Nothing compares to a farm-fresh egg or perhaps a backyard-fresh egg. For raising chickens, you don’t need a large piece of land; even a tiny urban backyard can do that.
Children will learn and enjoy raising the birds and gathering their eggs, and it’s also a terrific way to reduce the environmental effect of your diet.
Here’s how to get started if you want to keep a few hens and gather your backyard-fresh eggs.
The Basics Of Raising Chickens
Before starting a backyard chicken adventure, you should think about a few things.
Consider the time commitment involved in rearing chickens: Hens can’t be left alone for extended periods and need attention all year.
You’ll need a chicken sitter if you have to go away like a pet sitter.
Also, consider how many chickens you can care for and their lifespan. Three to six chickens are the optimal number for beginners because they are social animals and require interaction.
Hens only lay eggs for a relatively short period. The first two or three years of a hen’s life are the most productive; their egg production will drop. Hens typically live for 5-7 years (but some can live for 10-15 years!).
You should gradually introduce more young chickens if you want a consistent supply of eggs.
Why Raise Your Chickens?
Significant benefits, both environmental and personal, come with raising hens. By producing your eggs, you can avoid being a part of the industrial agriculture system, infamous for its cruel and unsustainable practices.
While the percentage of cage-free chickens has increased dramatically — from 4% to 28% between 2010 and 2020, according to PBS – many large egg producers are renowned for slaughtering unproductive hens.
Still, countless billions of commercial laying hens are kept in cramped quarters with little access to fresh air.
Eggs produced in factories have a significant environmental impact. Hens create enormous amounts of manure, which provides the earth with more nutrients than it can handle.
According to Food Print, the extra nitrogen and phosphorus eventually leach into the groundwater system, where they cause species extinction and algae blooms.
In addition to polluting the air and putting local populations and poultry workers at risk for respiratory ailments, hen houses also produce harmful gases like ammonia.
Maintaining the entire system in your backyard may eliminate the waste and emissions created during egg packing, transit, and storage.
A homeowner in Denver, Colorado, feeds hens in her backyard. The Denver Post’s Cyrus McCrimmon
Additionally, chickens are pretty helpful to gardeners. They will consume a variety of unpleasant insects, fallen or rotten produce, and dead stalks if you let them go in your (enclosed) yard.
If their dung reaches 130 to 150 degrees, effectively destroying any bacteria, you can add it to the compost.
Learning the Laws
Before buying chicks or building a coop, one should be aware of local rules governing the ownership of backyard chickens.
Indeed, the last thing you want is to devote time and money to raising chickens only to discover that your city forbids them.
At the state, county, and town levels, there are several laws governing raising chickens, and zoning frequently affects these laws.
The number of chickens you are permitted to own, their gender (roosters are sometimes prohibited), and their proximity to roadways and other structures are typically governed by these regulations.
Some localities even demand that you register or get permission. Consider additional restrictions about noise and pests, such as rats, which prefer to nest under coops, before you start.
A massive flock of birds may go against neighborhood noise ordinances, if there are any.
Lawyers that focus on zoning and ordinances can be a helpful source if you’re wondering whether raising chickens is permitted in your community.
Depending on where you are, finding chicks will appear a little different. Check out the area’s breeders and retailers of farm supplies if there is extensive agriculture there.
Otherwise, many hatcheries provide online chick sales and mail chicks to your house. Additionally, deciding which breed best suits your environment, space, and egg-production requirements would be best.
If you are unsure which breed suits your situation, refer to the Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources chart.
The ideal location for your coop must be selected as a crucial first step. To lay eggs, the birds will need access to some cover and a lot of bright light, which they will need for 14 to 16 hours per day (rare cloudy conditions are unavoidable).
To avoid flooding and moisture problems and to protect the birds from predators like foxes, raccoons, dogs, snakes, and coyotes, the coop should also be positioned on high ground.
If your yard has no high land, elevating the coop on stilts or cinder blocks should work.
For hens to thrive, they require both indoor and outdoor rooms. Remember that you’ll need room for water, feeding troughs, and some open outdoor space for them to run around while choosing a location.
For each chicken, you should budget 3–4 square feet inside and at least 8 outside. Giving the chickens enough room is essential since crowded conditions can hasten the spread of diseases and increase their propensity for pecking and harming one another.
