Keeping chickens is simple and rewarding, and you can keep chickens as easily in a town garden as you can in the countryside.
We got started because we liked the idea of producing our own fresh organic eggs, and we thought it would be a fun hobby and an interesting addition to our garden.
We also have two young girls (aged 11 and 5) and it’s been a great educational experience for them both. Our hens have become much loved ‘pets’ and the fact that we know where our food is coming from, and that our animals are having a good life, are just some of the reasons why in my opinion keeping chickens is so rewarding.
A chicken is for life, not just for eggs.
You will need to care for your chickens every day, just like any other pet (cat, dog, or rabbit). You cannot just disappear for a week’s holiday without organising someone to come and care for the chickens in your absence. However, you’ll be happy to know that chicken care is relatively simple, and neighbours or a friend can often be bribed to keep an eye on them with the promise of some extra fresh eggs should you wish to be away for a while.
Talking of pets, remember that any existing pets you have will suddenly have to share their lives – and garden – with the chickens. If you have cats or dogs, free-range hens may prove a bit of a temptation, but they will probably get used to each other, and if not you will then need to provide a sturdy chicken coop and run space that keep chickens in, and larger furry animals out.
What does the law say about keeping chickens at home?
Well, generally speaking, if you are keeping a few hens for eggs then you aren’t going to have any problems. (Over 700,000 people in the UK already keep chickens in their gardens.)
However make sure you examine the deeds and any lease for your home – you’ll be surprised to find that some expressly forbid the keeping of livestock and chickens. In addition, your local council may have by-laws concerning chickens.
If you are seriously thinking about getting a few hens then it may be best to do a quick check and make a few phone calls just to be on the safe side.
Should you tell the neighbours?
If you mention to your neighbours that you are planning to keep chickens, most will immediately think “Great! Cockerels at 6am in the morning!”
In fact, the vast majority of people keep chickens without a cockerel, as you don’t need one for your hens to lay their eggs. And contrary to what some may think having a cockerel around doesn’t increase the number of eggs your hens will lay. Unless you plan on having a large flock (8+) or are keen on actually hatching your own chicks there is very little reason to keep one.
(If you are set on hatching your own chicks then you can quite easily do what our good friends Mat and Joanne did. They simply bought a few fertilized eggs from a local farmer and got one of their more broody hens to sit on and hatch them. No expensive incubators and a great learning experience for their 3 home school daughters!)
You may also be concerned about the noise level but these are generally unfounded. Our hens like most, are really quiet during the day and apart from the usual soft clucking which is barely audible from the bottom of the garden they only make a bit of noise to proudly announce to us that they have laid their egg.
And if you think about it they’re a lot quieter than a barking dog, or cat that can keep you up at night with their midnight antics.
Do you have time to keep chickens?
To be honest, this really boils down to time to check your chickens in the morning before work or the school run, and again just before sundown, to put them safely into their coop for the night.
Currently I probably take 5 to 10 minutes on a daily basis to deal with my hens, and this could probably be halved if I invested in an automatic door opener and a larger drinker and feeder.
You will also need to put aside time each week or two to clean out the coop – an undemanding task if you invest in an easy-to-clean hen house and think of delicious fresh egg omelettes as you do it.
Download a copy of our free guide for beginners
We have (with the input of a few other experts) created a downloadable guide which is aimed a helping people who want to keep chickens at home. I gives you an honest overview of life with chickens, so you can decide for yourself if keeping chickens is right for you.