No doubt you’ve started receiving the Christmas emails or spotted the first seasonal chocolate on the shelves in the last few weeks. If not, you’re lucky! For those of us who’ve fallen victim to the increasingly early Christmas talk, you’ll understand why my thoughts turned to turkey (albeit briefly). With turkeys set to receive more attention in the coming months, I felt it was time that the common chicken got a bit of attention too.
Why? Because, chickens can actually be good for your lawn, as well as provide you with fresh eggs.
Benefits to your lawn
Chicken manure is a natural fertiliser that’s especially good for producing blackcurrants. The tiny holes that they make in your grass when walking around, saves you needing to spike holes yourself to free up room for air and water to circulate too. A lawn with chickens can be a healthier lawn, especially if there hasn’t been much rainfall! If you dislike stepping over grasshoppers or ants, they act as a handy form of pest control too – eating the seeds that ants feast on as well as the creatures themselves.
The disadvantages come with the damage they might cause to your garden. Hungry chickens could make for disappearing plants. The more space they have to roam however, the less likely they are to eat your favourite plants and munch on weeds instead. You can also protect them by placing mulch around the plants and seedlings with gravel, crinkled lawn edging and twigs. Having consulted the expert opinions of chicken owners, I’d give them access to a decent amount of space but not the whole lawn. It’s a preferred form of damage control – just in case!
As great as it sounds to have a brood of chickens to rake a lawn – it’s the eggs that would have the greatest chance of persuading me. Everyone knows that home produced eggs are fresher and taste much nicer than shop bought eggs. You can make some money by selling any extra eggs to neighbours and at markets, if you’re keeping less than 50. If you want to sell them to a bakery or local shop, you’ll need to register with DARD’s (Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) Egg Marketing Inspectorate in addition to their already compulsory Bird Register when you first bring them home.
Where to start
Start with hens of 4 to 5 months as they’re just producing eggs and are easy to look after. Hens are quieter than the male cockerel in the mornings and you can expect them to lay between 200 and 300 eggs a year, depending on the breed and how happy they are in their new home! I’ve listed the three most popular breeds below.
Bantam chickens are friendly but they lay smaller eggs than other breeds – about half the size of a full size chicken egg.
Orpington chickens have thick feathers and the breed was a favourite back in the Victorian age. Like the Bantams, they’re friendly but lay regular sized eggs. You can find a black, blue and white orpington – not that chickens are in any way a garden accessory.
The Light Sussex is docile, alert and adaptable. It’s one of the oldest breeds around and it produces very tasty eggs!
Could you see yourself adding a few chickens to your household?