Enjoy the good life

Description: Fresh produce is just one of the benefits of reading farm animals

Fresh produce is just one of the benefits of reading farm animals

Our pick of the best back garden animals and insects

o   Chickens

Cheap to buy, easy to look after and you’ll get to enjoy very fresh eggs.

Three hens will supply you with eggs all year. Light Sussex, Rhode Island Red and Brown Leghorn breeds are good layers and cost from only $ 15.6 each.

A chicken will eat about 120g of feed per day; a 10 kg bag will cost around $ 14.

You’ll need a least 2.5 sq metres of floor area per bird, a perch, nesting box and fox-proof run. Budget at least $ 234 for a purpose-built coop.

o   Pigs

Fun, social animals that are happiest in pairs.

A pedigree piglet, or weaner, takes up to 16 weeks to reach maturity and costs aroung $ 93.6.

Two pigs will need at least half an acre of well-fenced land, and be prepared for a mud bath!

Feed is expensive. It costs around $ 124.8 – $ 156 to feed a young pig for four months.

Pigs need constant access to clean drinking water and it is illegal to feed them waste food from you kitchen, including vegetable scraps.

o   Goats

Highly entertaining and a source of milk.

You’ll need tall fences and a strong tether because they can leap like deer and will eat anything and everything!

Goats can produce around four pints of fresh milk a day.

It’s not all about milk. The Angora produces mohair; the Anglo-Nubian can be bred for meat; while the Golden Guernsey makes a great per.

Try ukgoats.co.uk for sales, and budget $ 78 - $ 156, plus around $ 1.5 per day for food, hay and bedding.

o   Bees

Delicious honey aside, keeping a hive can be a rewarding hobby, especially as bee numbers are in decline.

A beehive can produce as much as 20 – 40lb of honey in one year.

Bees thrive in urban areas, and a flat roof is all the space you need. However you will have to learn the ropes before investing – visit the British Beekeepers’ Association to find a course near you.

There are no restrictions on keeping bees. You can have them in your back garden, but it’s best to speak to your neighbours first.

A hive with bees costs from $ 468, while protective suits cost around $ 156.

The new Energy Label explained

Previously the top energy label on white goods was ‘A’ but now you’ll see A+, A++ or an A+++. The new label also shows total energy consumption (kWh), noise levels on some appliances and water consumption. Look for it on fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, washer-dryers, dishwashers, light bulbs, electric ovens and air conditioners. By the end of the year TVs will also be covered. For details type Defra Energy Label into Google.

Garden furniture revamp

Description: Get your table and chairs ready for the sunshine

Get your table and chairs ready for the sunshine

If you like to get straight out onto the patio once the barbecue season kicks off, now is a good time to start getting your table and chairs ready for action.

·         Cane furniture: Dust or vacuum using the using the upholstery nozzle on a low setting and remove any dried-on dirt by wiping with a clean, damp cloth.

·         Cast and wrought iron: Rub down with wire wool to remove flaky paint or rust and expose the bare metal. Apply a metal primer and then apply rust-resistant metal paint.

·         Plastic or cast aluminium: Hose down with water to get rid of muddy marks. Remove more stubborn stains with a mild solution of household bleach.

·         Durable wood, such as teak, oak and mahogany: Wipe with a damp cloth to remove grime. Treat with a layer of teak oil or similar to bring out the colour and shine.

·         Softwood furniture, such as pine, ash and beech: Lightly sand and apply a proprietary wood preserve such as Cuprinol or Ronseal to give it extra defence against the elements. This needs to be done every couple of years to keep softwood looking its best.

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