I'm so glad I found this community - I honestly don't think there's a British one like it. I don't feel quite so alone in my AP style now so thank you
Anyway, my question is this:
How can I start up with chickens in a suburban garden without upsetting my new neighbours?
DH and I have recently moved into our first house. We've previously only lived in apartments and I was so excited to get a garden. DH promised that I could buy some chickens as soon as we got one. We live in a small village and I'd describe the area as semi-rural; however, our house is semi-detached and although the garden is a good size, it shares a fence with three neighbours: two either side next door and one at the back. One side is my parents though and I know they're looking forward to the chickens! It's the other two I'm worried about - both are elderly and have suffered previously with the people who used to live in our house. The lady who shares a wall with us was frequently blasted with rap music by the last occupiers despite the fact the poor lady's nearly 80 and they had a 1 yr old baby.... All the neighbours had problems with the amount of rubbish they created and were generally unimpressed by the state of the gardens saying 'they lowered the tone of neighbourhood', and were unsanitary etc.
We plan on being in this house for the next five years or so and don't want to start any arguments. DH and I have spent a lot of time cleaning and revamping the house and gardens so it all looks tidy and neat and have prepared an area at the back for our chickens. We've planned on getting 4 hens. I've done a lot of research and have chosen breeds that are known to be quiet and docile as well as good layers. we won't be getting a rooster and our fences around the back garden are 6 feet tall. I've chosen a coop that is raised well off the ground so rats can't burrow in and we're considering also buying a cat to further deter rodents. We're a small family as yet (me, DH and our nearly 9mo DS) and certainly wont be able to eat as fast as our girls lay so I'm planning to sweeten up the neighbours with free eggs too. Have we missed anything? Does anyone have any advice on keeping them clean, happy and avoiding the dreaded rats? Is a cat a good idea?
Hope someone can help!
I wouldn't worry much about rats if your coop is off the ground and you store the food somewhere secure. They are really after either the food or the dark hiding place. IMO, not worth a cat unless you really just want one anyway. We haven't had any rats or mice in our coops or goat barn (which we don't feed in), but we do get them in the feed room. They just want the food.
Don't leave feed in the coop overnight, and really, if you can it's best if you just feed what they can consume two times a day and not in the coop (at least the closed area)- then, nothing to attract the rodents. (This would be for hens. If you get chicks they need food all day.)
CPST, LLL and Mom to a 9yr old animal lovin' girl, 6yr old wild man, 4 yr old cuddle bug and 1 year old "little brother."
Now we are growing the family with chickens, ducks, and dairy goats.
Thanks carseatqueen - I guess I'm just worried about being tarred with the same brush as the last people. Honestly, I do think I just want a cat too! Hehe.. will the DH that we HAVE to have one.
Keep the coop clean by using bedding generously and cleaning it often. Don't let "cackle spackle" build up only to get mashed down by feet and harden to cement and smell foul.
The only thing you can't stop is the noise--hens can be loud! And they seem to know when all is quiet and their voices can carry the farthest--like Sunday mornings at 7:00 am!
If your neighbors don't spray their yards or used chemicals, you can offer to take their weeds to feed your hens. They might be amused by that.
Your idea to share the eggs is a good one. A fried egg from a home flock tastes so much better than a store-bought one! I only hope that 4 hens is enough for you to get enough to share...
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
I live in an urban neighborhood in a small city, and we keep chickens! A few tips: as the above posters mentioned, cleanliness is everything. Chickens are like cats: when well maintained and not crowded, they don't smell. But keep too many in a small space (like 5 cats in a small flat) or don't clean their poo, and the smell does get bad. 4 hens sounds perfect for a small yard! It sounds like you've already got the garden in order, which is great-- keeping everything neat and tidy will make sure that neighbors don't have anything to complain about other than the chickens.
Hens do make some noise, but it's not-- in my opinion, at least-- BAD. Not like a dog stuck outside for hours, barking its fool head off, or music blaring, or traffic.
