Chickens are wonderful farm animals. They are easy to raise and handle. All you need is a little commitment and everything else will fall in place for you. Before you even get started, you must ask yourself why you want to raise backyard chickens.
Most likely your main reason for wanting to venture into chicken keeping is the need for fresh eggs and delicious meat for your family members. Chicken eggs are by no means tastier and fresher compared to store-bought eggs. This makes them a perfect choice of food for breakfast. The shells and chicken poop can also make some organic manure for your kitchen garden.
Your chickens may also help you control insects, beetles, worms, and other small animals in your backyard. With these reasons at the back of your mind, your next step should be to find out if your area allows residents to keep backyard chickens.
Check City Ordinance
Even before you order your first batch of backyard chickens, make sure to check with your city or local ordinances. This is to ensure that raising backyard chickens in your area is allowed.
Checking your town ordinances will also help you know the number of chickens to keep. It will be a waste of time and resources to invest in more chickens only to realize that you need just a few.
Here are steps to follow when checking your city ordinance:
Go online to check for your local or city ordinances. You should do so before visiting your City Hall for further confirmation. However, techniques and methods of finding the city ordinances may vary depending on your city’s website. You can make this task simple and timeless by looking up the phrases, “legal” and “law” on your city’s web page.
Go ahead to look for the tab with information such as “city ordinances” or codified ordinances”. These two options will lead you to a complete list of laws specific to your city or municipality.
Visit your City Hall to speak with the clerk of courts about finding your city ordinance. You can make your work a little bit easier by having the exact city ordinance number. Alternatively, you should be able to provide a general description of your city ordinance. You can state clearly whether it is a criminal or civil ordinance.
Apart from that, you may as well state the general subject matter regarding what you are looking for.
If your effort to find your city ordinances at City Hall or online prove futile, you can schedule a meeting with your local attorney. A nominal fee may apply here but you will have the opportunity to engage with the local attorney. You will also have your questions regarding the need for the city ordinances answered.
At least you will save your time compared to struggling to interpret the laid down rules and regulations on your own.
Don’t Keep Roosters
No matter where you want to start your backyard chicken-keeping business, don’t keep roosters. On the flip side, roosters come with several positive roles that can make your flock thrive.
Roosters provide the much-needed fertilization services, especially to those keeping chickens for breeding purposes. They also serve as defenders and guards against perceived or actual predators. Roosters can go the extra mile to find food for the rest of the flock members. Those are just a few of the positive attributes of raising roosters in the backyard.
On the other hand, roosters can be a burden to you if you are not looking to breed chickens in your backyard. Some roosters can become aggressive and inflict injuries to other chickens by pecking or jumping at them.
Roosters are usually noisy, so they may be a problem for your neighbors. Also, these male chickens need special care that is different from what other chickens need. For instance, you may have to remove their spurs from time to time and this task can be tiring at times.
Buy Chicks from Local Certified Hatchery
Once your city ordinance allows you to raise backyard chickens, your next mission should be to find the best source for your birds. On that note, you must consider exactly where to purchase your first chicks.
You may buy chicks from different places including local breeders, feed stores, and professional hatcheries. In this case, it is recommended to obtain your new chickens from a local certified hatchery.
Buying chicks from a certified hatchery comes with a lot of advantages. Local breeders always have various ages of chickens for sale. They also provide hatching eggs, baby chicks, and pullets. Breed variety and quality is another advantage of purchasing your chicks from a local certified hatchery.
So, if you truly want a specialty or high-quality breed of chickens, your local certified hatchery is a great option. They can provide show quality as well as high-quality chickens. Some may specialize in unique or heritage breeds that are often hard to find anywhere.
Local certified breeders are a great source of invaluable knowledge about different chicken breeds and how to raise them.
Most immortality, there is no need for shipping your consignment of newly acquired baby chicks from the local hatcheries. This saves you time and money in the process. All you will need to do is to pick up your most desirable chicks and take them home right away without going through the ever-challenging shipping process.
