Why Raise Chickens?
Of all the animals that people can raise as pets, chickens are unique in the sense that they produce something edible compared to other pets like dogs, horses, cats and fish. In fact, raising chickens for pets pay off in the long run as they are a source of fresh meat and eggs unlike what you normally buy in the supermarket.
And considering the craze about organic food, with your own backyard chickens it is very easy to produce your own organic eggs and poultry meat – all you have to do is feed your chickens organic chicken feed. Organically fed chicken that roam freely, eat grass are proven to lay eggs that have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E while having lower cholesterol content!
Chickens Have Personalities Too
It may come as a surprise but each chicken has their own distinctive and endearing personality traits. Aside from this, chickens are very pleasing to look at because their plumages have an assortment of colors and patterns; they also come in all shapes and sizes. You will certainly be tempted to spoil them, pick them up and hug them to show them off to your friends and give them their individual names as you get familiarized with their characteristics.
Chicken Raising Contributes to Environmental Care
Chickens naturally love to range freely. By letting them range freely, you get two very tangible benefits in return – they would gladly eat any garden pest they encounter and help you with your grass cutting chores as they love to eat grass as well. As an added bonus, they’ll turn all they have eaten in the form of organic fertilizer! All you have to do is sit down on the porch and watch them as they happily go about their daily routine.
Most people are not aware that chickens can eat almost anything people can, even leftover foods. Although you may reconsider feeding them onions and garlic as they would make their eggs taste funny.
Chickens are the best producers of black gold soil their waste is a naturally nitrogen-rich. Chickens also thrive on leaves, weeds and grass clippings – they actually help people get rid of their garden/farm refuse instead of simply getting rid of them.
Chickens are Low-Maintenance Pets
Of all animals that can be taken cared of as pets, chickens are the ones that need almost no maintenance compared to others. All you have to do is make sure their food and water containers are freshly filled and replenished on a daily basis. And once they start laying eggs, then you have to gather the eggs daily as well. Cleaning their coops daily or every other day is good enough and their beddings have to be changed once every 3 or 4 weeks depending on weather conditions.
“If you are considering keeping chickens in
your back yard, you must read this book…”
“…If you are considering keeping chickens in your back yard, you must read this book. Whether you have a tiny courtyard or acres to play with, Keene’s advice will stand you in good stead and help you build the right chicken coop. The focus of the book is on being well-prepared for your flock before they even arrive. Keene ensures that you consider every issue before you spend a cent on birds, feed or equipment. He discusses which species is appropriate for your garden, what they should eat and, as the title suggests, how you should house them. Anyone with basic do-it-yourself tools and a patch of land could follow his instructions. The drawings and diagrams are easy to interpret and the lists of materials and tools needed are very helpful. Keene also appreciates that the value of using recycled materials in your chicken coop – cheap and environmentally friendly. Keene encourages responsible husbandry – his reminder of tasks to be completed weekly, monthly and sixth monthly should be replicated onto the calendar of any careful poultry keeper. The level of detail is just right, from a list of the color of the egg you might expect from you hen to a description of healthy hen’s poop! If you follow his tips, your happy hens will be very productive. Next we need a cookbook for ideas to use up all the spare eggs…” Tracyann – Amateur Chicken Farmer – Devon, United Kingdom
Is Chicken Raising Right for You?
Despite the advantages of raising backyard chicken, the practice is still somewhat uncommon. Most people are simply not aware that aside from the healthy eggs and poultry meat chickens can provide their family on a regular basis, chickens are fun pets too that you can cuddle.
Here are important considerations that have to be carefully evaluated and assessed if you are considering backyard chicken raising – for fun and pleasure and poultry meat and eggs.
Do You Have Time?
Although chickens are relatively low-maintenance, they do require time for daily care and maintenance. The necessary time is almost negligible as you only need 15 to 20 minutes daily (depending on the number of chickens in your flock) for replenishing their food and water and making sure that their beddings are dry.
Do You Have Space?
If chickens are cooped (housed) then you have to ensure that the run (where they are allowed to range freely during the day is big enough and secure from predators. It is highly recommended that at least six square feet per bird is allotted in the outside run, the more space the better. Chickens are natural foragers and they eat insects, grass and weeds and any other that they can find in the run – the more they are able to forage, the healthier and more contented they will be. This is to your advantage since you will reap the benefits in tastier eggs and poultry meat.
