Do you enjoy planting and growing flowers, fruit and a vegetable garden? The next natural step to growing your own food is raising chickens in your backyard. Backyard chickens not only produce food, but also make interesting pets. Here are some tips that will help you be successful in raising chickens in your own backyard.
Check Local Laws and Ordinances
Before purchasing that first hen, check your local, county and state laws regarding having livestock on your property, specifically chickens. Some municipalities allow raising chickens in backyards, but roosters are forbidden, other municipalities ban chickens altogether.
Start with Six to Eight Hens
Egg production for each hen peaks and begins to decline during the first two years. Beginning egg production is about one egg per day per hen, after two years, the egg laying declines to a couple of eggs per week per hen. Six to eight hens will provide a steady supply of eggs, even after their second birthday, plus mature hens are an excellent natural pest control. Hens eat fleas, ticks and a host of other small, harmful insects.
Build a Chicken Coop
The design of a chicken coop can be as minimal or as elaborate as desired, but requires four elements to make chickens safe, happy and healthy (and happy, healthy chickens lay more eggs). Build a chicken coop with a roof, roost, run and nesting material. Chickens go on their ‘roost’ every night, and a simple large tree branch or 2×4 suspended horizontally will provide the roost. Chickens need a ‘run’, which is just a bit of wire enclosed space in which they can roam around, scratch in the soil and hunt for insects.
Build square nesting boxes (one foot square, six inches high, with covered bottom and open top) and place straw in the nesting boxes so the chickens will lay their eggs in them for easy gathering, or simply toss some loose straw in the chicken coop and the chickens will lay their eggs randomly.
Join the Club
Raising backyard chickens has grown in popularity in recent years, and poultry clubs have sprouted with like-minded members. Ask at the local farm supply or feed store about any poultry clubs in your area and join them. Local poultry clubs members can offer you a wealth of advice for raising chickens in your own backyard and connect you with locals who share your same passions.