Choose the Right Chicken Shelter
Whichever choice you go for in terms of chicken shelter, ensure that it is sturdy and safe enough to keep your birds comfortable. The coop should as well be predator-proof, especially if your location is prone to common predators such as mongooses, weasels, and hawks among others.
Here is a breakdown of everything you need to consider while designing and constructing a coop for your backyard chickens:
Good ventilation in every chicken coop is a requirement. Ventilation can be in the form of windows, exhaust fans, roof vents, or any other means. The main work of ventilation on a chicken coop is to circulate fresh air among your flock of backyard chickens.
Usually, ventilations enable cool air to enter from near the floor area, gets warmed, and then exits through the top section of the coop. In this regard, slightly taller chicken coops will require both bottom and top ventilation points for efficient air circulation.
Good ventilation is necessary when it comes to keeping your birds comfortable especially at different times of the year. For that reason, vents must be located higher than your chickens’ heads, especially when they are sleeping. Higher vents help prevent cases of drafts inside the coop.
Windows and all other vents around the coop should be covered with at least 0.25 inches or 0.5 inches hardware piece of clothing. This type of cover is known to be very effective in keeping predators out.
So, a good rule of thumb states that for 0.2 of your coop’s total wall area, there should be vents or windows. Always keep this factor at the back of your mind whenever you are designing a coop for your backyard chickens.
2. Nesting Boxes
Since you will be raising a great number of hens, you should look forward to collecting eggs daily. Therefore, you must plan on providing a few nesting boxes. One nesting box for every three or four layers is just enough. But don’t be surprised when you find your hens sharing one nesting box.
Your chicken nesting boxes can be wooden, metallic, or plastic depending on your choice of material. Each box should measure at least 12×14 inches square to accommodate a fully-grown hen. Plus, the box needs to be placed lower than the roosts/perches to help deter your birds from sleeping in them.
Obviously, when you allow your hens to sleep in the nesting boxes, they will make the eggs dirty.
If you don’t have enough resources to acquire commercial nesting boxes, you can just recycle wooden crates, plastic pails, wine barrels, or totes. Whichever choice of nesting boxes you go for, make sure they are filled with soft bedding. Chopped straw or pine shavings can work best for your hens.
3. Secure Fencing
Location is very important when choosing a place to station your backyard chicken coop. This is where fencing comes in to keep your birds safe from predators or straying to your neighbors’ compounds.
As you may know, predators are a major problem for chicken farmers. Whether in urban, suburban, or rural areas, predators can wreak havoc to your flock if no proper fencing is installed.
With fencing, you can look for wire mesh or a chicken wire to keep away intruders. Alternatively, you can choose a hardware cloth (commonly known as rabbit cage wire), install a chainlink chicken fencing, settle for an electric poultry fencing, or use aviary netting to secure your backyard chicken coop.
Chickens are warm-blooded animals just like human beings. That being said, your chickens will feel comfortable when subjected to temperatures ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme cold or hot temperatures can negatively impact your chickens’ health.
Start by choosing chicken breeds that are well adapted to your climate. Also, take advantage of the available natural resources such as time of the year and shade to help your chickens stay comfortable. In hotter climates, ensure that your birds are housed in coops with higher ceilings, adequate ventilation, and extra space.
In addition to temperature control and good ventilation, your chickens deserve enough lighting. Light, whether artificial or natural, is essential for your chickens to see their surrounding. The light helps them eat, drink or even lay eggs, especially in winter.
A source of artificial light can make your birds stay active in wintertime or help defend themselves against predators and other intruders. More hours of continuous light is also necessary when your hens start to lay eggs. So, make sure that your backyard chicken coop is fitted with artificial light to compensate for short daytime hours of light at different seasons of the year.