Making chickens range freely is to your advantage because they love to scratch, dig holes for their dust baths and eat plants and weeds. The more space they have, the better it is for your yard since they can keep the grass trimmed. While they range freely, they also aerate the area with their scratching while their droppings fertilize the soil thus making it rich and fertile.
Are Chickens Allowed in Your Neighborhood?
An important aspect of chicken raising is to determine if it is allowed in your locality as not all towns do. Check your local regulations and ordinances regarding backyard chicken raising as it may be necessary for you to secure the necessary health or zoning permit since what you plan to do is not on a commercial level anyway. Do your homework in order to avoid unwelcome surprise visits from town hall officials.
In addition, you also have to find out about noise regulations especially if you plan to have roosters with your flock. It is better to check with your neighbors first in order to avoid misunderstandings and future complications regarding your new hobby. It might be a good idea also to mention that when the chickens start laying eggs, they would surely benefit from that too!
How Much Would It Cost?
The initial investment in constructing the chicken coop, feed supplies, cost of the birds, and maintenance may reach a significant amount of money but in the long run, when they start laying fresh eggs and you already benefit from their poultry meat, the up front cost becomes negligible. This does not include yet the fact that your flock provides you with more fertile garden soil and that they keep farm pests at bay and your grass trimmed!
It is important to note that chickens are social birds and do not fare well on their own, you should therefore have a minimum of two for starters. If your family loves eggs then it is best to have two hens per family member; this should be enough to take care of your egg requirements as soon as your chickens start laying eggs.
What Size Chicken?
Another important factor for consideration is the size of chicken, Standard (normal-size), or Bantam, chickens that are a fraction of the size of Standards and are mainly raised for ornamental purposes. Although bantams lay edible eggs also, they do so on a less frequent schedule and their eggs are smaller in size.
There is no problem in having both sizes in your flock as Silkies, Belgian Bearded D’Uccles and Sebrights are available only as Bantams whereas there are other breeds which are available in both sizes. You can combine both sizes in your flock if you want both types.
Chicken Breeds for Cold Weather
If the weather in your area is the cold climate type where temperatures drop below freezing during part or all of the year, it is better to have Standards than Bantams. Standards are hardier and fare better than Bantams. Chicken combs and wattles are an important factor to consider since the smaller they are, the less they will be affected by frostbite.
Common Cold Weather Breed Chickens
- Plymouth Rocks
Chicken Breeds for Hot Weather
- Blue Andalusians
- Light Brown Leghorns
- White Leghorns
- Golden Campines
However if your locality regularly experience climates of over 100 degrees, it is best to avoid the big-sized and feathery chickens. In hot weather, most Bantams do well with the exception of the feather-footed varieties, and the following Standard breeds are highly recommended for hot climates:
If you want the best possible egg production, limit your search to the laying breeds. Understand, however, that many people feel the best layers (like White Leghorns) have a tendency to be more inconsistent and nervous and to avoid human contact. Dual-purpose and ornamental breeds are usually more docile and friendly but this is an oversimplified generalization. How friendly your birds are is in large part dependent on how well they have accustomed themselves to human contact and their individual personalities.
Common Egg Producing Chicken Breeds
- White Leghorns
- Rhode Island Reds
“My chickens are happy with their new home…”
“Have you been planning to make a cozy, comfortable and tidy coop for your chickens? Well, follow the guidelines in this wonderful resource! My chickens are happy with their new home! Bill’s book helped me make a well-planned, easy-to-clean-and-maintain coop for my chickens. I got practical tips on locating, positioning, protecting and maintaining the climate in the coop. Like me, it will help you too to choose the appropriate size, building design and materials for construction. This book not only helps you save while you build, but also enjoy the freedom to customize the coop to your individual specifications and needs. With valuable inputs on light and ventilation, I was able to ensure that the coop position was such that it allowed enough light in, but did not make the coop draughty. I particularly enjoyed the creative and innovative ideas thrown in about building low cost nesting boxes with material lying around the house. It set me exploring my own creativity and resourcefulness! An informative and easy to follow read, this book will guide you in building your own coop at a fraction of the cost of purchasing one! ” Rachana Misra– Go Green Farms™ Owner
Common Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds
- Plymouth Rocks
Chicks or Starter Pullets?
