Yellow Chicken House

Chicken Keeping – The good, the bad and the egg-ly!

My daily routine as a garden chicken keeper

on October 27, 2014

We had an amazing run of good weather this summer and I tried to spend as much time as possible in the garden with my feathered friends. With the lawn fully re-grown, the garden became my favourite place to be every evening as the sun was setting.


I am often asked if keeping chickens in the garden is time consuming and it’s a hard question to answer. In short, no, they take up several minutes per day to carry out basic checks and necessary tasks such as topping up food and water vessels. But on the other hand, yes. As pets, they are time consuming because I feel compelled not just to feed and water them, but to interact with them and make their lives interesting and enjoyable.
My daily routine involves a morning check of food and water, collection of eggs and a very small scattering of oats. They are then left to get on with their day while I go to work. I will sometimes pop home for my lunch break when I may nip outside to check water levels in hot weather. During the evenings, I like the chickens to have an hour or so outside of their run to enjoy the lawn, compost heap, and to stretch their legs. Their run is fairly large and has various ‘interesting’ things for them to do, such as a ramp leading up to a second floor, hanging toys and grit blocks, but I still like them to have time to explore further afield. I tend to go out about an hour before the sun sets. They become quite animated when they can see me through the kitchen window getting my wellies on. They crane their necks to get a better view and pace back and forth at the door of the run, clucking and wailing impatiently. I let them out onto the lawn which they start devouring with a kind of frenzied enthusiasm. I then begin my jobs which are:
– empty, clean and refill all water vessels (there are 4 currently)
-top up food containers (I generally only give them what they need to avoid mould developing)
-rake the earth to fill in any holes and top up with shovelfuls of fresh earth and weeds/turf if needed
-pull out droppings tray from the Eglu and scrape into compost bin
-check nest for eggs and ensure wood shavings are clean and dry, replace with fresh shavings if needed

With the routine jobs completed, I then spend the remainder of the evening with the chickens. I pick up each one for a cuddle which they seem to enjoy, particularly Buffy the Speckledy. I use that as my opportunity to check them over for any signs of illness. Although I’m not very experienced with what I should be looking for, I have found magazines such as ‘your chickens’ really helpful for guidance on signs of illness. As far as my own chickens are concerned, signs I have found concerning over the last few months have been several small cuts on Buffy’s face and comb (no doubt inflicted by Cookie after a domestic spat but that’s a blog post for another day) and a dirty vent on Shelley. The vent issue was a strange one and I wasn’t sure what to do. I do believe, from my limited observation, that chickens have personalities and Shelley is generally the scruffier of the 3 girls. Could it be possible that she’s just not as concerned about her personal appearance as the other chickens?
Upon closer inspection, I could see that her droppings had gotten caught in her fluffy bottom feathers and had built up and gotten mashed in, causing a kind of messy dreadlock effect. I was reluctant to cut the matted feathers away as winter is approaching and I’d hate for Shelley to have an inadequately feathered bottom in the cold weather. So I made up a bowl of warm water and got a clean flannel, ready to carry out the strangest chicken-related task of my life so far. I settled Shelley down on my lap and began cleaning her up. Thankfully, it was not a difficult job and the feathers loosened up easily. Shelley was a little confused at first but didn’t struggle and actually seemed to be enjoying the attention. The other chickens clucked around my feet, craning their necks to get a better view, no doubt wondering what on earth I was doing to their friend. She continued to sit on my lap for a few minutes afterwards until eventually, she hopped off to rejoin the other chickens. Hopefully, ‘bottom baths’ will not become a regular feature in my evening routine and I’m glad to say that Shelley’s bottom feathers have been clean and fluffy ever since.
As I write this, November is almost upon us and the nights are getting dark. I’ve weather-proofed my coop to ensure the feathered ladies have a dry environment but I’m looking into a last-minute possibility of laying wood chips in the run to reduce the potential discomfort of mud over the coming months.


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