Are you thinking about having your own poultry flock? Depending on where you are in this process, and what research you have done already, you may have several questions!
How do I feed them? How often do I have to clean the coop out? What other care needs do they have? Do I have enough space? Our knowledgeable Poultry team will be able to help you answer all these questions and more! You can also find information in our Care Sheet section.
But perhaps the most important question for many of you is ‘Which breeds of poultry are the right ones for me?’ There are several considerations when choosing the birds for your flock and we hope this blog will help you to think through them. The answers to these questions will allow us to help you select the perfect birds.
1. Why do you want to own a flock?
This is an important first question as it will significantly guide the breeds that are right for you.
Are you looking for your flock to provide you with eggs?
Are you keeping your chickens predominantly as pets?
Or is it a bit of both?
2. How much space do you have?
When considering space, you need to think about both inside and outside space.
Inside, which they will use for roosting, you need to provide at least 15cm of perch space per bird and space for laying. Outside, the more space you can give them the better – it makes for happier birds, higher egg yield and a longer life span. However, for birds who will have an enclosed outside space, as a minimum, approximately 1m2 per bird is advisable.
If you plan to free range your birds, this will also have a bearing on what breeds you go for as some are more suitable for free-ranging.
These are just guidelines, and chickens come in all sizes, so you will be able to keep more smaller breeds, such as bantams, and less larger breeds, such as Brahmas, in the same space.
3. Who will be looking after your birds?
Will your birds be family pets? I.e. do you have young children who will be interacting with them?
If so, docile breeds who will become quite tame with time will be the best for you. Hybrids such as Amber Star and Golden Speckled or pure breeds such as Pekin or Silkie Bantams, are both good natured hens and great for children.
However, if your coop is an adult only area, you may be able to have more ‘feisty’ breeds such as Leghorns and Devon Blues which are flightier.
4. If you want eggs, how many do you need and is the colour of them important?
If egg production is your key goal for keeping a flock, think about how many eggs you and/or your family require. Will you also be looking to sell excess eggs to help towards the cost of keeping your chickens? Would you like a mixture of egg colours – white, blue, brown, speckled, pink?
The answers to these questions will point you towards some breeds and away from others. This table shows the colour and number of eggs produced by different breeds:
5. Do you want to breed your own birds?
If the answer is yes, then, unless you plan to purchase fertile eggs, you will of course need a cockerel! You may also wish to consider adding a broody breed to your flock – i.e. one that likes to sit on the nest and hatch her own eggs. Silkies and Cochins are examples of great broodies!
6. What is your budget?
As with keeping any animals, you’ll have an initial outlay when purchasing your flock. You will need to purchase the coop and run, bedding, feed, feeder(s) and drinker(s) and of course the birds themselves. The cost will depend on which breeds you go for, and how many you get. Our Poultry Starter Kit is a great, cost effective way to get started – it has everything you need and includes 3 hybrid hens. https://www.poultrycentre.co.uk/poultry-starter-kit/
Ongoing maintenance isn’t too expensive, but consider that you will have to purchase bedding, feed and potentially some health supplements for your birds each month.