Smallholders handbook

The Smallholders Handbook – now available

Now available - chicken expert Suzie Baldwin's new book "The Smallholder's Handbook: Keeping & caring for poultry & livestock on a small scale"

You can order from Amazon and we also have them in our Hollywater Hens shop at our smallholding on the Surrey/Hampshire border.

Smallholders handbook 300

Suzie Baldwin grew up on a farm in Devon where, from an early age, she cared for a menagerie of animals. These included chickens, sheep, ducks, horses and even ferrets. She has kept chickens for more than 20 years and has recently moved to her own Hollywater Hens smallholding on the Surrey/Hampshire border.

The Smallholder's Handbook is a detailed manual to start, plan and manage your own smallholding. Suzie explains the level of work involved, how much space you need and how to prepare your land. There are chapters on keeping poultry (chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese), as well as pigs, goats, sheep, cows and bees. She also explains why having a variety of animals makes the best use of your resources and how many of each type to keep. Comprehensive advice includes choosing breeds, transporting, feeding, housing, daily care and wellbeing, as well as international legislation that applies to livestock.

An early start

A very early start today. On the 1st of every month I red-mite, worm and give all of my girls a good hands on health check. Handling your girls is very important to keep them in tip top condition. It is difficult to visually see weight loss with all their feathers in the way. Mites are very tiny so regular checks and dusting will save you a lot of time in the long run – prevention is always better than cure. Adding a clove of peeled garlic (slightly crushed) to their water will help to boost their immunity, it is also thought that mites do not like the taste of the girls when they are taking garlic in so it helps keep them at bay! Don’t forget some diatomaceous earth dusted into the coop – it helps make the girls’ environment uninhabitable for the mites. With about 300 girls to do here its going to take me a while !

May tips for keeping chickens

A hen keeper for more than 20 years with a 300 strong flock on her Surrey / Hampshire smallholding, Suzie Baldwin offers her advice and May tips for keeping chickens:

There’s an abundance of bugs for the girls to chase and eat this month – and plenty of sunshine to laze in. As a result, I am spending too long watching their antics. Elsewhere, my daughter Clara has become a surrogate mother to three Pekin chicks – the hen hatched most of her eggs but then left the last few to become very cold. Clara warmed them inside her clothing where they hatched soon after. Honker the goose is being rather protective of his wife at the moment and the turkeys are keeping everybody amused with their courtship dance.

It’s a good idea to spring-clean your chicken house now – I like to paint mine and give them a makeover. Use an animal-friendly product such as Cuprinol’s Garden Shades range, and air it for a few days after decorating, before allowing the hens back in; put them in a box or dog cage in a garage or shed overnight, and place them in the run during the day. Adding bunting can make predators wary, as it flaps in the wind, while solar-powered lights (on stakes in the ground), when lit, change the appearance of the house so, if moved about regularly, can cause foxes to become cautious.

Click here for details of Suzie’s hen keeping  courses and have a look at some more of Suzies tips for keeping chickens