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Keeping Chickens For Beginners UK | Chicken Starter Guide

Chickens are a fantastic addition to the family and there's nothing quite like looking after these lovely birds and collecting fresh eggs in the mornings. That said there are a few things you need to know as you begin on this brilliant journey, so in this video I share some top tips to help get you on your way.

Transcript: 

Hi everyone, I'm Andy, thank you for watching. In today's video I'm just going to teach you and go through some simple step-by-step guides on the basics of looking after chickens. Chickens are a great animal to have and a great addition to the family in your backyard. So keep watching and I'm going to give you some simple ideas and tricks on how to look after your chickens for the first time. So firstly then let's talk about space. Now in my opinion chickens need as much space as you can possibly give them. So have a look in your garden or your plot, wherever it is you're looking to putting your hens, and kind of think carefully about what's the maximum amount of space you can give your chickens. I think there's no official rule in the UK for space as far as I'm aware, but I read somewhere a while back that for four hens you're looking at five foot by four foot. Now in my opinion that's nowhere near enough space for four hens, I would be looking at doubling that. My hens I've only got the three at the minute but they're enclosed in a 25 meter electric fence area which obviously I appreciate is quite a big space, but just have a think carefully, the more space the better basically. The more space you've got the happier they'll be, and essentially the more eggs that they are going to lay for you.

                          Next up then let's talk about some of the basic requirements that your chickens will need. Obviously food and water. So you can buy these. These are little plastic feeders. This one is a one and a half kilogram feeder which I use as a spare. Mine I let free range around so when I let them out, I put this by the greenhouse and they're quite happy. This is a drinker for them which I also use as a spare, but in this heat I do put it in their enclosure and I hang it up. That's a one and a half litre drinker. This is enough for three hens for a day. In this sort of weather they get kind of clean cold water twice a day. If you are planning on having any more than three, I would definitely recommend going for at least a five litre jug. Just to kind of show you these are my hens staple bowls. So depending on your budget and as I say space that you've got available, hello girls, this is the Omlet range so this is the drinker, off top my head I'm not sure how much this holds but I'm probably going to say three litres, maybe a little bit more. So that's their main drinking bowl and then this is their main feeder. So this holds a lot more pellets than this. So if you can, I'd recommend buying something like this to begin with. This will fit in most coops as well. Monty having a relax in the sun.

                          So next up then let's talk about food. So if you're just starting out on your kind of journey, your experience with looking after chickens, I'd probably recommend initially going for some point-of-lay hybrids.Some of the kind of rare breeds and pure breeds can offer kind of more challenges if you like in terms of kind of health, broodiness that type of thing, but with regards to feed, if you go for a point-of-lay hen at that point that means, or a POL you might hear it being called as well, if you go for a POL point-of-lay hen, that means that they're ready at that point to start laying from that moment kind of onwards. So it essentially means that you're going to need to feed them the right food. So this is what I feed, sorry girls, this is what I feed my hens at the minute. This is Verm-X layers pellets. S o this is a complete food. I'll show you what they look like. And that's what they are, so this offers everything they need in pellet form. The Verm-Z itself contains, the girls are having a little scrap over the food, but it contains some natural ingredients as well, kind of herbal ingredients which just kind of helps maintain their intestinal and their gut basically. So in my opinion, prevention is always better than cure with regards to chickens. We'll talk a little bit now about health. Okay so just before we move on to the topic of health, chickens need grit. Okay this grit they keep in their crop with their food and they digest that at night time. The grit helps break down the food so it's easy for them to digest but it also adds calcium back into their diet. The layers pellets should have enough enough calcium but sometimes that's not always the case, so by offering grit in particular, kind of grit specifically for chickens, that's going to help replenish those kind of calcium levels and therefore you're going to get strong shells on your eggs. It's always, well not always but sometimes it's a tell tale sign that your birds aren't getting enough calcium when they're laying softer shelled eggs. So there's two kind of ways that you can offer them grit: one you can let them if you've got the space, let them free range and they'll go off and find it themselves and kind of pick and choose as and when they need it. The other kind of options you've got are you can mix it with your food. I personally don't do that because I think well if they want it they'll have it, they don't need to kind of be forced into having grit. So what I do is I've got a few of these little tubs, just a couple of holes drilled in for the liquid to escape when it rains. I fill those with grit, I've got four of these dotted around the chicken coop itself. So they can just help themselves kind of as and when. So when I'm at work and stuff and they're not free ranging around the plot, they've got that grit readily available.

