It is a beautiful Autumn morning at our little home in Swansea Heads, I have just come in from the back yard. Every Saturday I clean out the two chicken hutches, feeders and water containers, we have 8 chickens that free range in our back yard and garden. If you have the opportunity to get chickens, then do it, you will not regret it. Our chickens are like part of the family, well almost, they all have names and definitely have their own personalities and quirks.
There are a lot of benefits from keeping chickens, of course, there are the eggs, and in the warmer months you will probably find that they produce more than you can eat. We often sell a dozen to friends and neighbours, this small amount goes into a jar, and then we use it to pay for their straw and feed, so they effectively keep themselves. I rarely need to weed or mow out the back as they are constantly eating. But be warned they do not discriminate when they start scratching and pecking around, so any small plants probably wont survive. Our vegetable and herb garden is fenced off, but we occasionally allow them in to scratch and clean it up for us, they are very efficient at doing this, by the end of the day we only need to add compost and replant. They are brilliant at keeping hive beetles and other pests out of our bee hive as well.
Yes, we have our own bee hive in the back garden, which is not for every one. Keeping bees is a real commitment, and needs to be undertaken seriously. If you are thinking about becoming a beekeeper than the best thing that you can do to start is become a member of your local amateur beekeeping society. Attend some of their meetings and sign up for a Beginners Beekeeping course. Suiting up in a full beekeepers suit and walking into a cloud of bees is all it takes for you to get an idea if this is for you. If you do decide to get a hive, then you will start looking at everything differently, its hard to explain, but everything you look at starts becoming in terms of is this good for “my girls”, “ I wonder if those are our bees”, or “ do you think this would be a good plant for the bees”. All you beekeepers out there will know exactly what I mean and will have a little chuckle with me. Another thing, you WILL get stung, so please be prepared for this eventuality, but don’t be scared off, because the rewards from keeping bees is definitely worth it.
Keeping bees is another way, we as a family, try to live more environmentally aware. There is a lot of controversy about beekeeping and what’s natural and good for the bees. I think that as long as you look after your hive and your bees and undertake all precautions to keep your hive and bees healthy, than you are contributing to ”Saving the Bees”. One of the first things long time beekeepers say is, “You have to find your own way of doing things” when tending to your hive and bees. This is the best bit of advice that I have been given, along with finding a local mentor to talk through things with. All the beekeepers I know have their own way of doing things, and we all say, that there is no one way of doing things, because all bee colonies and circumstances are different, so much depends on the environment and situation. I think that I could probably talk bees all day, I will just add that the honey you get is a bonus, and it will taste better than any other honey you have ever had.
Have a great day!