Visually they may not be the most attractive animal out there. They are not overly friendly like a dog or independent like the cat. Yet they provide something that animals of similar stature can’t ‘Food’. Not just any food but a high quality, protein-rich food, that’s an important Macro nutrient for children and adults.!!!!
Hens have many other benefits!!! Did you know they provide the ultimate garden fertilizer? They are also the supreme forager, pulling all the dreaded weeds in its midst. Another surprise that you may not have expected from them, is that they are great companions and have a wonderful passive nature. However, this is more evident if you get hens without the rooster
Many of our guest are in awe of our feathery friends and always mention how much they would love to keep hens but they don’t have the space or they live in the city. But I know a few people who live in the suburbs and have a 2-3 hens in their back garden. As long as you have a garden with grass and at least 8ft of space then you won’t have any issues. As of November 2020 anyone keeping hens in Ireland must register with the Department of Agriculture:, https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/poultry/
If you’re unsure or you would like more information, the https://www.ispca.ie/ can provide help and support if you care to venture into the wonderful world of poultry (a group referring to any domesticated bird that is kept by humans, the group includes chickens, turkeys etc.)
Why keep hens?
There is no better feeling than going into the coop and reaching for a fresh egg. A great meal can be made in just a few minutes. It’s a food that can be included in your breakfast, lunch and dinner. An egg is a complete food that will provide you with a good source of protein and healthy fat and has the same nutritional value as beef, lamb or fish.
Hens aren’t expensive to purchase (Make sure that you do enough research to find the breed that most appeals to you, especially if you would like them to provide a specific purpose like egg-laying.) Hens can be bought locally; you can probably even find a hen supplier in your local paper. If you are aware someone in your locality has their own little flock don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them about it, perhaps they can advise you on where you can purchase your own or they might know someone who is selling chickens. As with everything, advice from someone who has first-hand experience in something you are interested in is very, very helpful and not to be taken for granted.
Hens also provide free fertilizer that can be very valuable. Did you know that a hen’s dung contains nitrogen rich compost? This in turn helps when you need compost for your vegetable garden. As I mentioned before, hens are natural foragers and great for digging up weeds but do be careful as they are known to uproot vegetable seeds as well as flower bulbs so make sure to keep these areas fenced off.
Lastly, hens are wonderful animals to have if you are rearing a family, young children are fascinated by them while grown adults reap the benefits of what they provide them with. Hens are gentle, easy going and from my own family’s experience they are of no danger. However, if you are looking to get hens for breeding reasons it is important to note that roosters can be very dangerous around people, especially young children. If a rooster is present it also creates quite an uneasy and anxious environment for the female hens and they will not be as friendly and will be more frightened by people.
The best breed
Over the years we have had many breeds and they have all been wonderful. We are egg lovers in our house so a consistent layer is important to us. Currently, we have three Rhode Island reds (Red Hybrid), one BlackRock and one Daisy bell.
The Rhode red hybrid is one of the most popular breed of hen you’ll find in Ireland or anywhere in the world for that matter. Why? They require very little in terms of care and they are very hardy and don’t contract illness or disease very easily. For me personally, they are a very personable hen, very friendly and quite comical too! I enjoy sitting outside on the step of my back door as I know they will run up to sit next to me. They will allow you to pick them up, overall they are just so loveable. They also get on very well with our dogs Rocco and Toby. The only negative aspect (If you could even call it that!) is they are not a clocking hen. Their breed has been designed to provide eggs only.
Did you know that The Rhode Island Red is the state bird of Rhode Island in America, what an honour to bestow on this little red hen!
The Daisy bell is a cross breed between the Rhode Island Red and the Sussex. They are regular layers and lay large eggs (Bigger than the Rhode Island Red).
BlackRock are a cross breed between the Rhode Island Red (cockerels) and Barred Plymouth Rock. They are a very popular breed in Ireland, England and Scotland. They have good health and are consistent layers.
Keeping Hen’s –Where will they live?
Where will they live?
Hens are not so different from us in the way that they too need a home. Before you purchase any hens have a look around your garden or farm. Do you have a suitable place to put the coop/hen house? Do you live near a river? (minks, rats, foxes and stouts are a danger to your flock.) Your biggest outlay of cash will go into buying a hen house. We used an old dog kennel and they are widely available. Reach out to your local community, a member of your friends and family may know someone who is selling or getting rid of a coop (If buying second hand make sure to ask if the wood is treated with pet friendly stain or wood preserver). The local co-op and garden centres usually have a selection on display and an expert who will answer any questions you need answered.
The purpose of a coop is to provide shelter to the hens but it is also the place where they will lay their eggs. It should be dry, draft free, warm with nest boxes and perches (Hens like to sleep high up from the ground). It is important that the coop is safe from predators who could visit during the night. It is a likely risk that while you’re asleep a fox or mink may pay them a not-so-friendly visit, always be on the lookout for possible dangers and always take the time to make sure the coop is secure after you put them in for the night.
It is a good idea to have a small grassy area around the coop fenced off. You should purchase special chicken fencing (Available for purchase in your local co-op.). Make sure it is fully enclosed. Foxes and minks are climbers and diggers and minks are very slender creatures, it is often said that if a mink’s head can fit through a crevasse, the rest of him can follow. We have had issues with minks in the past, who is bigger than a rat and smaller than a fox. They are a vicious animal and will attack people when they feel threatened, once they get a hold of something or someone they are unlikely to let go. They habitats are along rivers and they travel in packs. If you see a mink, you can be sure there are many more in the area.
Food & Water
Hens are omnivores and they enjoy a varied diet like fruit, vegetables and grains. They spend a lot of time foraging for worms, insects, seeds and grass. It is important that your hens have a balanced diet that contains all the minerals, vitamins, nutrients and protein that they need.
We like to use layers’ pellets which contain soya protein and all the key nutrients our hens require. During the cold months we always add oats to the layer’s pellets because our hens love them and it encourages them to keep laying. Hens are messy eaters quiet and fling their food everywhere I’d suggest to purchase a chicken feeder which will help to supply a steady flow of feed. Hens don’t tend to over eat, especially if layers pellets are part of their diet.
Water is just important to the hen as it is to us. It is important that they have good access to a water supply source.