Keeping backyard chickens is much easier than you might think! Chickens are simple pets with little needs, and the best part? They give back! Farm fresh eggs are a true treat. Here’s what you need to know if you’d like to keep some of your own backyard chickens!
Where do chickens live and sleep?
You’ll need a coop for the chickens to roost in at night. This can be any sort of shelter with a roosting bar elevated off of the ground (emulating a branch on a tree). Chickens roost each night and like to be perched above the ground.
The coop should allow for ventilation, and have a few nesting boxes available for the hens to lay eggs in. You can easily turn a small shed into a coop, build your own, or purchase a pre-built coop.
I like coops with sturdy floors to help prevent predators from digging their way in at nighttime! I learned this lesson earlier this year when I found a skunk in our chicken run at 3 AM! Chickens are delicious snacks for foxes, skunks, raccoons, even cats and dogs, and chicken owners must do their best to protect them from these predators!
If you are raising chickens in an urban environment you’ll probably want to purchase or build a chicken run. This is an enclosure that allows the bird to have a limited range and prevents them from wandering into your neighbor’s yard! We have enough room to allow our chickens to fully free range, but let me warn you, chickens poop a lot! So if you allow your hens to free range, be prepared to clean your porch often!
What do chickens eat?
Chickens need protein, minerals, and grit for their gizzard. Nutrition is made easy with layer pellets available at any feed store. These pellets contain all of the nutrition hens need to lay eggs! Chickens also eat bugs, which happens to be one of the great reasons people keep chickens. Our girls love eating grasshoppers, worms, mosquitoes, and even lizards!
They will also need fresh water at all times; you can purchase a water container from a local feed store or online. We love the big metal ones because they stay full for a long time and are beautiful to look at!
Where to buy chickens?
If you want to raise backyard chickens, you’ll need to determine which breed of bird you’d like. There are many different breeds all with different benefits. Some are cold hardy and others lay beautiful colored eggs.
Once you know which type of bird you’d like to get, you can either head to a local feed store, search online sale groups on Facebook, or find an online seller. You can purchase chicks any time of year, but I recommend late summer/early fall.
Alternately you can purchase hens at laying age (roughly 6+ months). These birds will be much more expensive than chicks are, but they are ready to lay!
Chickens will go through a molt each year, usually sometime in the fall. They will lose their feathers and stop laying eggs during their molt. Additionally, chickens need around 14 hours of sunlight per day to lay an egg, so during the short days of winter you can expect little to no eggs.
With a proper diet and adequate shelter you can easily raise backyard chickens even in an urban environment! Chickens make great pets and are easy keepers that give back daily! For more homesteading tips, be sure to visit me at Boxwood Avenue.