FOOD: One of the most important things that you, as a new poultry keeper, will need to know is what to feed your birds. There are lots of different types of feed for chickens, ducks and quail etc... that all have different purposes. For chicks there are chick crumbs these should be given to birds aged 8 weeks and under. For birds over 8 weeks old there are growers’ pellets which are essential if birds are to gain the desired size and weight that they are supposed to be. When birds reach the age of 4-6 months they are then moved onto the food that they will be fed for the rest of their lives, this is usually mixed corn and/or layers pellets. You should be able to get the right food from your local feed merchant.

HOUSING: The right housing is essential if you are to succeed in keeping poultry. Before you buy a house consider this: what is it made of? How big does it need to be to fit your birds? And do you want it with or without a run? Choose a house that is made of strong wood (or nowadays there are some very good plastic houses) don't be tempted into buying on of these cheap Chinese pine imports which are all over ebay and other sites, not only are they usually not fit for purpose in terms of size, they also only last a maximum of 18 months before something important breaks! A good quality wooden house, with the right treatment, should last upwards of 10 years. 

A house should be accessible to you as well as the hens, it should have a door through which you can clean them out, a door for the hens to come out of (usually a pop hole), and if it has a run there should be a reasonably large door into the run. (This makes access for adding feed and water or catching birds much easier). Some houses will have perches, some birds will use these and some won't, with large pure breeds a perch should not be used until a minimum 30 weeks of age as it can cause bending in the breast bone. A nest box should be provided either internally or externally. The house should also have good ventilation.  

BEDDING: Choosing the right bedding is important. Consider your options carefully: Straw-is not good as it does not soak up moisture and can lead to disease in your chicken house, some straw also harbours lice and other pests. Bedding such as newspaper is only really suitable if you intend on replacing it daily as it will not soak up the moisture from the droppings very well, becoming slippery and smelly. There are now some types of recycled paper bedding that do work well. Hay should never be used as hens will often try to eat it, the long strands are hard to digest and can then cause impacted crop.

Other types of bedding include:

·        Dust extracted wood shavings

·        Wood pellet bedding (you add water and they expand and then absorb more and more!)

·        Wood fibre/ chip bedding (such as easi-chick).

·       Coconut fibre bedding (such as tropibed)

  • Elephant grass bedding

 

LOOKING AFTER YOUR BIRDS: When you buy your birds bring them home and put them straight into their new house (collect them in a cardboard box or a cat carrier or something similar- Please no bags, these are unacceptable methods of transport!,) getting a house with a run is a good idea as you can leave them in that for the first few days. Keep your new birds in their house and run for at least 24 hours, so that they will learn to go there to roost at night.

You will need to supply your birds with fresh food and water every day, make sure you clean out the water and food bowls once a week. The house will also need to be cleaned out once a week and new bedding put down. It is recommended that you feed your birds twice a day but it is perfectly fine to give them enough food in the morning to last the whole day. After 24 hours- one week, you can let your new birds out of their run (unless you don't want them free ranging round the garden), but make sure they are all locked in their house every night to protect them from predators, you should also make sure there is someone around to keep an eye on them if they are free ranging.

Remember the more time you spend with your new pets, the tamer they will get!