Since the ‘grow your own’ trend just kept on getting bigger, other forms of self sufficient living have cropped up, like keeping your own animals. Chickens are by far the easiest farm animals to keep yourself, but that doesn’t mean it is suitable for everyone.
There are a lot of different things to consider before you invest in the right equipment and take on the responsibility of these loving, beautiful creatures.
Perching (Hen House)
Perching is really important and you need at least 1-2 square foot of floor space per chicken. The perch for the chicken should not be square – a rounded type is more suitable.
The hen house itself should be positioned so that the ventilation does not directly fall in line with the wind. It is also a great idea to build or position the hen house where you don’t then have to move it again – take the time to consider where it will sit!
Breeds Of Chicken
Aesthetics can be fun when it comes to choosing a breed, but there are practicalities with each breed so choose carefully.
Many breed will lay eggs of course but some will lay less than others. There are also pure-breeds and hybrids to consider. You could of course, just do something really cheap, easy and incredibly kind and rescue some battery hens.
They will have spent their entire lives kept in tiny cages and will be almost bald when you get them, having never scratched the floor and dug for worms before, having barely seen daylight.
But given some patience, compassion and care, they will grow a lovely plumage back and start laying for you. If you don’t eat eggs, it is a great idea to let them eat their eggs themselves as they are full of vitamins. If they don’t eat the eggs, throw them on the compost heap. You will get enough joy from rescuing these girls you won’t need the eggs to make it worth it!
You may not want your chickens to roam completely free, in which case you will need a run. The run is a great idea even if you do let your chickens roam free as it can keep them safe and outdoors at times you cannot let them in the garden (perhaps you are doing gardening work, or are pet sitting).
When building the run make sure that there is plenty of shelter so on cold or hot days the chickens have shade under a bush, covered area or a smaller indoor area.
You will also need to ensure proper drainage, so don’t place the run on a muddy patch and if possible, the patch should be grassy. When considering the size of the pen, 80 square feet per bird is good.
Caring For Them
You will need to clean out the hen house and run around every fortnight or so, perhaps a bit longer. Judge it on the litter on the bottom – if it is wet and soiled it needs cleaning out so if this happens weekly, you need to clean it out weekly.
Wood shavings are good for covering the bottom of the house and should be about 3 inches high. You will also need a feeder that suits the size of the birds and the amount of birds as you will have to keep refilling it. A drinker will also need to be placed, but it can go outside.
Do Your Research!
This is a very basic guide to keeping chickens, and if you are considering it, do your research. You will need to look into all sorts of things from medication, noise control, council permission to fox control.
There is a lot to be learnt but, caring for chickens is simple once you get the basics right. You will find they are loving, intelligent creatures that are very social and very good pets.