I’ve been looking after chickens at the Bell Plantation since I was 14. Now at the age of 22 I thought I would answer a few of the most common questions people ask me when they come in to get started with chickens.

6 Frequently asked questions about keeping chickens……

1. Do you need a cockerel for the Hens to lay eggs?

Hens will lay eggs whether they are in with a cockerel or not. If you would want to breed from the eggs they lay then you need a cockerel to fertilise them. For a scrambled egg breakfast , all you need are hens.

2. How many eggs do chickens lay?

It depends on the breed. Specialised laying birds can lay up to 300 a year, at a rate of 1 a day for most of the year, but stopping shortly during the winter. Rare breeds will lay considerably less, so how many eggs you want from your chickens should have a large influence on which breed you buy.

3. Do I have to let my chickens out during the day?

Most good quality chicken houses come with runs attached meaning that the chickens have a place to sleep at night and somewhere to peck around outside during the day. This means that as long as you don’t ram the thing full of chickens they will be very happy spending all their time in their pen. All pens come with a recommended number of inhabitants so just check with a member of staff or in the brochure.

4. What can I do to keep the fox away from my chickens?

Keeping them in the pen Is the most effective way of keeping foxy at bay. Traditionally people let their chickens roam free in the garden during the day and lock them up at night but in my experience even doing that is a risk now. If you want to let them roam around electric fencing is the most effective way of keeping them safe but a well fenced garden is also a deterrent.

5. Can I leave my chickens if I go on holiday?

Your chickens will be very happy for you to take a break on holiday as long as you leave them enough food for the duration of your time away. There is nothing wrong with filling the feed and water dispenser and leaving them to it. However, if you’re going away for a longer period of time – say longer than a few days its best to ask someone to pop round occasionally to check they are ok.

6.How often do I need to clean out my chickens?

Here at the Bell Plantation we clean out our chicken houses once a week to keep them clean and healthy ready for sale. This reduces the risk of illness and keeps them looking fresh and clean. If you don’t fancy doing it this often once every fortnight will be fine, but just be prepared for a little harder work

Ashley Warren

Ashley Warren has lived and loved horticulture and agriculture all his life; he had his first greenhouse at the age of 10 and his first cow when he was 16. He started landscaping in 1984 mainly in Milton Keynes and then all over the country. He moved to Daventry Road Farmhouse in 1987 and has developed Bell Plantation Garden Centre in Towcester, Northants over the last 30 years.

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