Getting Started With Chickens

Starting with Chickens

There is so much information on starting with chickens here is a ,  quick, honest guide to see if chicken keeping is for you, we have put together a list of the most commonly asked questions.  
All our hens come with a lifetime of free advice so please feel free to email me for further help or pop in and visit us.

What are the advantages of keeping chickens?

  • Chickens are a fun way of introducing any one in to caring for animals  and are  productive.
  • They are a  healthy, outdoor hobby which the whole family can be involved in, young and old .
  • Whilst they need daily care, they are not as time consuming as cats or dogs.
  • Great slug and pest clearers. although you do need to protect your gardens if have vegetables and flower beds
  • Chickens are great stress relievers – just sitting and watching them is really relaxing. 
  • A supply of delicious, healthy eggs from your own chickens. 
  • You will know exactly what has gone into your food. 
  • Can be great to help focus children and young adults and create responsibility and ownership of task.

What are the disadvantages of keeping chickens?

  • You have to be available to check them daily, or arrange for someone else to do so if you are away.
  • Be available to let them in and out every day (or buy an automatic door opener).
  • Be prepared to deal with any health issues/vets bills and decide what to do should they come to the end of their laying life – will you keep them as pets?
  • If they are free ranging they may take a fancy to your favourite plants.

Whats involved in keeping chickens?

A basic routine :

Early in the morning – Let out your hens, check they are all well.  Top up feeders and drinkers.

Dusk – Collect any eggs, check the hens again and close in overnight away from the fox.

Weekly – Clean out the hens house and run, wash out feeders and drinkers. Check the house for signs of red mite.

Monthly – Handle your hens to feel their weight and carefully check for signs of lice or mites. 

Quarterly – Worm your hens with Flubenvet mixed in with the feed.

What do chickens live in?

Chickens need a dry, comfortable but well ventilated house to sleep in at night safe from the fox.  You can either have a specially designed hen house or adapt a garden shed or outbuilding.  They will want a nice dark cosy place within their house to lay their eggs, and a perch  for them to sleep on at night.  The perch needs to be the higher than the nest boxes as they naturally want to roost as high as possible.

You have a choice of either plastic or wooden housing – both have advantages and disadvantages. 

You can either have your hens in a run or you can let them have the run of the garden and they will automatically return to their house at night (you don’t have to catch them every day – they will go ‘home to roost!).   They will need an absolute minimum of 1.0 square meters per bird –  the more space for them the better. Be very cautious when a manufacturer states a coop will house a certain amount of hens, check the measurements yourself and consider if there is enough space for your pets to spend their whole life in. In a house you need 1 sq foot of space per bird , remember generally hens only roost in the house and lay eggs in the nest boxes. Obviously they need space but a too large house may mean in the winter they are too cold as they like to bunch up. 

After the initial settling in period, hens will always return to their house to roost at dusk so you don’t need to worry about catching them and putting them in.  If you go to the hen house at dusk, all your hens should have returned from the run or garden and be on their perches. 

You will need to line the base of the house with shavings or similar so that you can easily clean them out, and put shavings or straw in the nest box. Lots of people line the house with newspaper and then the bedding  so it is easy to do a quick change over by lifting  the paper. Shavings are certainly more absorbent then straw , however it will not break down so quickly . Chopped straw is a great naturally product which will readily break down on a compost heap. Do not put to much bedding down , just a thin layer to help dry out the poop and keep the floor of the coop clean.  We advise using an anti bacterial  bedding product to help keep the smells down , help reduce bacteria and prolong the life of your preferred bedding material. We use AGRISEC  , there are plenty of products on the market 

What do hens eat?

Their staple diet is layers pellets or layers mash.  Unlike cats or dogs, these can be left available to them at all times and they will not overfeed on them.  Hens eat depending on their breed form about 120gms – 140gms of feed per day

Clean water available all the time is essential.  A huge amount of water goes into every egg and they drink more than you’d think. Hens drink about 100ml of water a day , lots more on a hot day.

The only other essential item is grit and oyster shell.  This can be put out in a small dish for the hens to help themselves to when they need it.  Chickens don’t have teeth and the grit does the job of teeth for them.  The grit is swallowed and stored in the hens gizzard, it is used to ‘grind’ their feed, and the oyster shell goes to make strong shells on your eggs.

They will also love small amounts of corn and other poultry treats (but strictly limited to ensure they eat enough layers pellets).
Do not feed scraps from you kitchen or give them any food that is not specifically for poultry . They may love pasta, rice, bread but it is not good for your chickens health .

What type of chickens should I buy?

This comes down to personal preference, but initially you have to decide between a hybrid chicken or a pure breed chicken.  

