Keeping Chickens In the Garden Guide: Chickens and UK Law

The first two parts of the Keeping Chickens in the Garden Guide dealt with the advantages and downsides to keeping chickens. Now we’re going to take a look at UK law and the rules and regulations you need to be aware of when you’re keeping chickens. While there are no national laws preventing you from keeping chickens in the garden, there is still advice you need to heed and rules, such as animal husbandry laws, that need to be followed. There are also certain laws governing the sale of eggs, but first let’s what look at what you need to know about keeping chickens in your local area.

Chickens and UK Law

While the UK government does not require you to register with DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) if you have under 50 poultry (poultry includes chickens, geese, ducks, partridge, turkeys, quail, pheasants, pigeons for meat, emu, ostrich, guinea fowl and rhea) you do have to register if that number exceeds 50 at any one time to the Poultry Register. The reason for this is so any substantial poultry owners can be notified of disease outbreaks such as Avian Influenza. If you have fewer than 50 you can register if you desire, but this isn’t a legal requirement. However, Northern Ireland residents have to follow different rules and are required to register with DARD (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) in order to be placed on the Bird Register.

So, now that we’ve got the national law out of the way you should be able to keep chickens, right? Unfortunately you still may not be able to, as rules in your local area may prevent it, a bit annoying really seeing as how good chicken poo is for soil quality. By-laws on certain properties may state that livestock isn’t allowed to be kept. To find out if these affect your property you should contact your local council. Similarly, housing authorities may have covenants that prevent chickens from being kept on the property they own. Again, you will have to contact the people in charge of the housing authority if you’re unsure about whether this applies to you. Finally, house deeds may prevent you from keeping livestock to.

Your Neighbours

While neither of these may affect you, you still need to take into account that your neighbours may complain to your local council. If your chickens are noisy and can be heard from the next house along then you may start irritating your neighbours, so it’s a good idea to let them know if you’re planning on keeping chickens on your property. The Noise Act 1996 could come into play if your chickens are making noises all night, although there are things you can do to keep noise levels to a minimum that we will talk about in a future instalment. Also don’t let them loose in neighbours gardens obviously.

If you start getting warnings from your local authority then that should tell you that you’re doing something wrong. Basically, just be sensitive to your neighbours nearby and you should have no problems.

Animal Welfare

Chickens are covered by the Protection of Animals Act 1911 that prevents any cruelty towards animals in your care. While we’re not saying that you will intentionally harm chickens, sometimes you can be cruel to animals indirectly by forgetting to do something, like keep them well watered. The Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Laying Hens says that chickens should have ‘freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour’. They also be given freedom of a comfortable environment, with shelter and a resting area, and also have a freedom to express their natural behaviour by giving them enough space and the company of animals of their own kind. They should also be regularly checked to prevent, diagnose and treat any diseases or injuries, and the freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions are good enough to avoid mental suffering. Part of this involves providing enough security to be protected from predators, such as foxes. Even if the fox is shooed away after getting in, the chickens could be mentally strained by the event.

Failure to provide proper care could lead to prosecution, fines, a ban from keeping livestock in the future and even jail time for repeated offences.

Selling Eggs

If you want to sell the eggs produced by your chickens then there are a few regulations you need to be aware of. Many of the regulations won’t apply to you if you’re only keeping a small flock of chickens. If you are only selling eggs to friends, family and your neighbours then you don’t need to do anything; providing your flock remains under 50. However, you cannot sell eggs to shops, restaurants or bakeries without first being approved and authorised as a packing centre by the EMI (Egg Marketing Inspectorate) as they need to be graded as Class A eggs. You can sell at local markets providing you have fewer than 50 hens.

