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A beginners guide to keeping egg-laying hens

Keeping Chickens


Eggs are a natural food source which can be used in a variety of foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even in drinks. With an estimated 11 billion eggs consumed in the UK every year, they are clearly in high demand. While so many of us rely on stores or farmers to provide our eggs, however, there is also a growing resourceful minority who choose to take egg-laying into their own hands.


Why you should consider keeping egg-laying hens


Of course, the most important tool needed for yielding great eggs is some happy hens but, other than this, just how hard would it be to start your own egg-laying enterprise? The reality is that it's quite simple, providing you have got the right setup implemented. While there may not be much in the way of major financial benefits to rearing hens, the freshness of the eggs you will find in the morning promises to be far superior to anything you would pick up from the supermarket shelves.


It could also make your life at home easier, as you will be able to walk outside and pick up the ingredients needed to rustle up the perfect breakfast for your family straight from your garden, rather than having to head to your local corner shop or supermarket or Mole Valley store.


Before getting ahead of yourself, though, you will need to ensure that your hens have the perfect area to call home.


Feeding your brood


It goes without saying that keeping a healthy hen is the best ways of ensuring great-tasting eggs. With this in mind, creating the right diet for your birds is of integral importance. Food and drink should be made available at all times; to keep pelleted feeds fresh for a week, it is advised that you store them inside a specialist hopper which can dispense food whenever the hens feel hungry.


A hopper, however, will soon turn mouldy and disease could set in if it isn't protected from the rain – purchasing a rain hat for the feeder is the perfect way to avoid this. In terms of pellets, be sure to buy layers pellets which are suitable for a wide range of hens, ensuring that all members of your clutch are catered for.


Finding the perfect breed


When it comes to the different types of hens you could choose from, it is important to remember that each one produces a different number and variety of eggs. The Light Sussex is one of the most popular breeds, as it is among the most productive of all, with farmers yielding as many as 260 eggs a year from a single bird. A hardy breed which is happy to forage for some of their food around the garden, they are considered to be the perfect choice for any beginners.


If you're looking for a true egg-laying machine, keep an eye out for a goldline. A Rhode Island Red crossed with a Light Sussex, this little brown hen can produce up to 320 large brown eggs in their first year; they also benefit from a good feeding ratio and are similar to those used on farms to produce eggs for the consumer market. A friendly bird which isn't fazed by human interaction, you are likely to find the it in your house if you don't keep the back door closed!


Keeping your eggs safe from harm


With your hens out in the open for the majority of their lives, the threat from predators is understandably large. Owners are therefore advised to have a sturdy fence to keep foxes and badgers at bay, buried a minimum of eight inches deep and then curled flat outwards for another eight inches.


Also, ensure the fence is over six feet high - foxes are similar to cats in that they can easily scale a fence less than five feet in height. If the ground you are plan to installing your run on won't accommodate this much depth, a good alternative is to board the bottom in order to supplement your digging. Chicken wire can be ripped open by foxes, too, so why not use electric net fencing to make sure they think twice about going for your hens?


Explore our range of incubators


As already mentioned, eggs can provide a superb source of food all year round but, with the correct care and equipment, you could also wait for your eggs to hatch into chickens or hens.


While newborn hens can be reared to add to your egg-laying enterprise in the future, keeping chickens allows you to plan for the Sunday roast, again saving you a trip to the supermarket. If this is something which may interest you, why not consider purchasing an incubator, such as the Brinsea Mini Advance Incubator Kit? A fan-assisted product which can hold up to seven eggs, it can also display incubation temperature, the amount of days before hatching and even the turning status. If you don't feel comfortable purchasing individual parts, buying the Brinsea Advance Starter Kit UK is the perfect way to get off to a cracking start.


Source Details

Mole Valley Farmers

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