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Hen Keeping Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to get a cockerel?

No - hens will produce eggs by themselves and live quite happily with no men in their lives! However if you are looking to breed your own chicks then a cockerel would be required.

I live in the town but would like to keep hens – will they disturb my neighbours?

Hens are generally pretty quiet creatures, and many of our customers keep them successfully in urban gardens. Cockerels make more noise and so we would recommend sticking to female birds. The only time they would make any real noise would be if disturbed by a predator, so be sure to shut them in their houses at dusk, before any prowling foxes might disturb your brood.

What do I need to get started with hens?

At least two birds – they are sociable creatures, and we would never recommend keeping one alone. A hardy hybrid like the Rhode Rock makes an excellent starter bird, and we would be happy to advise on your other options.

Dry secure housing that can be closed at night, keeping the birds safe from foxes and other predators. We recommend wooden housing, which is natural and breathable and the healthiest option for your birds. See our range of housing to give you an idea of the size of house required – all of our houses have a recommended number of birds, based on very generous welfare recommendations.

Some wood shavings or straw for the floor of the house – we don’t recommend hay as this can cause respiratory problems for the birds – and a bag of feed - layers pellets or mash. We would recommend that you ask your supplier what the hens have been used to and try to keep them on something similar, at least initially. Hen feed can easily be bought from your local grain merchant or pet shop. Or from us!

And finally, a feeder and a drinker. Plastic feeders and drinkers are an affordable option. Galvanised equipment is more expensive but will last longer and weather better, particularly in harsh winter conditions.

How many eggs will my hens lay, and how long will they keep laying?

This depends on two factors, firstly the kind of bird you choose, and secondly the conditions in which they are kept.

Hybrid birds, like the Rhode Rock or Isa Brown, are specially bred for maximum egg yield, and will lay 280+ eggs per year when kept in the right environmental conditions. Any of the pure breeds will generally lay fewer eggs than the hybrids. On average, with two hens in peak production, you can expect to get 10-12 eggs per week.

Hybrid birds will lay at this level for 2-3 years and then less as they get older.

In terms of conditions, all hens will naturally lay more in summer, when there is more daylight, although you can provide artificial light to continue this in the winter months. They require dry clean housing all year round, and to be fed on a layers feed - ad lib feeding is recommended.

Can I put my hens in the pot when they stop laying?

If you don’t get too attached to them! However at the end of their laying life the hybrid birds will really only be good for soup, as all their goodness goes into egg production, rather than meat. We can however recommend and supply meat birds, if this is more of a priority – and we supply grower turkeys from late summer onwards if you want to rear your own Christmas dinner!

What about diseases?

All our hybrid point of lay pullets go through a full vaccination programme from day old until leaving the rearing house, including Salmonella.

I’d like to keep ducks – do I need a pond?

Not necessarily – so long as the birds have ready access to enough fresh water to fully immerse their heads for cleaning themselves, they will live quite happily. If space is limited some plastic children’s sandpits make useful mini-ponds, you just have to be sure to keep them topped up with fresh water.