It all started off with a romantic vision of seeing chicken scratching away at the bottom of the garden. That was a year ago, when we moved to this house. There is a decent garden and as a huge supporter of recycling I thought chicken would be great: We love eggs. We eat lots of veg, the scraps of which chickens can turn into eggs for us. Most importantly, we’re keen for the Littlins to see this cycle of life and learn where their food comes from.
Then, at the beginning of the summer, when we stayed with Opa and Oma (the Dutch grandparents), Little Man was so enthusiastic about going to feed the chicken with Opa every morning and collect the eggs. I thought we have to get chickens!
Asking around friends who have chickens, everyone recommended New Barn Farm, in Longworth as a reliable and honest source of well-reared pullets. I called them in the 2nd week of June and put my name down for 4 chickens. I was told my young hens will be ready after the 10th of July. You see they get day old chicks in from the hatchery and grow them in batches ready for customers to pick up when they are almost laying. All their young birds go to small holders and families like us.
Now the question of where we put them: We had a design made for the garden, which incorporates a largish chicken run. However, we have not been able to really get started on the garden project for many reasons, which I will not bore you with now. So I had to come up with a plan for alternative housing while we create their chicken-heaven-on-Earth. I hit Ebay, scouring the auction rooms. This is when I realised chicken are popular and chicken coups, even second-hand, are not going to be cheap. In the end I decided to go with buying a new one from a company not far from Oxford, The Chicken House Company. I went for a house, with a little enclosure, so we are able to leave the girls for weekends and they are still safe from foxes. (The idea being that we will build the larger enclosure to link to this, then giving them lots more room to roam & scratch on the scrapheap)
Ordering the chicken coup on Tuesday, it arrived on Wednesday morning, to Ever-so-reliable-Daddy’s utter surprise. (He was on board with the concept of getting the chickens, but thought the timing wasn’t right…he’s probably right, but shhh don’t tell him I said that! 😉 ) After a bit of huff and puff Ever-so-reliable-Daddy took up the DIY challenge and put the chicken house together. He says it was quite easy. (The roof felting was slightly damaged, but the company have been good, they are sending out a replacement roof… supposed to be arriving today.)
This morning to the great excitement of Little Miss and Little Man we headed out to Longworth to pick up the girls. Farmer Mike and his wife Carol are lovely! They run small family farm that Farmer Mike’s father had started 60 years ago. You can see they love their animals and, in wanting to ensure they get looked after just as well in their new homes, they give a short leaflet to all new customers and sell the chicken pellets too. (The continuity of food is quite important, as the animals’ guts are used to digesting this, other foods should always be introduced gradually to animals, otherwise they can get the runs.) We picked our 4 pullets, Farmer Mike gave them the once over before they went into the car. It was quite difficult to prise the children away- Little Man wanted to go into the big pen with the pullets, Little Miss discovered the 4 farm dogs who seemed delighted by her too. Finally I paid for the birds and the feed (New Barn Farm is the cheapest by far for both in the wider Oxford area) and we were off home.
Getting home, we transferred the chickens into their new home, into the coup. We left the door open to let air in, the Littlins gave them water and food. Then we left them in peace to allow them to gradually explore their new home. I’ve kept our dog away as much as possible… he’s very interested. We have also spotted our cat and the neighbour’s cat come over and greet the girls. Little Miss asked if she can go visit them (I had explained to the Littlins that the chickens need a bit of quiet to get used to their new home) and has just excitedly reported back that 2 of them are already out in the run area eating and drinking.
We don’t expect eggs for a week or two, while they settle in, but will check daily. Egg collecting, feeding and drinking duties have been allocated to the 2.5 year old and the 4 year old. Cleaning duties are assigned to the adults of the household.
…So starts our adventure as chicken keepers.