You have a choice of starting your flock with chicks or starter pullets (hens that have recently started laying eggs).
If you are really into chicken raising, you’ll love starting your flock with baby chicks; however, doing so requires that you give your flock considerable attention until they are full-grown hens.
You can purchase your baby chicks from a farm supply store (mostly during spring time) but they may not carry special breeds they mostly have a limited selection from which you can choose.
Make sure that you purchase female chicks instead of a mix of male and female as you may end up with a lot of roosters instead of hens! Keep in mind that roosters are not a requirement for hens to lay eggs.
Chicken Raising Information You Should Know About
In the course of flock breeding and management, it is necessary to catch and handle birds at various times. Proper catching and handling methods of chickens can avoid both injury and discomfort not only to the birds but the persons handling them as well.
How to Determine if the Chicken is a Layer
By learning how to tell which chickens are layers in your flock, you can segregate those that can be used as meat source and save unnecessary costs by removing non-layers and use them cooking.
The easiest method to visually tell if a chicken is a layer or not is by inspecting the space between the pubic bones. If a chicken is a good layer, there is normally a two-finger spread between the public bones; if the chicken is non-layer, the pubic bones are rigid and close together.
Additionally, most good layers have yellow skin which shows signs of bleaching of pigment; however, there may be cases of disease and abnormality in chickens wherein the skin color may exhibit faded pigment.
Adequate Chicken Coop Provisions
Providing your chickens with proper housing is absolutely necessary to keep your birds in good physical shape, contented and happy.
As a rule of thumb, for a chicken coop to be satisfactory for your birds, it must meet the following requirements:
- It must be predator-proof from all sides. Make sure that all openings are protected with the correct size of wire mesh – 15mm square so that so that predators can not reach inside the coop!
- Make sure that the area surrounding the coop is protected with wire-mesh fencing with the base buried at least 30cm below ground level to prevent foxes and rats from burrowing into the area. Rats would especially be drawn into the area because of chicken droppings.
- Make sure the coop is well ventilated (but not directly in the flow of air) to prevent respiratory diseases. Although chickens can stand cold weather they can not withstand being in the direct path of the wind.
- Make sure the coop is easy to clean.
- You should provide roosting poles for your birds because that is where they sleep! Make sure that there is adequate spacing so they don’t crowd out one another.
- Put 1 nest box for every 4 or 5 birds in a dark corner of the coop to encourage your chickens to lay eggs. Nest boxes should be a little bit off the floor but lower than the roosting pole inside.
- Make sure the coop is roomy enough for the birds to roam around when they are inside, at least 4 square feet per bird.
- There should be a waterer and feeder inside the chicken coop.
- For easy disposal of droppings, place a removable plastic tray under the roosting poles.
The last section of this e-Book has drawings and schematic diagrams of chicken coops you can build yourself that can house anywhere from 2 to 4 chickens but can be built larger to accommodate more birds if you desire.
The lists of materials are included but you can also use scrap lumber so as to keep your expenses to the minimum.
Before your baby chicks even arrive home, you have to adequately prepare them for their life outside. Since you only have approximately 4 to 5 weeks to get ready, here is a list of things and supplies you need to buy as soon as you get them in preparation for their move to their chicken coop.
Items You Need to Purchase
Waterer and Feeder
The best type of waterer you can get are those that automatically refill so you do not have to worry about your chicks everyday when they have already moved to their coop. Make sure that the design is suitable in such a way that they can not poo in the drinking trough and that they can not overturn it. The same holds true for the feeder, make sure they can not overturn it as well.
Chicken feed is the easiest to buy since they are regularly available at pet stores and farm supplies and are of the complete mix of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates and fat baby chicks need. You have a choice of organic and conventional types and when you chickens start laying eggs there is also a layer feed available for them.
Scratch, a mixture of corn, wheat, oats and rye, is considered a treat for chickens. You usually just throw scratch on the ground for them to peck at. However scratch should not be regular part of their diet as it does not contain all of the nutrients they need.
As we have said before, since chickens do not have teeth they need something else like sand or gravel which they store in their crop to help them digest their food. You can mix grit with their feed or put it in a special container for easy access.
