A hen keeper for more than 20 years with a 300-strong flock on her Surrey/Hampshire smallholding, Suzie Baldwin offers her advice and April tips for keeping chickens.
Two of my pekins Fluff and Ethel are the proud Mothers of 18 chicks; they call them with a short, low cluck, which gets quicker and louder if their young fail to respond. They remind me of myself and my brood. Every morning, I calmly ask the children to make their beds and get ready for school and, as time ticks on and jobs aren’t being done, I raise my voice in a similar fashion. More chicks have hatched in the incubators so the nursery is very full and noisy. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, the March chicks, weather-permitting, will be out in the field with the sun on their feathers and the lush grass in their crops, giving them the best start in life.
April is a popular month for people to start keeping chickens. It’s important to take time to do research, especially when it comes to finding a well-designed coop with adequate ventilation, good perches and nest boxes, and strong bolts to secure it at night, plus a run that’s partly under cover for sheltering in bad weather. The house is the most costly part of hen keeping but a quality one is worth the investment. The good news is that other essential equipment such as feeders, drinkers, food and straw (for bedding), plus wormers (try Verm-X) and red-mite control products (I use Diatom), are relatively inexpensive.