This post is well overdue, as I’ve been a chicken owner now for over a year. I think I was waiting to take good photos of the living set-up, but that has changed quite a bit since, so best to just get on with the writing.
I’ve always wanted chickens but I generally stick to animals that can be left on their own, for at least a weekend (hence the cats) and ideally a week (with the neighbours keeping an eye out for me). But after the arrival of the guinea pigs, which can’t be abandoned for long, it didn’t seem to make much difference to add chickens to the mix and the big bonus is that three of my immediate neighbours are chicken keepers and so are wonderfully helpful when I do need to go away.
I remember now why I didn’t write this post earlier, as I only had crap photos to share…like this, for instance!and this not very good photo of our original set-up,which you can see better in this later photo (different chickens, more in that later).
This is an Eglu Go, from Omlet, which is an eye wateringly expensive but totally brilliant chicken house. I’m not going to do a massive review as quite frankly, I’m not qualified to do so and there are already so many good ones online. I asked my lovely Sister to add to the cost for my birthday gift (this was back in early 2015) and I paid the rest. It is brilliant. Really no hassle to keep clean, looks good and I just couldn’t add any more wood that needed preserving to my home, as I already can’t keep up with the decking, fence, window and greenhouse maintenance. I figure that it will eventually earn its price in longevity and if I ever need to sell it, the Eglus sell well on Ebay at not much of a loss. My only regret? I debated for some time over the Go or the Go Up and should have got the Go Up straight off, but more on that in the next post.
I paid to have the Omlet set-up (a chap in a van who comes and puts the entire thing together for you) complete with two chickens, regular hybrid Ginger Rangers, aptly named Doris and Mabel.Doris and Mabel were (past tense, do you see where this might be going??) ridiculously tame. They partly came that way, but I do like to think the time and effort we put into interacting with the pets in this house helps.We had eggs the very next day, which I was stupidly excited about.(Obligatory cute child holding eggs pose).The whole thing is a winner for me. Yes, the initial money outlay for the Eglu is rather frightening and if you split that out on the eggs you get, versus some good quality organic eggs from the shops, you realise that your eggs are coming in at quite a high price, but there really is nothing like fresh eggs from the garden and given time (OK, so a LOT of time) I think the Eglu will eventually pay for itself.I also just love watching the chickens. Ours were free range, I let them out every day and they would potter about the garden causing havoc in the flower beds (they are quite damaging, even just two chickens, if you’re very garden proud you might want to fence them into an area).Would I have done anything differently? Yes. As above, I’d have bought a Go Up immediately. I might also have gone for ‘prettier’ chickens. Hybrids are a must, for my needs; they lay eggs nearly every day (in our case all through winter too), they don’t go broody, they are vaccinated and super hardy and don’t mind the weather and very importantly for me, they are friendly. But, there is a wide range of hybrid chickens and given the choice again, I’d go to a local breeder (there are so many here in Kent) and probably have got three different coloured hybrids, just because.
So why all the past tense? Well the inevitable happened, and I should have known better and poor Mabel was munched by a passing fox. We got to watch the entire thing on video (there is a camera on that part of the garden, due to a garage break in some years ago) and Mr Fox just ran into the garden and stole her whilst she was having a nice dust bath. I had clipped the wings of both chickens, to keep them in the garden, and if I haven’t I think she would have made it as she did try to fly up and away. The end was quick and thankfully, the fox didn’t kill Doris too. I should add, the fox came by at 11 in the morning on a busy Saturday when we had all our doors open and the kids were in and out of the garden so it’s not like it happened at dusk of when there weren’t humans about. Shame. Nasty fox.
I’m splitting these up, so more in the next post….