Raising Backyard Chickens
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Raising Backyard Chickens

A broad overview of what is involved in raising chickens

Raising chickens can be great fun. They are hearty animals so even the novice can keep them with reasonably good success. They provide you with food in the way of eggs and the occasional fryer. They provide enjoyment not only as a hobby, but their odd quirks and antics can be very amusing.

 

Even if you live in the city, most towns will allow the keeping of chickens. Check with your local city codes administrator for restrictions such as the number of chickens you can keep or they may prohibit roosters (some neighbors don’t like waking up to a crowing rooster at five in the morning on a Saturday). I have a small flock of a half dozen hens I keep in the back yard, down from the 20 some I once had. I have found that the number I have now is perfect for my needs. So let me share with you what I have learned about raising chickens.

 

First, to dispel the notion that you must have a rooster in the flock for hens to lay eggs, you do not. Hens will lay just fine even with no rooster around. You may want to get a rooster to help with protecting your hens, or just because they look really cool. But it’s not necessary. If you decide to add a rooster to the flock, keep only one. Roosters can be territorial over their hens and having more than one rooster is inviting fights between them.

 

Feeding your chickens is easy, fun and cheap. Your birds need a daily feeding of formulated chicken feed. I use 16% layer crumbles that I buy at the local farm supply for less than $10 for a 40 lb. bag. You can supplement their feed with almost all your table scraps and they will love you for it. And though they will eat it, don’t give them any meat, onions or anything that is stringy, like celery. Onions will give a bad taste to the eggs and stringy vegetables can get caught in their throat. Your chickens will also spend the majority of their days foraging as well. Scratching and pecking at the ground, they will eat all the bugs, grubs and worms they can find, which is a great source of protein for them. Also make sure they have constant and readily available supply of water. They drink a lot.

 

Next, make sure they have a comfortable place to live. Their coop should be dry and free of drafts. They need a place up off the ground to perch or “roost” on. As bedding, keep the floor and nesting boxes covered in fresh hay. Straw will work too, but they prefer hay as it is softer than straw. Also, remember that just like any other bird, they poop a lot. So, you will periodically need to clean the coop of old hay and chicken poop and replace with fresh hay.

 

On the subject of the chickens little home, you may want to include nesting boxes for your hens to lay eggs in. However, don’t be surprised if they don’t use them. Hens like a little privacy when they lay and they may feel more comfortable laying in a corner of the coops floor rather than a nesting box. It’s ok if they don’t use the nesting boxes. You will just have to contend with a daily Easter egg hunt. One way to get them to lay where you want them to is to trick them. By placing a golf ball, ping-pong ball or some other egg sized ball in the nesting boxes, they will think it is an egg and will tend to want to lay there. And don’t be surprised to find several eggs in one box. Hens have a tendency to share space with each other.

 

You should now have a basic understanding of what it takes to raise chickens. However, there is much more to learn than space allows for this article. I suggest you go to your local library and check out a few books on the subject to further educate yourself. You can also do a search on the web for “chicken coops” and you will find a variety of plans on how to build a chicken coop for your girls.

 

So, have some fun with your chickens and be ready to spread the joy, as they will probably lay more eggs than you can use. Share with your family and friends because everyone loves fresh homegrown eggs!

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