 

Vegetable Growing Tips To Help Get Your Kids In The Garden

Tips to get your kids in the garden

The fun and adventure of gardening is something that appeals to people of all ages. To children especially and they can learn from us, the buzz of exploring around the garden for the first time and getting their hands dirty can be a magical experience that leaves them engaged for hours on end. Knowing the right way to introduce your kids to the world of gardening however, can leave many parents scratching their heads, the first thing is to ensure you’re garden is child proof.

The to-do list of tasks needed to keep a garden in prime condition throughout the year can be tedious and the prospect of your little ones helping you get the lawn mower out or deadhead your plants is a non-starter altogether, they’ll be fascinated by scissors, shears, or secateurs. But far from being a dangerous experience, introducing your children to gardening doesn’t have to be dull or diluted.

One of the most interesting and creative ways to get the kids gardening is to attract birds into the garden. You could try making a nice bird feeder. Talking of birds, slightly bigger ones(chickens) keep kids interested for hours everyday. Once we put up our chicken coop my son religiously dug for worms everyday of the last summer. Be warned though, chickens come with some downsides.

Growing vegetables is a fantastic way of showing children the wonders of the natural environment and with such a wide range of options available, the fun never has to stop! It can start early in the season with a propagator and some plant trays.

Keeping kids interested

One of the biggest plus points of vegetable growing is the relatively quick amount of time it takes for them to harvest. Getting children to buy into an activity which gives very little back during the start of the growing process can be difficult.

But with many of the more popular garden favourites, children can see the results for themselves after a matter of weeks, instead of several months. As well as proving a rewarding experience for all involved, it’s also a relatively hassle free one. Most vegetables are extremely versatile plants that are simple to sow and generally low maintenance, great for a frugal gardener, meaning that parents of all gardening backgrounds can help their kids join in the fun,

 

Choosing the right vegetable

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin growing vegetables, it’s important to pick the right option for you. While you want to grow something that’s quick, easy and relatively low maintenance, it’s also important to try and find a vegetable that your children will want to eat. We’ve accumulated some of the garden favourites along with an easy-to-follow set of guidelines laying out the timescale for harvest.

Carrots

Carrots are one of the most popular vegetables with children and they’re a great way to get kids involved with the garden. you only need a few garden hand tools to get going. For early starters, carrots can be grown in a seed tray from around February indoors, before being transported outside come April. The best method is to water the roots regularly and be sure to snip excess seedlings off at soil level to keep them growing properly.

Tomatoes

  • When do I plant them? Early May time
  • Harvest time? Around 12 weeks
  • What am I sowing? Plants
  • When’s the latest I can plant them? April

Delicious, easy to eat and even easier to grow, tomatoes are the perfect choice to get your child into gardening. While you can grow from seed, growing from plant is a lot easier and it also allows your child to visibly see the plant develop. When using a grow bag, ensure that you put a growing bag frame over the bag and insert a cane next to each plant to help assist its development, tying the tomato to the cane every 10cm.

Courgettes

  • When do I plant them? Early Spring
  • Harvest time? Around 10 weeks
  • What am I sowing? Either seeds or plants
  • When’s the latest I can plant them? June

Courgettes are fantastic vegetables that help satisfy the more impatient child gardeners! When growing from seeds, start two seeds in a pot on a window sill before moving them to a permanent spot outside after a month. When you do this, make sure they’re at least a meter away in the ground and that they’re watered daily. A prolific vegetable, you’ll be able to pick courgettes up till around September after your first harvest.

Regardless of whatever vegetable you opt to grow, the process of planting it, nurturing it and then eventually eating it, is a great way of helping children get involved with the garden and understand more about how food is grown as well as getting them excited about eating healthier food.

Vegetables aren’t the only option, herbs grow really quickly in a trough on the window sill inside the house.

Growing vegetables is a low cost way of keeping children engaged and the educational benefits are a fantastic added plus of the process. So whether you fancy letting your kids grow their own tomatoes to put into their lunchboxes or harvest a few carrots for a Sunday roast, get to your online garden centre today and help kick-start the growing revolution!