Feeding Your Chickens
Your backyard flock of chickens will need food to survive. Food is one of their basic needs. You can decide to give them commercial chicken feed, seeds, tasty treats, or greens and vegetables. If you have enough space in your backyard you can allow them to free-range and forage for worms and bugs. Check out the following typical chicken diet for your flock:
1. Commercial Chicken Feed
If possible, provide your chickens with enough commercial chicken feed. This type of food has been formulated to provide all essential nutrients to your chickens. Several types of commercial feed choices are available today. Each has its own role it plays to keep your chickens healthy, active and productive.
For instance, you will come across growers mash, layers mash or finishers mash with a different formulation. Always choose the right commercial feed that suits your current flock.
Chickens are also fond of different kinds of seeds as part of their diet. Top examples of these seeds include sunflower seeds, corn, wheatgrass, soybeans, oats, and peas among others. You just need to keep them in a bowl or clean container for a while before feeding your chickens.
Since these seeds don’t have all the nutrients that your chickens need, they should be given in moderation. Just serve them as tasty treats for your flock to help supplement their daily feeds.
3. Worms and Bugs
In most cases, chickens will obtain worms and bugs when left to forage in the field. So, if you have enough space in your backyard, you can create a run for your chickens to free-range during the day. In the course of free-ranging, they will undoubtedly come across many insects, grubs, bugs, and worms which will serve as their source of proteins.
Besides the main chicken feed, you can give your flock some tasty treats. Normally, these treats come in the form of fruits and kitchen scraps such as cooked rice, pasta, dairy products, fresh fish, fish skin, and stale bread including crackers. Since these are only treats and not the main chicken feeds, they need to be fed on chickens sparingly and in limited quantities.
5. Greens and Vegetables
Chickens love greens and vegetables. Examples include turnip greens, swiss chard, kale, beets, carrots, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers beets, and lettuce. Watermelon, blueberries, and strawberries come in as snacks for your chickens. Just like treats, greens and vegetables should be provided in small amounts alongside the usual chicken feed.
6. Fresh Water
Chickens need water just in the same way other farm animals do. Water is essential for digestion and hydration during hot summers. For that reason, ensure that your backyard chickens have clean fresh water at designated points around the yard.
Chicken Dust Bathing
Chickens need dust baths to keep themselves free of external body parasites. Dust baths will also help them play around and keep their feather clean. Mostly, backyard chickens prefer dry loose sand or soil in the dust baths.
If possible add materials like wood ash or fireplace ash, dried herbs, and food-grade diatomaceous earth to the dust baths to help get rid of parasites from your chickens.
Regular Chicken Coop Cleaning
Cleaning your backyard chicken coop should be done on a regular basis. You must consider doing regular removal of chicken droppings to keep the environment inside the coop conducive for your birds. Get rid of cobwebs from all parts of the coop. Occasionally, change the materials used in the nesting boxes.
Provide Enough Space for Your Chickens
Just before you decide to raise a flock of backyard chickens, look around to find the most appropriate space for their coop. Make sure there is enough space for a full-size chicken coop or a henhouse.
In addition to that, the hen house must be able to accommodate water containers, a feeder, several nest boxes, and a roasting area. A well-constructed chicken house should be spacious enough to allow you to stand inside while collecting eggs and shoveling manure.
Other Things to Consider When Keeping Chickens
There are many considerations to make when raising backyard chickens. Some of these things to consider are in line with your location. For instance, you may decide to keep backyard chickens in an urban setup, a suburb, or a rural area.
Regardless of where you are located, have your neighbors in mind while setting up your first chicken coop in your backyard. Most significantly, have the following factors at your fingertips:
- Chickens can fly
- Chickens are noisy
- Chickens can smell
- Chickens can get sick
- Chickens attract predators
- Chickens kill grass
Backyard chickens have become the most popular source of farm-fresh eggs and tasty poultry meat for families. This is because raising backyard chickens is easy and affordable. It does not require a big capital, a large space, or most of your time. However, before you get started with your backyard chicken-keeping project, you need to fulfill certain requirements as explained above.
From checking your city ordinance to choosing the right breed all the way to providing the right shelter for your birds, raising backyard chickens is a great investment.Chickens