How to Care for Backyard Chickens?
Raising backyard chickens can be fun and therapeutic, especially for beginner backyard chicken keepers. Backyard chickens are exciting to watch, and they are also great foragers. Backyard chickens require proper care.
That’s why backyard chicken keepers need to worry much about caring for their chickens to make their chicken-keeping venture rewarding.
Housing for Backyard Chickens
So, you have been dreaming of keeping a productive backyard flock? A flock that’s full of happy birds that scratch around excitedly. Well, you need to think about housing your backyard buddies.
These are some of the considerations you will need to make when housing your backyard flock:
– Coop Size
Backyard chickens require a good coop that keeps them away from predators and protects the chooks from harsh weather conditions. A good coop for backyard chicken keepers raising standard breeds should be two square feet per bird.
The cage needs a big chicken run with at least ten square feet. For instance, your backyard flock of ten chickens will need a coop size with a minimum of ten square feet. The flock will also require a run space of fifty square feet.
Another vital consideration regarding coop size is whether you plan to expand your flock. You will need a larger coop for the chooks to expand your backyard flock.
– Ventilation and Insulation
Ventilating and insulating a chicken coop is essential when raising backyard chickens. Good ventilation and insulation help ensure the coop allows ammonia fumes, moisture, heat, and carbon dioxide to flow in and out of the cage.
You can install vents in the coop to increase air circulation. Good ventilation will also provide your birds with a healthy, breathing space. Backyard poultry raisers with small coops don’t need fans for ventilation.
Natural air circulation can ensure there is efficient airflow in small coops. Depending on the temperatures of where you hail from, always keep vents at the top of the coop to help excess hot air to escape the coop in summer.
Insulating a chicken coop will help keep your backyard flock happy and comfortable, mainly during winter.
A properly insulated coop is warmer than the outside temperatures. It also keeps the cage cool during wintertime. Spray foam is an excellent insulation material for backyard chicken coops. Spray foam is durable, and it’s easy to install.
Furthermore, spray foam provides excellent insulation, particularly against cold. Spray foam is suitable for sealing those hard-to-insulate places and big gaps.
– Nesting Boxes
Nesting boxes are the tiny compartments backyard chicken keepers install in their coops for their egg-laying hens.
These boxes should be secluded and private. Kindly ensure the nesting boxes you install in your coop are covered on five sides, although one side of the nesting boxes should be facing the interior part of your chicken coop to give the hens easy access to the nesting boxes.
The ideal size of nesting boxes for backyard chickens should measure between 12 and 15 inches tall and around 12 inches deep.
You can have a couple of nesting boxes if you have a few egg-laying hens in your flock. You need to install several nesting boxes in the cage if you have many hens. The best ratio of nesting boxes for egg-laying backyard hens should be three boxes for three birds.
– Roosting Areas
Backyard chickens need a coop that offers a safe roosting area. Even though your backyard flock won’t spend much time in the cage, it will ultimately come to the cell to roost.
That’s why your chicken coop needs comfortable and safe roosting areas for the chooks. A good roosting area needs to have enough perches because backyard chickens love roosting high off the ground.
Letting your birds roost on the ground can be disastrous because it can expose them to predators and pests. Therefore, providing your chickens with reasonably positioned roosts will make the birds feel safe and protect them during the night.
After all, chickens have a natural instinct to roost up high, so providing roosting perches will help give the chickens a safe and comfortable roosting area.
– Feeders and Waterers
Chickens need somewhere to feed from. It would help if you introduced some feeders in your chicken’s feeding area, separate from their roosting area.
You can purchase premade feeders for your chickens from a poultry store. You can also make your feeders, especially if you live in a place that is too far from a poultry store, probably in a rural setting.
Chickens will also need to drink water because it’s essential for their health. They will need plenty of water, particularly during the hot months when the heat can overwhelm them. Your backyard chickens will need waterers to ensure they have water throughout.
On average, every backyard chicken should drink at least a pint of water daily. Water intake can be high in hot months because your birds need plenty of fluids to beat the disastrous heat stress.
So, it is essential to ensure your chicken coop has enough waterers to keep every backyard chicken hydrated and happy.
Plastic chicken waterers are some of the most affordable waterers for chickens. They are also easy to clean and aren’t susceptible to rust, unlike their metallic waterer counterparts.
The waterer you pick for your chickens should allow many chickens to drink water simultaneously.
Kindly keep the waterers close to the feeders because chickens like drinking as they eat. Meaning the birds will take sips occasionally every time they eat something.
