When I lived with my parents I was the sole carer of my hens from the age of 13-19.
We started with three Black Sex Link hens. They were POL when we brought them home, and we housed them in a 10x2ft rabbit hutch, that had two sleeping / nesting areas above the run. Soon enough the girls became free range.
At a year old we lost one when she became egg bound, so we brought home a ‘point of lay’ Light Sussex chick…I say chick because it quickly became obvious that Milly was only 10-12 weeks old at most. She was so tiny and adorable, and she grew into a beautiful and loving hen.
She was a bloody special chicken. I’m not sure I have loved any pet quite as much since.
It was the arrival of Milly that meant we had to confine our girls, as we discovered Milly was flying several gardens over and standing outside a neighbour’s door, until they let her in and fed her 😀
So at fifteen years old I spent £350 and bought a 12x4ft coop, which lasted the next ten years!
When Milly was about two years old we rescued an ex-battery hen that had escaped from the back of a lorry at a meat processing plant.
We named her Eva, and she was awesome 🙂 She became super friendly (which made Milly insanely jealous!), and although she was only with us 6 months before she passed away, she was incredible.
I adored my chickens ❤
I fed, watered and scooped the poop out the nest box every day before school. After school I walked 60 minutes to get home to them, and I’d let them out to free range for a few hours whilst Milly chilled on my lap. When Eva arrived in the summer holidays I spent eight hours a day sat in the coop with her, to protect her from the others & win her trust. At weekends & during school holidays, instead of seeing my friends, almost all my days were spent in the garden with my girls…I even revised for exams with Milly snoozing on me!
We also hatched out a few batches of chicks over the years, which was always wonderfully exciting 🙂
Milly unfortunately passed away at six years old, and our two original girls passed away at nine and ten years old – they were laying right to the end! I have never gotten over Millybobs’ death.
Ever since I left home I have wanted chickens, and in recent years I have come to painfully accept that I probably won’t ever have chickens, or at least not for a very long time, because we will be living in rented accomodation.
Recently my partner had the idea that we could rent an allotment space & own three bantams.
There is an allotment just a minute’s walk from our house that already has four different flocks of chickens on various plots, so that was incredibly exciting…unfortunately after speaking with someone, there is a 2+ year waiting list 😦
Then I had a realisation…QUAIL!
I’ve been doing research all day, and Japanese / Coturnix quail hens sound like they’d be great for us! They need a square foot of space each (which is tiny), so would easily fit in the 100cm cage we are thinking of using…it would give them over 5 square feet, and we only want two 🙂
Quail are extremely ‘chickeny’ in their behaviour. If I can’t own chickens, quail are most certainly the next best thing.
Japanese quail are surprisingly good egg layers (and my partner loves quail eggs!) and lay around 200-300 eggs a year. I guess the higher estimate is if you use artidicial lighting. They also start laying at around 8 weeks of age! The downside is they only live for 2-3 years 😦
(not my image – thank you google!)
So we have the cage. I need to fathom a way to create an additional level, research and choose a substrate (personally I’m not a fan of wired flooring), food & think up more toys. I already have the feeder sorted (small plastic tub with holes cut in the side) and the nest box sorted (round plant pot / vase on its side!). I’m thinking a larger plastic tub with entrance way will work as a dust bathing area, to keep the sand contained.
I still need to look into Button Quail, and how they compare. How exciting!
I just need to find somewhere that breeds them now; I’ve emailed the place my dad got his newest chickens from, as those breeders seemed incredible & we’d love to support them 🙂