It is a great feeling keeping your own hens and eating their nice fresh eggs for breakfast, but there are a few points to consider before to go and purchase your week flock.
Firstly, you need to decide whether your hens will be ‘free range’ or confined to a coop.
All hens will need a safe place to roost for the night. A shed 2mx2mx2.5m high will be big enough for 8 hens. Obviously, it should be weather and predator proof. Water and grit needs to be available at all times. Provide plenty of perches as the ‘boss-hen’ will prevent others from roosting near her.
Hens will begin laying at around 6 months of age. At this time the red bits on her head (the comb and wattles) will become bright red. She will lay one egg every 25 hours (usually in the mornings). Because of this, every so often she will miss one day and lay early the next morning. Provide a nice dry clean deep bed of shavings or hay for her to lay in, and leave 1 or 2 fake eggs there to encourage her.
Hens usually lay eggs for about 9 months before they go through a moulting process. Egg production becomes irregular, then stops when this occurs. Her comb and wattles will shrivel and pale pink in colour. The hen can look quite miserable for 2-3 days then her feathers start to fall out. Over a few weeks a new set of feathers will grow and she will begin laying again in approximately 12 weeks. She will need extra food over this time as she will be feeling cold and tired.