keeping chickens - the first 6 months

Earlier this year we bought our first set of chickens. We always had the idea of keeping chickens but didn't embark upon the adventure until we moved to France. We'd heard and read all the stories about how easy they were to keep, that they only need feeding once a day, that they don't need too much space and that we'd soon be inundated with eggs. Well lets just say our journey so far has been anything but easy!

One Blacktail died within two weeks. Not our fault. We're assuming it had something when we bought it. The rest then developed this bad habit of pecking each other's feet, making them bleed and hobble around. Our Coucou Maran got pecked so bad it caught the blues and lost its motivation to walk, eat, drink, and generally live, so to end it's misery we put it down. This was sad as it was our favourite of the bunch, the only one which we had named and had got rather attached to as she had such a funny personality. (Yes, chickens to have personality!) The Bluebell decided to run away from home! Well... we decided that's what it did as there was no evidence of a fox, though it could have been chicken napped! So out of the 6 that we originally bought we now only have two Sussex and a Blacktail left, the feet pecking still continues, and we're only getting one egg a day.

Over the summer we had a visit from the lovely Sara from Hen Corner who gave us some advice. Until this point all our learning had come from books and the internet so it was nice to have someone look at our set up and let us know what we were doing right...or wrong. Sara said the space we had cornered off for them in the garden was more than enough for 3 chickens (it could really take at least 8-10 chickens) so space wasn't a problem. We had been letting them run riot in the garden to try and stop the feet pecking but long term we do want them slightly more contained. We had been feeding them a mixed feed of corn and grains,  but Sara recommended layers pellets, as this would give them everything they would need for good egg production and stops them being picky eaters. (They currently eat the best bits of the mixed feed and leave the bits they don't like.) Sara also recommended a purple anti-peck spray which could help with the feet pecking and heal any wounds they might have. I've just ordered some from Omlet who do some of the best looking chicken houses and also have a lovely French website as well as their English one! At some point we want to add to our flock, but Sara told us to sort out the feet problem first otherwise it could just escalate.

Thanks for the advice Sara! Do go and check out her lovely site 'Hen Corner' where you'll find some great chicken keeping advice alongside details of her London based courses, recipes and more!

Do let us know if you keep chickens. We'd love to hear your chicken keeping tales!

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