02 December 2008
Getting by: keeping chickens
It seems that keeping livestock has suddenly become fashionable in the UK, so let's look at the pros and cons of keeping chickens, since they are the most fashionable form of livestock around.
Contrary to all the hype, keeping one or two chickens is not going to give you more than one or two eggs a week, unless you happen to be very lucky. Now you are going to need a coop for them to sleep and lay their eggs in, and a run for them to scamper about in during the day. Given that Britain now has a largish population of urban foxes, you need to make sure that this area is thoroughly protected from those creatures.
Before you go any further, you really need to do a cost-benefit analysis at this point. How much is the coop and run going to cost? Sure, you can buy one ready made, but that is going to set you back somewhere in the region of £600 if you buy this top of the range version. Given the cost of eggs in your local supermarket, how many centuries would it take before you had recouped an investment like that?
If you are determined to have an expensive structure in your garden, it might make sense to wait until Jeremy and Jennifer have got bored with theirs and have put it for sale. In the meantime get to work repairing an old shed to serve as your coop and surround it with a cage of chicken wire to keep the foxes and cats at bay.
If you live in a house with a back yard, is the old toilet still standing? If it is then all you need to do is remove the throne and block up the hole with cement. Replace the door with something that doesn't have a gap at the bottom and then put in a bar that runs from wall to wall for the chickens to roost on. Hey presto you have a chicken coop. So long as you were around during the day then they could have the run of the yard. However, if you are out, then it might be an idea to enclose part of the yard with chicken wire, just in case a feral cat fancies lunch.
In Mexico the urban population who live in flats often keep a couple of bantam chickens on a window ledge. The husband will knock up a wooden platform which will have a small coop on it and the chickens get the run of the rest of the ledge during the day. They usually have a cord attached to one leg to stop them vanishing off somewhere.
So what is the advice here? Basically to save some brass by keeping chickens for their eggs. To do that you have to keep your initial outlay down to a minimum. The more work you can do yourself when it comes to constructing your coop and run the better.
Then enjoy your home laid eggs.