Downsides to Keeping Chickens In the Garden

Today I’m going to talk about the downsides to keeping chickens in the garden. Hopefully this won’t put you off having chickens for good, but you need to be fully aware of what you’re getting into and just how much work chickens can be.

Unfortunately, chickens come with their downsides too…

Anne Shooter knows exactly what sort of mess that chickens can end up causing. She describes herself as “one of the first wave of middle-class town dwellers to buy a chicken coop and hens”, but now she’s sort of regretting it, you might be needing a new lawn if you don’t watch where you put them. She recounts a tale of chickens ripping up her garden, chickens making ‘screaming noises’ when confronted with foxes at night (can you blame them?) and the amount of money she’s spent on sheltering and feeding them, it’s not been for the frugal gardener. But the worst problem for her seems to be dealing with chicken poop!

Yet, even after all this, she relents that she has a ‘soft spot’ for the little birds.

Let’s be honest, she’s got a point here, there are more than enough reasons why owning chickens is a bad idea. However, you need to go into it knowing full well what you’re getting into. If you don’t mind dealing with the things I’m about to mention then, by all means, go ahead and get some chickens; just don’t complain much when you’re stepping in poo at 4am whilst simultaneously trying to shoo foxes away from your noisy flock.

  • It’s not a clean job: It would be a bit weird for you to expect that keeping chickens wouldn’t force you to get your hands dirty once in a while. It most definitely will, and it will be often too. You’ll be picking up poo, fallen feathers, cleaning out the coop. Chickens poo an awful lot, so if you hate the smell and even the idea of touching poo then keeping chickens really isn’t for you.On the plus side, it’s a step closer to high quality soil. If you have kids then also remember that they could end up stepping in the poo too if you’re not consistent about cleaning it up. You need to clean up for the sake of your toddlers safety. One way to resolve such a situation is to place hard boards under their pen, this way once the bulk of the poo is cleaned you can then get a pressure washer which will make light work of anything remaining.
  • They cause mess other than poo: Letting your chickens roam freely around the garden will give them free access to plants; such as those prize cabbages you’ve been tending. At least they’ll serve as a great slug control. I touched upon how chickens can be good for the soil yesterday, but they can also churn it up into a mess too. If you don’t want your perfectly aerated, manicured lawn getting damaged by rampaging chickens then make sure to build a fenced in confined area where they can make mess to their hearts content.
  • They’re noisy: Sorry, but you’re never going to get a flock of chickens that will happily listen to your shouts of “SHUT UP FOR 1 MINUTE!!!” so you have to be prepared to put up with the noise. Unfortunately your neighbours may not be prepared to do that, so if you’re going to keep some in close proximity to neighbours then be sure to let them know about the situation. It’s brilliant if you live far apart from your nearest neighbour, but if not you could always try giving them a few eggs so they can share the benefits with you!

  • They attract foxes and rats: Urban foxes are on the rise here in the UK; attracted by all the food we throw away and a reduction in prey in their normal hunting grounds. A flock of chickens will make a tasty treat for a fox, so be sure to make your chicken coop fox proof and keep your chickens inside there at night. You can also try purchasing a fox deterrent device. Rats are also attracted; chomping through chicken feed supplies, stealing eggs, chewing through fences/wood and helping spread disease. Check for any suspicious holes in the chicken coop daily, as it was probably done by a rat trying to get inside. Make sure you keep plenty of wire to tie these back up and reinforce. You can put rodent traps down if needed.
  • Chickens don’t lay eggs for long: Chickens can live up to 15 or even 20 years if they’re living in a healthy environment where they’re well looked after. Unfortunately they will only lay eggs on a regular basis for around 2-3 years, so for the remainder of their lives they will be pottering around not doing much. Despite this you still have to continue to feed and clean up after them, both of which cost more money and time. You could always use them for meat at this point, but you’ll probably have grown too attached to them to stomach having to slaughter them. Chickens are fun animals and can come to be seen as pets by the family; and you wouldn’t kill your cat or dog, would you?