Bedding keeps you chickens happy and healthy. It provides a soft surface for chickens to walk on as well as absorb droppings and odor. The nest should also have beddings so that the eggs will not break when they land on the nest floor. The best recommended bedding is pine wood shavings and should be at least 1-inch thick.
If you plan to let out your chicken from their coop then you don’t need to prepare a dust bath for them. If they would remain in the coop all throughout then you need a box about 10 to 12 inches high filled with 6” thick of equal parts ashes, road dust, sand and loose earth. Chickens love to take dust baths because this is their way of preventing parasites like mites and lice from finding a home in their feathers and legs.
Caring for pet chickens is pretty easy! They have the same needs as most any other pet. In this section we’ll fill you in on daily, monthly, semi-annual and annual chores, as well as other nuances of chicken husbandry.
- Always keep the feeders filled and the waterers full.
- Make sure the waterer is clean. Chickens do not like to drink dirty water and dehydration can make them ill very swiftly or worse can be a cause of death!Monitor your birds regularly to make sure they are active, and healthy. If in doubt, call your vet.
- Collect eggs and store them in the refrigerator pointy side down.
- Every time you let your chickens out of the coop into the run, double check the door when you lock them in to be sure it is secure and that predators can’t get in.
- TIP: Chicken eggs normally have slight traces of dirt or chicken feces on them. Do not scrub them clean! Outside the egg is a delicate membrane called the bloom that holds off bacteria and other foreign matters. Scrubbing will damage this membrane.
- Change the coop’s and nest bedding once a month to maintain cleanliness and avoid the build up of ammonia. Ammonia buildup is dangerous as it can cause respiratory illness.
- Remove the chicken droppings. You can put it in a compost bin or use it as fertilizer for your plants.
Twice a Year Chores
You have to clean the chicken coops every six months from top to bottom!
- Remove all bedding and nest materials, feed and water containers. Hose down and scrub the coop from top to bottom using a mixture of 10 parts water mixed with 1 part bleach and 1 part dish soap.
- Perform the same cleaning process with the feed and water containers, make sure they are thoroughly cleaned and rinsed well before replenishing the feed and water supply.
- After scrubbing, rinse well and allow to dry before replacing the bedding and nest materials. This should take only about 2-½ hours at the most.
Foods You Shouldn’t Feed Your Chickens
Although chickens can eat leftovers, there are some foods they should not eat such as:
- Citrus fruits and peel
- Any large serving of meat, or meat that has gone bad
- Garlic and onion
- Raw potatoes
- Morning Glories and Daffodils are poisonous to chickens; make sure to keep an eye on your flock if you have these plants in your yard.
Treats You Can Give Your Chickens
Like children and adults, chickens also need treats that will motivate them to live healthy and happy. But! Unlike children and adults, the treats for chickens are different and are more nutritious. Compared to human treats that mostly comprises of chocolates, candies, and other sweets, chicken treats are more on veggies and fruits.
Yogurt is a classic favorite of them birds. They are tasty and are very good to the intestines. This is also a good source of calcium that can contribute greatly to the structure and health of the eggshell. But the most favorite and is very popular among every living chicken is the worm! They will eat it so fast and not a single evidence of it will linger.
Chickens, even with puny brains, have in it the command to like or dislike a certain treat. Below are some of the things that in general, chickens will come running for. If the first one didn’t work, scratch it off then proceed to the next. Bon appetite!
Apple. May come in raw type or in applesauce. The seeds contain a small amount of cyanide but it’s so small that it can’t affect the chicken’s health.
Banana. One of the good treats. This is also high in potassium thus; it is good for muscle activities.
Live Crickets. You can choose to hunt it or otherwise buy it in a pet or bait store. This is also a nice treat to give them. You can watch them run around chasing the critters plus it is a good source of protein.
Mature Cucumbers. Give the mature ones because they love it when the seeds and flesh is soft enough to peck on.
Fruits. There are exceptions. But the best fruit treats are peaches, pears, cherries, etc. Some say that it is not wise to give fruits to egg laying hens but some would beg to differ.
Leftovers. When we say “leftovers”, it must be something that came from a human’s plate minutes after mealtime is over. It must be edible. Anything that came out of your fridge that is considered as moldy or spoiled is not advisable. Don’t give anything salty.