Sunday, 27 March 2011

.Chickens for slug control

Traditionally people have kept chickens for their meat and eggs, as well as using them to convert waste into food and fertilizer for the garden. These days, they are often treated as pets rather than farmyard animals.

We bought out first chickens eight years ago, as point of lay birds. This means that you have slightly older birds that are almost ready to produce eggs. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. You get eggs sooner, and the birds being older are more robust and healthy. You need less experience at breeding, and looking after younger birds.

Probably the biggest disadvantage for the backyard keeper is that the chickens are not that tame, and haven’t had as much training or handling in their youth as you would hope for. While the birds do get tamer, I find that hand reared birds are often more tame.

There is such a wide variety of choices when it comes to chickens. We choose Light Sussex. It is a mixed breed that produces nice eggs, and can also be used for meat. The biggest downside of such a bird is that the breed becomes broody very often. You need to learn how to overcome this problem. Probably the most efficient means was the broody coup,

I think people often think that looking after chickens is quite simple. Well, I don’t agree. While the first stages... making sure they have regular food, water, and medical attention is relatively simple it is like taking care of any other animal. You need to pay attention to them, and become aware of the problems you can have.

Of course, it becomes very complicated when you get to breeding. Suffice to say, if you don’t know what you are doing I suggest seeking advice before breeding chickens. In particular, most people should not keep a rooster in their garden.

When we bought our chickens, we chose electric fencing and a paid chicken coup. It was perhaps the most expensive way to get chickens. These days, I would suggest that you convert a shed into a chicken coup instead. The biggest thing is to get the egg box and perches right, and make sure that the coup is not too large for the birds so they don’t get too cold during the winter.

You can find instructions on how to convert a shed in Seymour’s Self Sufficiency.

Looking after chickens is fairly easy. You will want to use a decent quality layers mash, or layers pellets, and may want to provide a source of grit or calcium in the enclosure. Probably the most common problems are with mites. You are probably advised to clean the coups with Jayes fluid at least twice a year, make sure there are dry dust baths, and probably worm the chickens regularly.

In addition to that, you will also want to buy a red spider mite powder available in livestock supply shops if you get red spider mites in your coup. You need to examine the crevices of the coup regularly to check for them.

Of course, decent hygiene is important, so you need to regularly clean your chicken coup out. This is not an entirely pleasant experience. But it does produce plenty of chicken manure, which can be put on the compost heap once it is rotted down.

Making sure they are tame

The most important thing is to handle the chickens regularly, from a young age. It is important that they learn you are not scary. Otherwise, it becomes quite a challenge to catch them and treat them when they are ill. You don’t want to end up chasing them around the garden!

Using Chickens to eat slugs

You can get the best value out of your chickens by allowing them into your vegetable garden to eat slugs during the winter. While they eat any insects and slugs in their enclosure, they will also be providing a certain amount of goodness to the soil too.

Chickens do eat slugs, insects and snails, and they really enjoy removing these pests from your garden for you!

Locking the Chickens up at night

I generally suggest locking chickens up at night, because they are a temptation to foxes. This is especially true in early spring, when foxes are particularly hungry. In any case you will need to fence your chickens very securely. Probably the best fence is an electric fence, but as long as you have a sturdy, tall fence with chicken wire that has been dug into the ground at least three feet deep, it should protect the chickens.

Some people may think their chickens are safe because they live in a town or city. This is no longer the case.


Chickens produce great eggs, meat, and of course will eat the slugs in your garden so can even save you time. They are well tempered birds, but they do need a lot of looking after. If you want to take care of chickens, I suggest getting a copy of smallholder magazine and finding a poultry course in your area.

1 comment:

  1. I never knew they could eat slugs. Actually wish I didn't know that now(!) 😂😂