It’s estimated that there are 1.5 million domestic chicken keepers in the UK.
Pet chickens can lay eggs as often as once a day and offer a great source of protein, with tasty breakfasts for the whole family.
However, chickens can be fussy. These top tips will help ensure ‘eggcellent’ production from your garden chickens.
1. Daylight hours: Hens need about 14 hours of daylight as a minimum for the best egg production. If the coop is particularly dark, allow them pen runs for as long as you can in daylight to keep your chickens clucking.
2. Nest Boxes: In the coop, if you have three or more chickens, you will need a box for every three laying birds. The nest boxes should be dark – although some chickens prefer a little light, perhaps vary the boxes to allow the hens to choose. They should be able to stand up and turn around quickly for an optimal environment.
3. Nutrition and Water: Too little protein, calcium and salt will halt production. As calcium is vital for the bones of your hen and the condition of the shell of her eggs, using a limestone or oyster shell grit will help. Water is also vitally important – hens can drink up to 500ml of water per day during hotter weather. Make sure the water is kept cool, and in summer replace it three or four times a day.
4. Age: Chickens only produce eggs until a certain age. While rescue hens may return to health and produce eggs, there is no definitive way to know how old the hen is. So, be patient with her. She may have reached an age of retirement.
5. Safety and Fear: A happy hen is a laying hen. Ensure all runs are secured, be aware of local dogs or cats that could appear near the coop and scare the hens. Also, make sure you secure the coop at night. Installing an automatic coop door reduces the risk of it being left open after dark and ensures your flock remain contented.