. Watching the video guides was even more helpful and I would say if you are thinking of keeping chickens then it really is worth doing. It’s free and there’s no obligation either.
I have opted to keep the chickens on the top level of our garden for a couple of reasons. Their security being the main one and also the bottom of our garden is prone to flooding when it rains heavily thereby deeming it unsuitable. We had the issue of everything being paving slabbed, so a little jack hammer thingummy was duly hired and Him Outdoors got to work breaking up the concrete….
only to find more paving slabs underneath…why? Why would you do that???
So a bit of a rethink was in order. We decided not to dig down further for fear of what we might find and also it means that foxes won’t be able to dig down deep enough to gain access. So we bought lots of top soil and then turfed the area for the coop to go on. I know the turf won’t last very long as chickens like to scratch but it gives them good scratching ground.
Him Outdoors found the coop and run easy to assemble with good instructions and I am so pleased with it!
I bought everything in advance of the arrival and again after much spoddy research decided on Layers Mash with Bokashi added in from Wiggly Wigglers (whom I bought a wormery from years ago and it’s still going strong!) because it claims to reduce the poo smell significantly and has received glowing reviews! I also picked up the Oyster Shells from there too (chickens need a bit of extra calcium for their egg shells). I then chose to buy the bedding from Flyte So Fancy opting for the Hemp Bedding as this again has excellent reviews and was also recommended by experienced keepers as being a good option. And finally I bought a bag of bark from them too for the run.
The final thing to do was to choose the girls! A couple of friends had told me about Moon Ridge Farm a while back. Only a few short miles outside of Exeter and with the added bonus of it being north of the city (we live north, did you guess?) we went over for a good look around about a month before buying. If you get the chance go and have a wander. It’s so lovely there with many different chicken breeds, water fowl. There are pigmy goats to see and an enclosure you can walk into with wallabys and deer! Yes really. The surrounding countryside views are simply stunning.
So, introducing the girls… firstly we have Cybil (Fawlty), named by Him Outdoors as she seems to be the boss! Cybil is a Lohman Brown.
Next we have Bette. She has a beautiful green shimmery sheen to her coat. She is a Bovans Nera.
And finally here is Myrtle. She is an Amber Link and she has been the first to start laying last Sunday!
I chose Cybil & Myrtle because their are supposed to be the friendliest of breeds for keeping around children and Bette because (so say Moon Ridge Farm) her breed is the first to make friends in the flock.
We are now on week three of keeping chickens, so early days. I let them out during the day to roam around. My veg plants have taken a bit of battering so I have moved them down the bottom of the garden. I am now considering extending the run further (for days when we may be out all day and they can’t roam, though they have 30sqft in their house & run already, I have read in this article in the Guardian you should allow 4sqft per chook). and we are also considering fencing off part of the garden for their sole use, thereby leaving the rest of it poop free for us. I do clean up their mess at the end of each day I hasten to add! If we do fence off an area we will have to dig up more concrete and make it properly fit for purpose for them.
I love their fluffy bums!
Disclosure: After a few emails back and forth with Chicken Coop Direct (and me telling them about this blog) they kindly agreed to give me a small discount on my coop. I am very happy with everything I have bought and if you’re thinking of keeping some chickens, I recommend everything I have bought!