Adding chickens to the garden

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About two months ago, we headed out to a small farm just outside an idyllic Norfolk village. It was the sort of village that would have been written about in classic English literature, no paths, single-lane roads built for horse and cart, and cows grazing the common. The location would not be amiss in a Period Drama, and time appeared to have missed this place out. It was only the modern cars sitting outside of the houses which gave things away.

The farm itself was accessed along a woodland drive that opened up on Glamping and Fishing offers, but we were interested in their chicken breeding. The chickens were kept in large clean coops. Each breeding pair was in their own protected run and coop, and their chicks were raised in adjacent sheds. When buying any animal from a breeder, it is always good to see the breeding pairs and how well they are cared for; these were well cared for.

We had the choice of a range of different bantams. We wanted bantams because they remain small, are not as noisy as larger chickens, and reduce the damage to our garden. We chose Peking, West Sussex and a Polish chick and brought four of them home. There were some lovely Silkies, but it’s hard to sex these at a young age, and we wanted to avoid taking a cockerel home by mistake.

We planned to allow the chickens to roam our garden, so we didn’t purchase a coop with a large run, but they have a small space if we need to pen them in for any reason. I plan to extend their run as they grow, so there is enough space for short periods. As they are roaming free, they are a risk to my kitchen garden. I have plenty of food to make a lovely dinner for the chickens, so I continuously check if the chickens have grown a taste for lettuce or another vegetable. So far, they have not caused too much damage, but their preference for certain items in my vegetable patch has increased over time. A fence will be going up very soon.

We wanted chickens for a couple of reasons, firstly, as pets and secondly, to produce our own eggs and add to the things we eat from our own garden. The added bonus is the additional kick to our home compost and pest control.

Watching the chickens as they potter around the garden is surprisingly relaxing. They trot around the garden in their flock and have the occasional argument over some potential food item on the ground. They are at their cutest when they are huddled together in their coop at night. Picking up the chickens is usually best when they are drowsy just before nightfall, any other time, and they competently demonstrate their speed and agility when evading a cuddle.

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