There’s another interesting fact in that Daily Mail article too; apparently 700,000 people now own chickens in the UK. Given that the article was published in 2011 it could have risen considerably in the last 8 years, but it’s hard to come by correct figures as you don’t have to register to keep chickens until you own over 50. In any case, it remains clear that people are still keeping chickens regardless of the downsides, but these are definitely some things to think about before you take the plunge into fully-fledge chicken ownership.

A Guide For Raising Chickens At Home

Raising chickens can be an extremely fun and rewarding experience and it’s a step up from attracting birds with fancy bird feeders. From listening to the clucks as they mill around their coop, to collecting eggs each morning for breakfast, having chickens around is sure to provide you with both entertainment and nourishment. If you’re looking for a bit of creativity, and you want to teach your children about the garden this might be the perfect.

But if you’re new to the subject, here’s a guide on how to start raising fowl in your backyard.

Housing

To start, you will need to find a coop for the chickens to live in. If you don’t have too much time on your hands, you should consider purchasing a coop from a local or online source. Coops can be anything from a house-like structure that keeps your chickens sheltered in all weathers, to a fenced-in cage area that has a covering in case of inclement weather. Many purchasable coops come disassembled, so get ready to read some instructions. Do not put chickens directly on the lawn or you’ll need to turf again in just two weeks

Another option is to build a coop from scratch. While it may seem like a daring task to build the design of your dreams, consider following a plan that has been tested before. You will need the usual construction supplies such as plywood, nails, hammers, and anything else the plan recommends, but following a tried method will ensure that you’re constructing a sound structure. The most important thing I found when I made a coop was though you just couldn’t have enough mesh and wire.

Gender and Breed

Different breeds of chickens will adapt to specific environments. The breed of a chicken can determine its temperament and behaviour, the amount of noise it produces, and its ability to adapt to its surroundings. It will also affect the temperature in which it can live, so be sure to research what breed will best inhabit your location’s climate. Getting the landscape right can really help your chickens.

Number of Chickens

If you don’t mind doing a bit more work, and want enough eggs to feed a whole family each morning, you should consider raising more than just one or two chickens. If you’re just raising fowl as a hobby, or are only looking for an egg or two now and then, start with two chickens in order to adapt to the responsibility. If you find you have more eggs each week than you and your family can consume, you might be able to sell them at a local farmers’ market and make a little profit.

Looking for More?

If you decide that you would like to raise chicks of your own without having to purchase them from a store, look into getting a rooster. In order for a hen to hatch her eggs, she needs a male counterpart present. It’s recommended to raise 10-12 hens per rooster. Raising chicks can mean housing an entire new brood, though, and might force you to sell the young or expand the chicken facilities in order to fit everyone.

Caring for Chickens

Of course, you will need to give the chickens feed daily, and provide them with ample water in order to thrive. Cleaning the chicken coop is also imperative, as chickens cannot survive in a filthy environment—be prepared to do a lot of scooping, get a spade, buckets, and wheelbarrow, you’ll need it! the great news is their waste will makes wonderful soil. Lastly, it’s extremely important to prepare for any time that you plan on leaving your house for an extended period. You need an automatic watering system ideally. As chickens need to be cared for daily, finding someone to watch over and nurture your chickens in your absence is an absolute necessity.

Get Started

Keeping chickens can be a joyful and educational experience. Use these tips to get started on raising your new feathered-friends.

About Shelly Smith

Gardening gives something different to each and everyone one of us, be it a hobby, a love of beautiful flowers, or our profession, we all share the love of a garden so join me; understand what a garden means to me. You’ll find thousands of useful tips in my website to save money whilst gardening; I love to write about what I do in the garden. I’m a devoted mother and a passionate home gardener for over twenty years.

Yours Sincerely Shelly

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