There are many different pure breeds of chickens available, but the vast majority of modern commercial birds are hybrids (a cross between two or more breeds). This is because hybrids are, in general, better egg-layers. They are also less expensive than pure breeds.
Bantams are popular hybrids as they are smaller birds and make a good choice if you have limited space available. A small flock will provide enough eggs for the household.
A popular pure breed chicken is the Rhode Island Red, which can lay up to 260 eggs per year. As it is a very strong breed, many hybrid chickens were bred from Rhode Island Reds. This breed prefers to have plenty of space to move around.
When to start?
Best time of year to start keeping chickens is in the spring as this is when they start coming into lay. Many people place golf balls in the coop to encourage the chickens to lay eggs. The first eggs can be of any size, but in general they will get bigger as time goes on.
In the autumn, the decrease in daylight hours affects the hens and less eggs are produced over the winter months.
While chickens will happily forage for their own food, eating grass, weeds and insects etc., it is important to provide a balanced diet to ensure that they have enough energy to lay eggs.
Each day, one chicken will need roughly 130g of feed. This is a mixture of wheat, oats, barley and maize. You should also provide a container with poultry grit (good for digestive system) and crushed oyster-shell for them to peck at. This helps to ensure the chickens get the high level of calcium needed to produce strong eggs.
Chickens love wild bird food and will devour any greens, for example courgette, lettuce, parsley etc. This provides them with additional minerals.
Also, it is important to provide fresh, clean water every day. This can be put into a plastic or metal drinker, and should be raised off the ground as it will stay clean for longer.
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