A hybrid is a bird developed by professional hatcheries over many years from crossing two specific breeds.  This is done to obtain the characteristics required such as good egg layers, docility etc.  There are about 10 established varieties of hybrid and different companies use different trade names which can cause some confusion. Here at Moon Ridge we concentrate on hybrid hens as they
are great for new chicken keeper s
Generally hybrids will lay very well for 2 or 3 years before production slows or stops whilst pure breeds will lay fewer eggs (usually stopping totally during the winter) 
Hybrids are often the best choice for new chicken keepers as they are vaccinated , guaranteed female , generally sold at Point of Lay , look lovely , lay lots of eggs and have no other issues that some pure breeds can suffer from .

A pure breed is a ‘pedigree’ chicken that will breed true.  They come in  variety of breeds  sizes and colours, they do not all lay lots of eggs , some are bred for showing , some are dual purpose ie meat and eggs and some make great broodies ( sit and hatch eggs ) this can be a great trait if you want chicks but can be a pain other wise as they stop laying and will sit on a clutch of eggs , if the eggs are not fertile the hen could be sat for a very long time ! Bantams are great for smaller gardens but some can also go broody and bantam eggs are smaller eggs !

Generally hybrids will lay very well for 2 or 3 years before production slows or stops whilst pure breeds will lay fewer eggs (usually stopping totally during the winter) 
Hybrids are often the best choice for new chicken keepers as they are vaccinated , guaranteed female , generally sold at Point of Lay , look lovely , lay lots of eggs and have no other issues that some pure breeds can suffer from .

I want to buy some chickens what should i be looking for ?

  1. Firstly the surroundings should be clean and tidy and the birds should have plenty of space, clean water and feed.  
  2. If you are going to mix the breeds they should ideally be living together as the added stress of introducing birds to each other is not perfect.   
  3. Depending on their age the birds comb and wattles (flappy bits on their heads!) should be a healthy dark red, however,  young birds will not yet have developed and may have a small, pale comb which is normal.
  4. Bright eyes with no signs of swelling surrounding them.  
  5. Clean nostrils with no discharge.  Whilst respiratory infections are common in chickens, don’t choose a bird showing any respiratory symptoms.
  6. An alert, bright looking chicken.  Don’t pick a hen who is hunched up or with her head tucked up under her wing. 
  7. No lice or mites.  Check through the skin around the fluffy feathers near the  birds vent looking for any signs of lice or mites.
  8. Clean vent area.  Make sure the hen doesn’t have loose droppings around her rear. 

If you buy hens from us we will automatically check through all the above with you. 

How do I collect and bring the hens home?

A well ventilated cardboard box or cat/dog crate will be fine.  The hens can travel together, you don’t need a box for each chicken, but it is important they don’t get too hot on the journey. w

When you arrive home open the box and gently lift the hens into their new house.  If you are not confident to handle them and your house is big enough, just place the box inside and open

How often do I clean them out?

As a general guide you will need to remove and replace the shavings at least once a week.  If you have more hens in a smaller house this will be more often but if you have a few hens in a large shed it would be less.

There should never be a build up of droppings or any smell in the house.  If you can smell ammonia then it is already at a dangerous level for your hens.

Every month the house will need totally emptying and disinfecting and checking/treating for mites.

What problems might I have?

Generally hens are very easy to look after and not prone to health problems.  If you are able to handle them regularly you are more likely to spot any problems before they become serious.  A common problem are chicken lice and mites, we can show you when you collect your hens how to check for lice on the birds, but you need to check your hen house for red mites which live in the housing.

A healthy hen looks bright and alert, has a red comb and spends most of the day foraging for food, dust-bathing and a small time napping  An unhealthy hen usually stands hunched up with her feathers ruffled and will sleep a lot of the time.

Do you take chickens to the vets?

Vets are now becoming much more used to seeing chickens, check with your local vet if they are happy to see poultry.   to help you with any problems your hens might have.  If you hve any concerns with your hens please contact us and we can then guide you what we believe the best course of action is 

They don’t need any routine vet trips (such as vaccination boosters).

What about when I’m on holiday?

Ideally your chickens should always be checked twice a day to ensure they have feed and water and are healthy and not injured.  If you are going away overnight and have a fox-proof run they should be alright if left with a couple of feeders and drinkers.

If it will be longer than this, then you will have to arrange for someone to come in and check them daily.  Whilst it is better to keep your hens in their own home, it is not always feasible and we offer a hen ‘boarding’ service.  You can bring your hens to us and we will look after them whilst you are away.


  • Fox proof, dry but well ventilated house for the hens to sleep in.
  • Large run or well fenced area/garden for them outside.
  • Feeder and drinker.
  • Shavings or bedding for the house.
  • Layers pellets or mash.
  • Grit and oyster shell.