– Protection from Predators
Protecting your chickens from predators should be your most important objective when setting your housing for the backyard chooks. A coop can have the best design and everything that makes your chickens feel comfortable.
However, the cage will only be effective if it has features that will protect the chickens from predators. That’s why you must ensure the coop in which you are housing your backyard chickens offers ample protection from predators.
One of the things you can do to predator-proof your cage includes covering the chicken run. Kindly close the door when the chickens are roosting. Ensure the door has robust latches to keep predators like raccoons, infamous for knocking down doors, from your backyard chickens.
You can also install a fence around the chicken coop to ensure the coop is safe from marauding predators. Eliminate leftover feed from the coop because such feed can attract predators like rodents, which can steal chicken eggs and kill baby chicks.
Remember to cut the trees and shrubs around the chicken coop because some birds of the air will perch on the trees and hide in the shrubs waiting to kill your backyard chickens.
Diet and Nutrition for Backyard Chickens
Backyard chickens need a proper diet and nutrition. Otherwise, these chickens won’t grow into healthy birds you can be proud of.
This diet and nutrition guide for backyard chickens will help you give the best nutrition to your backyard chooks.
– Commercial Feed
Feeding backyard chickens isn’t all about throwing some corn outside their coop. You need to provide your backyard buddies with quality commercial feed.
They are many commercial feeds for chickens, and you should aim to understand how each feed you choose for your backyard chickens will help them meet their nutritional needs.
The best commercial feed for backyard baby chicks should have at least 20% protein content when they start eating. Meat chicks require a commercial feed with a higher protein content, preferably one that contains between 22 and 24 % protein.
If you are considering keeping young backyard pullets that you would like to develop into layers, you must get a commercial feed that will help the chooks develop gradually as they grow strong bones.
The most appropriate commercial feed for backyard pullets should have a lower protein content than the content in starter feeds. The best commercial feed for pullets should be at most 16% protein content.
Adult hens that have reached the egg-laying stage should consume a commercial feed with between 16 and 18% protein, especially during their first 22 weeks of laying.
Feeding backyard hens with a higher protein content with commercial feed help ensure they have sufficient protein to support their egg-laying capabilities.
Backyard roosters have yet to have definite dietary needs when it gets to commercial feed. However, they also need feed with a sufficient percentage of protein, vitamins, and minerals, such as phosphorus and calcium, to help them have healthy and strong bones.
Overall, the most appropriate commercial chicken feed for backyard chickens should have vitamins, proteins, and other crucial minerals.
Although backyard chickens can’t eat grains only because they need to feed on many food items apart from commercial feed, grains are vital for your backyard chickens. Grains are some of the best energy-giving foods for your backyard chickens.
Some of the best grains to give your backyard chickens with moderation include whole barley, oats, and wheat. Corn is also great for chickens, although young chickens have a problem swallowing whole corn.
Consequently, it would help if you gave cracked corn to your backyard flock because it will have an easier time swallowing the cracked corn.
Supplements are good for backyard chickens because they help meet commercial chicken feeds’ mineral and vitamin deficits. Your chickens will unlikely get all the essential minerals and vitamins from consuming alone.
Having supplements and minerals for your chickens will help ensure they have the vital minerals and vitamins they are missing from the commercial feed they consume.
Calcium supplements are good for chickens because they help boost their egg production capabilities and also help keep their bones strong.
Other natural supplements like Epsom salt and cinnamon will help protect your backyard flock from diarrhea.
– Clean Water
Access to water is very crucial for backyard chickens. Your backyard chooks will suffer from heat stress and poor egg production if they go for long without water.
Clean water will help the chickens digest the food you feed them without experiencing any digestive problems. You can sprinkle clean water over the chicken feed to make it soft for your backyard fowl.
Common Feeding Mistakes
Feeding backyard chickens is fun, primarily if you feed your chooks with the best foods. However, it would be best to avoid some feeding mistakes when feeding your chickens.
For instance, you should avoid feeding the chooks with an imbalanced diet. You should also avoid feeding chickens if you aren’t using a feeder.
Furthermore, avoid feeding toxic foods to your backyard flock. The other feeding mistake backyard chicken keepers make when feeding their backyard flock is giving them table scraps containing excessive amounts of spices and salts, which are harmful to chickens.
Underfeeding your flock can also be a common mistake you must avoid when feeding your backyard chickens because your chooks will need more nutrition.
Similarly, overfeeding your chooks can be disastrous because the chickens will need help to digest and absorb the excess foods you give them.
