Why Keep Chickens?
Keeping chickens can be really rewarding. They are so easy to keep and you will get rewarded with eggs on a daily basis (hopefully!). A good healthy chicken can lay up to 6 eggs a week so just keeping, say, 4 can get you 24 eggs a week!
They basically need somewhere dry to sleep and nest boxes, although most chickens will lay anywhere if left to their own devices, they are very self sufficient.
My wife made me build a shelter so when it rains they have some where dry to perch without going back into the coop. This also doubles up as shade in our very short summer.
Their diet basically consists of layers pellets or mash, that can be easily obtained from pet shops and they also like a little corn as a treat. If left to roam in the garden they will also get lots of nutrients from anything in the garden such as grass, worms, snails and even ants and insects. We find that the more natural their diet the more richly coloured their egg yolks, put it this way when you buy battery hens' eggs the yolks are usually quite pale, but free range eggs have lovely orange yolks as their diet is more natural.
Chickens are also fascinating to watch and have really interesting habits such as dust bathing, this is where they make a shallow pit in sand or dry soil and wriggle around in it getting the dry soil/sand between their feathers, this is said to get rid of mites. They are also fond of sunbathing and love to lay sideways in the sun and get the rays to their outstretched wings.
We would recommend having more than two (we have 13) otherwise one will become bossy and bully the others, (if this does happen move her away from the others for 24 hours and she will drop down the pecking order), as in trying to establish a pecking order. They can be housed in a large rabbit hutch if a coop is not available or it is quite simple to make a raised hutch with a little ladder at shallow angle to allow access.
Keeping chickens is a cheap and rewarding hobby and chickens can live to a ripe old age of 15 although they will probably only lay well for about 4-5 years after which time their egg laying does go into decline. They make good pets and are much more intelligent than they are given credit for, I often her my wife talking to her girls!!??
If you do decide to keep them bear in mind that if they are allowed to roam in the garden (if you have seen the film Chicken run you have no idea how true that is, they seem to have an uncanny knack for finding any weakness in your fences), they do a lot of scratching with their feet and can be quite destructive, a run may be a better idea if you are having more than a few. They will always go back to their coop as soon as they sense dusk so catching them is not a problem, let them naturally go back to their coops in the early evening and then they can be shut up for the night.
They will need to be let out early in the morning as soon as it is light as the more daylight they experience the more eggs they will lay as they need natural daylight to produce eggs.