Why Our Chickens & FAQ

Why Our Chickens?

We are passionate about poultry and have a great deal of experience in all aspects of their husbandry. We can guide you through the mine field of information, having an abundance of knowledge and experience about all the breeds we have at the farm. We offer free simple friendly advice prior to and for the life of your purchase. Having come from a farming family and kept poultry for all his life our business has grown and evolved because of Merv and now our family’s love of all things poultry.

Here at Moon Ridge Farm we keep point of lay chickens all year around. They are kept free range on meadow grass amongst newly planted orchards with traditional housing and shade. Our chickens are fed layers pellets with an occasional treat of corn in the evenings and fresh spring water. Only in very inclement weather will our chickens be sold from an indoor area (for our comfort more than the chickens) we want our chickens to be acclimatized to the British weather!!
We will spend as little or as long as you need when selecting your chickens , some people go by breed others like to choose their chickens by personality . All our customers are allowed in the paddocks with the chickens and you can choose your individual chickens which we will catch up for you .

We are a true family business with all family members working on the farm . William our son helps catching up chickens and is proving to be quite a sales man whilst Megan offers guided tours of the farm with fascinating stories of happenings here ( we can’t promise they are all true!!)

All our chickens have been reared together from day old & have followed a comprehensive vaccination program completed during their sixteenth week. They are all sold at Point of Lay (P.O.L.) and can lay between 240 to 320 eggs per year depending on breed. Throughout their rearing time they have lots of human contact and even listen to radio five!! The breeds we keep are especially suited to free range systems and back garden environments. Our breeds have been chosen for their temperament, ranging ability, feather and egg quality.

Our chickens work well as a mixed group allowing you to mix ‘n’ match creating your own designer flock. We can provide cockerels if you wish. We sell everything you will need to get you started with keeping chickens in our poultry shop. All the products we sell are tried and tested by ourselves and are used around the farm. We offer locally made housing and a great range drinkers, feeders and bedding plus lots of other poultry related items.

We are confident that you will be pleased with our hens however if you have any concerns please do contact us and we will do our best to help, advise and if necessary replace.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. At what age can I expect my chickens to lay?

A. We sell our chickens from 17 weeks onwards. On average they will start to lay in the summer time from: 18 weeks to 21 weeks, and in the winter time from: 19 weeks to 23 weeks.

Q. Will my chickens need any more vaccinations?

A. In a domestic environment the chickens are vaccinated for life. You will need to worm them periodically roughly 3/4 times a year.

Q. What should I feed my chickens?

Layers pellets or layers mash is a complete diet. If you wish to give them treats i.e. corn or greens give sparingly at the end of the day. Chickens roughly eat 100/150 gms of food a day. You need to provide mixed grit to aid digestion for the chicken.

Q. What should I use as bedding?

A. We recommend shavings or miscanthus in the house and straw in the nest box, never hay.

Q. What do I do when I get home with my chickens?

A. Put them directly into the house if early in the day keep them in house for 2/3 hours and then let them out into the run, best to let them get used to the house and run for at least three days prior letting them free range completely. If later in the day keep them in the house overnight before letting them out.

Q. How do I introduce new chickens to an established group?

Place new birds in house as above with the old birds outside, when the new birds are already at roost let the older birds into the house. In the morning open the chicken house as normal. If they are completely free range it will be best to keep them in a smaller area for the first 2/3 days for them to settle down. You will just need to keep an eye on your chickens for the first 48 hours while they establish a new pecking order. Place an extra feeder and drinker in the run.

Q. If I think my Chicken is unwell what should I do? 

A. Do not hesitate to contact us, we are not qualified vets but between us have lots of poultry experience. Merv having always worked with livestock including all types of poultry, waterfowl etc… Any problems that you may have we have probably come across. If for any reason we cannot help we can always refer you to someone who can.

 

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 can be friendly sociable productive animals to keep.
  • A great introduction to keeping livestock
  • They are a  healthy, outdoor animal  which the whole family can be involved in, young and old .
  • Whilst they need daily care, they are not as time consuming as your pet 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.
  • All our chickens are productive for laying eggs  if you purchase our hybrids, for broodies as with some of the bantams although they still lay lots of eggs and  for a dual purpose bird when it comes to some of our pure breeds.

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 – ..
  • 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 with rounded edges 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 1.5 square metres 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.

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.

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 thier 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. e.g. Amber Star, Amber Link and Ambers are all the same breed.

A pure breed is a ‘pedigree’ chicken that will breed true.  They come in a huge variety of sizes and colours, some are used for showing and exhibiting , The types we keep are mostly dual purpose both meat and eggs but they still look great.

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) but there is a huge variety of sizes and colours to choose from.
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.

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 will 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.  As a first stop there are a huge amount of web forums to cater for the many new hen keepers (see my Links page) to help you with any problems your hens might have.  

Ultimately a hen is a living creature and no less likely to feel pain or fear than a cat or dog, and if they are in any sort of pain would need to see a vet.  By taking them on you are responsible for their health and well being, and before deciding to buy them, need to be aware that could include nursing them as well as vets bills.

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.

LIST OF ESSENTIALS

  • 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. 
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