Health and Well-Being of Backyard Chickens
Backyard chickens are great birds to keep, whether for eggs or meat. However, it would help if you mind about the health and well-being of these birds.
These are some things to know about the health of your backyard flock:
– Common Health Problems
Backyard chickens are susceptible to many health problems. For instance, your backyard flock could be prone to health issues like coccidiosis, which have a high mortality rate in backyard chickens.
Some of your backyard chooks with this disease can show signs like loss of appetite and diarrhea.
Backyard chickens can also suffer from Fowl Pox, which makes chickens develop warts and scabs on their eyelids, feet, faces, and wattles.
– Preventing and Treating Disease
You can prevent common diseases in backyard chickens by keeping your backyard flock away from wild birds since they carry diseases that affect domestic fowl.
You can also protect your chickens from disease by ensuring they don’t mix with other infected birds. Kindly engage the services of a vet if you think your birds could be sick.
– Importance of Vaccination
Vaccination is ultimately the best way to protect your backyard flock from diseases they are likely to contract from other sick chickens.
Vaccination will help keep your birds healthy and free from contagious diseases, whether you raise your chickens domestically or on a large scale.
Egg Production and Handling
Egg production is one of the main objectives for keeping backyard chickens. That’s why you should be concerned about egg production in your backyard chooks and how to handle the eggs.
– Factors Affecting Egg Production
Many factors affect egg production in backyard egg-laying hens. Feed consumption is one of the factors that will affect egg production in your egg-laying hens.
The hens will only produce eggs if you consider the quantity and quality of feed you give to the birds.
Age is also another factor that continues to affect egg production in backyard hens. Your backyard hens will continue laying fewer eggs as they age, while the young layers will still be laying many eggs.
Environmental factors affect egg production because chickens won’t lay consistently in cold months.
After all, cold and a reduction in daylight hours during winter will affect a hen’s laying abilities.
– Tips for Collecting and Storing Eggs
Your backyard chickens won’t disappoint you when you are giving them the best possible diet and living conditions. You will have many eggs, and the task is collecting and storing their eggs.
You can collect the chicken eggs and store them in a carton. Enclose the carton all the time to ensure the eggs don’t fall off and break as you collect them.
Avoid keeping the eggs in a refrigerator, unless you will consume them in a few days. Keep the eggs facing upside-down in a carton after collecting them.
– Safety Consideration for Handling Eggs
Eggs are fragile, and you must consider their safety when handling them. You need to handle the eggs gently when collecting or storing them.
You also have to ensure you keep the eggs in a safe and secure place where they will not be susceptible to breakages and harsh weather conditions that will make them go bad.
Other Considerations for Keeping Backyard Chickens
You will have to consider these other considerations when keeping backyard chickens.
The laws of keeping backyard chickens vary from one place to the other. For instance, backyard chicken keepers in urban areas have restrictions on the number of backyard chickens they can keep.
You should know how many backyard chickens you can raise depending on the nature of your household.
You can’t raise many chickens in an urban setting because you will face nuisance lawsuits, thanks to the Right to Farm legislation, which seeks to protect homesteaders and farmers raising backyard chickens.
– Rural or Urban Areas
Raising backyard chickens can work tremendously, depending on where you raise your chickens. Those raising backyard chickens in rural places have an advantage over those raising their birds in urban dwellings.
Urban dwellings have limitations because owners can’t let their chickens free range, unlike their rural counterparts, who can let their birds free range, provided they are safe from predators.
– Other Pets
Some of the backyard chickens get along with other pets and farm animals. Others are hostile and can’t get along well with other pets, especially cats and dogs.
So, you have to consider whether the backyard chickens you raise will get along with other pets.
– Chicken Breed
This is another crucial consideration when raising and caring for backyard chickens. Some chicken breeds like Silkies can’t make good backyard chickens because they are more pet birds than chickens you can be excited to see roaming your yard.
Other breeds are aggressive and can’t live with other members of your backyard flock. It would help if you chose a chicken breed that suits your purpose.
You can select a larger breed like the Australorp if you are looking for a meat breed. Or, you can choose a Leghorn if you want a breed that will give you more eggs.
You can do all the things to keep a healthy backyard flock. Your flock will only thrive if you protect it from predators and people who think they can steal or harm your backyard flock.
You must consider how you will protect your flock from any existential threat.
Keeping backyard chickens is interesting, especially if you know what your backyard flock needs. Despite the size of your backyard flock, the key is to provide it with the essentials it needs to thrive.
Furthermore, it would help if you protected your flock from diseases, predators, and those who aspire to harm the flock.