If there isn’t much yard space available, some owners decide to raise the coop and fence off the area below it.
Because hens enjoy bathing in dust, it’s a good idea to leave space in the yard for a little box of sand or fine soil where they may use it to clean themselves.
You can design your coop, or many pre-made options are available in stores and online. Although plywood is a better choice for cages, all materials used should be non-toxic and non-corrosive. If the coop is elevated, the legs should be pressure-treated to avoid rotting.
Every coop needs a nesting space and a roosting area where birds can perch in the rafters at two feet and eight to ten inches per bird, respectively (usually one square-foot box per three chickens, positioned low in the coop).
To safeguard the eggs, stuff the nesting boxes and sprinkle sawdust or straw on the ground. Additionally, you’ll need separate doors for you and the hens and a ramp if the door is exceptionally high off the ground.
Make ventilation holes near the roof and seal them with hardware cloth to keep predators out.
Raccoons are cunning and skilled at getting into coops and can open various locks. The safest locks to use when locking up at night are padlocks, carabiners, and other spring and barrel-style locks.
The hen house doesn’t necessarily need electricity. If you don’t live in a severely cold region, you don’t need to heat the coop, but as the days get shorter, a low-wattage light bulb might assist extend the laying season.
According to Almanac, setup costs should be in the $500–$700 range, though they start to decline after the first year.
You can buy Best Coops on Amazon
Although they need daily care, chickens are typically low-maintenance farm animals. The standard daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly duties are listed below.
- Make sure the water supply is working. You should refill and refresh the water daily if it is contaminated with dirt or feces.
- Providing nourishment. Try hanging feeders or putting food in the feeding trough every day. The cost of quality chicken feed should be about $50 per month for a flock of six, according to Country Living.
Even though commercial feed contains most of the vitamins and minerals hens need, supplementing their diet is necessary during the cold months when they aren’t foraging outside as much.
Supplemental foods include fruits and vegetables, berries, grains, leafy greens, and cooked beans. In contrast, certain foods are toxic to birds, such as onions, rhubarb, avocados, and citrus fruits.
If you want to throw certain foods into the pen, research them first.
- During the egg-laying season, collect eggs. Checking the coop for eggs every morning and evening is essential, so they do not crack.
- Keep an eye on the chickens. Be sure they are not injured and that they appear alert and bright-eyed. Their feathers should be shiny and smooth, and their combs should be red. If you monitor their typical gait, you may notice injuries or inconsistencies in their walk during the first few weeks.
- Water and food toughs can be removed with a 10-to-1 mixture of water and bleach, then scrubbed with dish soap and water.
- In small coops, replace bedding every month, add a few inches every month, then clean out thoroughly every six months (also known as “deep littering”). It is also a good idea to clean the nest boxes and fill them with fresh straw or sawdust.
- One or two times a year, thoroughly clean the coop. Using the same water-bleach mixture, remove everything that can be removed and thoroughly sanitize. Verify that ventilation is still working and make any necessary repairs.
It’s crucial to attend to your chickens’ emotional requirements in addition to their physical ones.
It has been established that these sentient beings experience complicated pleasant and negative emotions like human contact and amusement.
Put some toys in their enclosure, such as old CDs and plastic balls with bells, so they may play with them and interact with their reflection.
Leave mounds of raked leaves in their outside space during the fall so they can rummage through them and look for bugs. They enjoy pursuing food like mealworms and crickets, which are available at most pet stores.
Some folks even hang little chicken swings or add ladders to the coop to amuse the birds.
And finally, gather your precious eggs! After about 20 to 24 weeks, hens will start to lay eggs, usually one per day. Every morning and night, inspect the entire coop, including the nesting boxes.
You can gently shoo the bird or carefully take the eggs by the hen’s feet.
After roughly 20 to 24 weeks, hens start to lay eggs.
Eggs that have just been laid don’t need to be chilled. A natural “bloom” that covers eggs prevents bacteria from getting inside; this bloom is removed after washing.
Your eggs can be stored (unwashed) on the counter for a few weeks after collection, though you should wash them immediately before using them.
While eggs are typically sold chilled in the United States, they are frequently sold unwashed in other nations. The European Union forbids egg farmers from washing their eggs.
Article based on original content published on Ecowatch Blog
Last update on 2023-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API