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The Non-Farmer’s Guide to Raising Chickens

November 10, 2014
Chicken

Living on a farm is no longer a prerequisite to owning and raising chickens. In fact, raising chickens is becoming increasingly popular, whether people live in the suburbs or city. There are actually websites dedicated to the movement, such as backyardchickens.com and mypetchicken.com. Many people choose to raise chickens because it allows them to live a more sustainable lifestyle, one where they know exactly where their food is coming from. Learn more about why and how people are raising chickens in this, the non-farmer’s guide to raising chickens:

Benefits of Having Chickens

Freshly laid eggs

Image credit: Rob and Stephanie Levy

Will raising chickens save you money? Not necessarily, as there are upkeep costs to raising chickens, but the eggs you’ll be eating will actually be more nutritious. That’s because the eggs won’t be shipped or sitting on a grocery store shelf, sometimes for six weeks at a time! Since those eggs are only traveling from your backyard to your kitchen, they’ll be higher in things such as omega-3s as well as vitamins A, D, E.

Other benefits of raising chickens include the fact that composted chicken manure can do wonders for your garden, and having chickens will reduce the number of insects in your yard.

Lastly, chickens can make great pets — and that’s no joke! Chickens have their own personalities and actually thrive with human interaction. They’re also easy to care for, and not just because they don’t require walks.

 

Getting Started

Before you pick out chickens and get your yard ready, there’s one thing you most definitely need to do: check the local rules of your town or municipality. While some cities are all for it, including New York City, there can be some restrictions on things like the number of hens in your yard. You may also need written approval from your neighbors.

 

Pick Your Breeds

Chickens

Image credit:  Cody and Maureen

You can pick out your new pets on websites as well as hatcheries, but before you do, decide which kind of breed is best for you. In general, you’ll want to get at least three hens, because they are social creatures and they’ll want friends.

The things you should also consider include:

  • Size of the birds
  • Your climate (in colder areas, you’ll want hens with thicker plumage)
  • What color eggs they’ll lay

Most breeds come in two sizes: standard or bantam (which are smaller). Naturally, the larger the bird, the larger the eggs. And if your main purpose is to have fresh eggs, go for a breed that is reliable when it comes to egg production, such as Black Australorps. Other lightweight breeds are known for great egg production as well, just know they can be more flighty than heavier birds.

Additionally, dual-purpose breeds (meaning they’re good for eggs and later meat), including Buff Orpingtons, are also popular. The only ones you should really forgo are ones that are bred specifically for meat, because you will not get any eggs.

Also, if it matters to you, consider what color eggs they’ll lay. While most produce white or brown eggs, there are certain breeds that are known for “Easter eggs” by laying tinted eggs that can be bluish or greenish in color! Some of these breeds include Araucanas and Ameraucanas.

Disposition of the breed can even be taken into account. Buff Orpingtons, for one, are known for being docile, while Black Australorps are known for being curious.

 

Build a Coop and Chicken Run

Chicken coop

Image credit:  Lady Katya

The chicken coop is going to be your new pet’s home. It’ll be a place for them to not only nest but take shelter in all sorts of weather. But you can also make it a bit stylish, so that it fits in with your backyard, by painting it or paying for a full-fledged coop that you simply need to install in your yard. Alternatively, to save some money, you can hire a carpenter or build the coop yourself. There are a lot of tutorials and videos online that can help you do this.

No matter what style coop you build, a general rule of thumb is that you should have two to four feet of space per hen, as well as one nesting box for every three hens. Other considerations include offering enough ventilation, as well as putting in some hay and shavings to make it nice and cozy. But pine shavings also have an additional purpose: They can help prevent mites and lice. Speaking of mites, make sure to clean out the coop every month or two.

Lastly, your chickens won’t always want to nest. They’ll also want to move. Rather than let them roam all around the yard, where they can get into gardens and other places you’d rather not let them be, create a chicken run for them using plywood and chicken wire. Hardware cloth can also be used to prevent smaller creatures, like rodents, from getting into your chicken’s space.

 

Taking Care of Your Chickens

Creek chickens

Image credit:  Art of Manliness

Ensure the chickens have a nice and healthy life by giving them chicken feed. (And by finding a debonair gentleman-outdoorsman to tend to them, if possible.) While chickens also get nutrition from scratching at the ground and grabbing things to eat, like seeds, insects, and slugs, they also need protein, which they get from the feed. Also be sure to give them access to fresh water.

Chickens can be a wonderful source of fresh eggs, but they can also be your pets too. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.

Main image credit: Sh4rp_i

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