- Credit: Archant
Lisa Steele is a keen henkeeper in the United States – and a fan of Your Chickens magazine! Lisa has a chickens blog with a huge following Stateside. Here she reflects on our shared interests – and the differences in henkeeping across the Pond
The United States and the United Kingdom may be separated by more than 3,000 miles, but a shared mutual love for our backyard chickens easily spans the distance and unites us all. I was asked to share how I raise my chickens on my farm in Suffolk, Virginia - yes, named after the county of Suffolk in England! Providing our chickens enough food, healthy treats and a safe place to live are universal, but some of the finer points of chicken keeping differ here in United States from what you do in England.
My flock consists of different breeds. I raise Ameraucanas for their blue eggs, Olive Eggers for their green eggs, and French Marans for their chocolate brown eggs. I raise Mottled Java, Lavender Orpingtons and Black Australorps, which all lay brown eggs, for their extremely docile personalities.
Our main predators here in Virginia are foxes (mainly red, but some gray) and hawks (redtail are the worst). Both hunt by day and are extremely bold, especially in the spring when they have little ones to feed, so our chickens enjoy the safety of an enclosed, covered run with the fencing sunk into the ground to prevent digging. Raccoon and opossum are also a threat to our chickens, but rarely seen during the day, so a secure coop for the chickens to sleep in keeps them safe from those predators.
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Straw is the bedding of choice for my coop. It’s a wonderful insulator in the winter to help keep the coop warm, it’s inexpensive and it also composts well. I love to add fresh herbs to my nesting boxes to help repel insects, calm laying hens and help with the respiratory health of my flock. Mint, lavender, thyme, rosemary, lemon balm and echinacea are some of my favorite herbs to use in the coop.
Unlike the UK laws which prohibit feeding chickens anything that has passed through the kitchen, we are allowed to feed our chickens kitchen scraps. I keep a bowl on the counter when I am preparing meals and all the scraps, rinds and ends of fruits and vegetables go into it for our chickens. After the meal, any leftovers also go to the chickens, including whole wheat pasta, meat scraps and shellfish. They get to enjoy garden trimmings too, including any bug-eaten or wilted vegetables, along with any bugs I find.
There are some marked differences between raising US chickens and UK chooks, as you can see, but bottom line, raising a happy, healthy flock is what we all strive for.
Follow Lisa’s blog at www.fresheggsdaily.com