If you haven't been on www.backyardchickens.com yet, you must go there-- that forum has EVERYTHING about small-scale chicken-keeping. They even have a thread for others in the UK: http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/2199/anyone-in-england in case you feel alone in your new venture!
Good luck with your chickens!
Mara, mama to two boys born 05/2009 and 04/2011, after four miscarriages.
cackle spackle - LOL! I'm so excited to pick up the girls now. I'll definitely be checking out that forum too.
Not my invention-- but I think it's hilarious. I second the support on BYC, especially the regional threads. My girls and I love reading the "What Breed and Gender" forum and making our guesses. It's quite educational.
Give me a few minutes while I caffeinate.
Thank you for all your help ladies. Once I'm up and running I will start a new thread and post some pictures for you.
Chickens are AWESOME.
Wife to one amazing husband , SAHM to DS 10/09, DS 10/19, one furbaby , and lots of !
I say make friends with the ones you don't know yet, kiss their butt, introduce yourselves, let them know your plans that you're only staying for 5 or so years (so they know there is no point to trying to push you out if that's the way they'd normally operate), tell them how excited you are to finally have your first garden, etc... then bribe them with gifts: plants, greeting cards, gift certificates, etc. Once you get on their good side, and they see what lovely people you are, start phasing in your annoying behaviour slowly. Continue apologizing for anything that you do outside and ask if it bothers them. I find neighbours are a lot more forgiving if they see that you mean well. If they think you're just an inconsiderate ass, they'll find anything and everything to complain about.
If you're going to have 4 hens, you'll probably have a surplus of eggs some of the time, you can also offer them fresh eggs. Also, if the older lady is by herself, your DH could offer to go over and help her with things around her home. If she doesn't drive, let her know if you're going to the store and ask if she needs anything that you could pick up for her.
Once you get on their good side, and they see what lovely people you are, start phasing in your annoying behaviour slowly.
Hehe - I like it! The thing is, I do understand why they'd be worried. My mum and dad have lived next door for the past 3 years so know the people that used to live in our house well and they were filthy. Unsanitary is too kind a word really. DH spent 6 hours removing weeds and rubbish from a metre wide border in the back garden when we first moved in; when I went to start digging around in it to plant my vegetables there the other day, I spent a further 3 hours removing yet more rubbish buried deep down - broken glass, kids toys, cigarette butts, plastic bottle tops. The air turned blue when DH looked behind the garage and found for some reason she'd seen fit to stuff a load of sanitary towels there! They rented the house and just didn't care at all. Their landlord ended up evicting them when he saw the state of the place, which is how it came on the market and we ended up with it (not before it was stripped and fumigated I might add - but a bargain is a bargain). So I really do understand why the poor people who've lived in proximity to that for so long would be concerned about chickens. Hence, I'm bending over backwards to make sure the chickens are as clean and unobtrusive as possible. Thank you for all the pointers!
Is this the same as swearing a blue streak?
I know this is a few days old, but I just wanted to add that I would think it's a little odd if a neighbor gave us gift certificates, unless they were long-time good friends as well. Chicken eggs, hell yeah. Tomato sprouts from their over-prolific spring seedlings, you bet. Zucchini (courgettes?) left on my doorstep at midnight, the more the merrier! Me benefiting from their suburban farming efforts, sounds good.
Crunchy Brit, this sounds like a lot of fun, hard work with a great payoff. Best of luck to you!
Someone moved my effing cheese.
Partner to R ('03); Parent to T ('07), A ('10), and E ('13)
Thanks for replying ladies - apologies I haven't got back to you all earlier but I returned to work last week and its been quite a shock to DS. He's been extra clingy in the evenings and on my days off, its heartbreaking really. The chickens are going to be fun I'm sure though. Journeymom - yeah I think its the same, let's just say he was MAD!!! I'm going on holiday in June but when we return in July we'll be nesting for our girlies!! I'm extremely excited and think it'll be really good for DS to grow up seeing where food really comes from rather than thinking everything belongs in a plastic bag on a supermarket shelf.