                          Now chickens are the master of disguise when it comes to being poorly. They're a natural prey animal so they hide their illnesses really well. By the time you've spotted that there's potentially something wrong with your hen, it can be too late which is why I'm all about prevention. So there's a few things you can add to the chicken's diet to prevent illnesses. Things like apple cider vinegar which is this. So I add this, just a lid full to every tub of water that I give them. This is for kind of overall health, intestinal, and it just promotes as I say overall kind of good health with your bird. Touch wood I've never had an issue with my hens. So I would highly recommend using apple cider vinegar and just as I say, just add it to their drinking water. The Verm-X or their food that's also got kind of added as I mentioned added benefits already and part of the ingredients so when they're eating that it's  only promoting good bacteria health, again so it's kind of lowering that risk, mitigating that risk slightly for me. That said there are a few common parasitic issues that chickens can get. So the first one is called scaly leg mite and you'll notice this, it would be quite easy for you to spot. If you look at the chicken's legs, the scales won't be smooth facing downwards like they should do on a normal bird's leg. Instead they'll be a little bit rough to touch, maybe lifted up a little bit almost like a fish scale. If they're raised up, that would normally indicate scaly leg mite. It's really easy to treat. There's numerous kind of treatments and ointments, you can even use Vaseline, smother that over the leg but there's numerous treatments on the market for scaly leg mite. So if you do notice that on your birds don't panic too much. Just as I say have a look see what sort of treatment best suits you and what your budget allows. But as I said it's something as simple as smothering the leg in Vaseline will potentially do the job. The other parasitic kind of lice infection that chickens can get and possibly the most common one is the dreaded red mite. Red mite is a pain in the backside. It's carried by wild birds. Every chicken keeper will experience a red mite infestation at some point during chicken keeping career. Now I use the Omlet egg cube. This is the mark II version. The wooden coops that you can buy are great and they're kind of fantastic in the sense of they can kind of suit all budgets, but that said it's a bit more tricky to manage an infestation of red mite if you get an outbreak. And you'll notice red might, your birds will be a little bit lethargic, maybe the comb will be a bit droopy, it won't be quite as bright red. Again that's another good kind of tell tale sign there's an issue with your bird. If you do notice that, start having a look inside your coop. So I'm going to show you inside now, inside this, where the kind of likelihood red mite would be living.

                          So I'll just open up this. This is the nesting area. So I do, I grow some herbs in a vegetable garden and I do pop in some of those in their nesting box as well. Then this is their main living quarters. So the difference between this and your kind of standard wooden coop is there's lots more nooks and crannies in a wooden coop for red mites to live and thrive. Normally in a wooden coop you'll have say your base here so you can kind of remove this section where the droppings are, and then you would normally have say you know a bit of kind of wood coming up the side and then roosting bars sort of nay high off the ground, something like that. In those little areas that's where red might thrive. So in here there's a few places where if I wasn't careful they could. Let's just move this out the way. Blimey, I only cleaned them out two days ago. Right so you're looking for the little tiny areas so here, this is where the roosting bars sit on, that's where red mite would live, up here in the corners, the joists, underneath between the roof and the side panel here. That's another kind of lovely house for red mite, and then just at the front there, I've got the automatic door, and just underneath it there's a nice little dark sort of area, you can just sort of make it out, just sort of along there. Again that's another kind of favourite hiding spot for red mite.

                          Right, eggs collected for today: so two today. That's good. Our chickens are about three years old so they're still laying well. I'm just going to pop these in the greenhouse, and whilst I'm doing that I'll go and get some of the kind of treatments and a bit more information for you with regards to how to treat your chickens if they do get things like red mites. So I'll pop the eggs in there for now. Now one of your options which some people use, some people don't, it's kind of up for debate really, Diatomaceous Earth. Make sure it's food grade if you are going to use it. So I use Diatomaceious Earth in their dust bath areas. So I've created a dust bath in that old tyre there, and then they've also got another area that they've made themselves further up and also underneath the coop itself. But I've mixed that in with a bit of sand. Play sand as well, don't use normal sand but play sand, a bit of soil, a bit of compost and a bit of Diotomacious Earth. This would help combat any issues of lice, mites and things like that. It's really kind of sharp, you don't want to be breathing it in too much, but as long as it's food grade, you're kind of limiting your risk and try not to use too much.

                          Popped in the barn now just to pick up some of the other products that I use. So every week I'll clean the chickens out and I'll give them a good clean. So the thing I kind of use for that is just a standard disinfectant kind of cleaner for poultry. Then sort of once a month as well, I'll just pick up the birds and then you've got this mites and lice powder. Pop a little bit of this under their wings and you can also add this to their top of their bedding, in their nesting areas as well and that's quite a good sort of preventative measure. Then finally then just in regards to the topic of health is worming. Now chickens are susceptible to worms there's no getting away from that. So what I use, again there's different methods out there, but what I do, I use Heygates Country Feeds, which is a layers pellet, but it's also got the addition of a worming medication called flubenvet, I think that's how you pronounce it. Have a look for that, you feed this continuously for seven days, nothing else in their diet. Just these pellets, you can still eat their eggs as well at that time so it's great, you don't have to stop eating their the eggs they produce. And I do that twice a year. So I'll do that just as we're heading into spring and I'll do it as we're kind of going out of autumn time as well. Finally then this is what I use for their bedding. It's called easibed. It's all compostable as well. So it's really kind of fine. I'm not sure if it's hemp actually this one, I'm not sure, but this is only about a tenner for a big bag. Put that in their nesting areas and underneath their dropping tray and then as I say you can put that straight out onto the compost bin, which is great because if you grow vegetables as well like me, then you'll know how valuable chicken manure is. But I hope you have found this video useful. Please put some comments, ideas, feedback, whatever it might be in the comments below. It's always great when I hear from you guys so thank you very much. Thank you to the recent people that have subscribed as well. And if you like my content, check out my channel, please