Keeping hens

...In middle age





...Table chickens

...Rearing program

...- Quality

...Multiplying chickens

...- Incubator

On any scale of poultry-keeping other than the very smallest, it is simplest to buy in a prepared feed from a corn merchant.

Hens will certainly relish household scraps, boiled first to stop ant disease transference, but it takes a large family to keep even half a dozen layers going. Layers mash is formulated to supply your hens' complete diet. Today calcium is generally included but it is worth checking on this. If it is not included, you will need to supply some oyster-shell; just a couple of handfuls lasts a dozen birds for ages. If the birds did not receive this extra calcium, they would need to consume 12 Ib of grain each to produce one egg! No calcium, no eggs. Chickens also require a supply of grit. If they are free-range, they will collect their own. If they are not, you will have to supply it. Without grit, they cannot digest what they eat. No grit, no eggs. Allow 4 oz layers mash per bird per day and then a little extra. As a 25 per cent reduction in food intake causes a 50 per cent reduction in egg production it is clearly worth feeding your workers well enough. Fresh water should always be freely available.

Hens love some whole grain sprinkled about to scratch for and if you want to entice them into their building, they will follow a trail of grain at eating pace, of course. Our hens roam about devouring weeds with gusto; one of their favourites is a many-seed-carrying plant known locally as 'fat hen' presumably its name reflects its popularity with domestic fowl over past centuries. The hens also mow the grass. Giving hens greenstuff means that their eggs will have deep-yellow yolks; if your chickens cannot collect their own greenstuff, take some to them. Tie it up for them to reach up to so that they do not foul it.