Have you ever considered raising chickens in your backyard? It’s not such a strange idea!!
More and more people are discovering the joys and benefits of having a small flock of chickens in their backyards.
Legally keeping chickens at home depends very much on your local council regulations, so it’s important to check on these before you go ahead and purchase birds and their associated requirements. It will depend on your state, and whether you’re located in the city, suburbs, or rural.
Reasons for Raising Chickens
There is a wide array of benefits in keeping chickens at home in your backyard.
- A fun, rewarding, and inexpensive hobby.
2. Great pets – Chickens are friendly and can even be kept as house pets. They can be very entertaining and each has its own personality and quirks. Some are chatty, others are quiet. Some are stunningly beautiful. Some will love you right back and even love a snuggle.
3. Unlimited supply of free-range eggs. These are healthier than what you purchase in stores – fresher, more nutritious and they taste better. You can expect up to one egg daily from each of your hens, depending on their breed. You don’t need a rooster to get eggs.
A potential income stream from the sale of eggs, manure, or baby chickens (if you have a rooster).
4. Chickens help eliminate garden pests such as crickets, snails, slugs, and grasshoppers.
5. Manure from chickens (while somewhat smelly) is high in phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen – great for your garden and much better than synthetic or chemical fertilizers.
6. Chickens will consume fallen fruit (but not citrus) from trees before it rots and attracts insects.
7.Chickens control weeds – they will clear harvested garden beds, fertilizing the soil while scratching out weeds and unwanted seeds.
8. Chickens will eat many of your food scraps – including scraps from rice, peelings, nuts, seeds, salads, vegetables, and non-citrus fruits. They will even eat chicken scraps.
9. Chickens benefit your compost heap by digging around in it.
Chickens really are “pets with benefits”.
Are Chickens High-Maintenance?
No! Chickens are overall a low-maintenance pet and quite easy to care for. They do require some commitment and care, as well as the right supplies. It is your responsibility as their owner to make sure they are happy and healthy.
You do need to understand in advance that chickens, like most other pets, can be noisy at times, dirty at times, and can scrap with each other a bit as they establish and maintain the hierarchy of their coop. Some breeds are noisier than others.
Chickens need to be fed, watered, and given shelter in a nesting coop. You need to ensure their health is seen to by a vet if they become injured or seem unwell. You also need to be aware that chickens can carry salmonella and take basic precautions around this.
How much space do you need to keep chickens?
Chickens don’t need a lot of space. You just need a plot of 1.5m by 3m to have a compact coop or run for a small number of chickens (2-4). A common rule of thumb is to allow at least a square meter per bird, but more space is better.
Know too that eggs taste better and chickens are healthier when they can roam and forage for bugs over a larger area outside their coop, ideally in their safe outside run. Overcrowding can be a problem so ensure you have space before you commit to more birds.
Your coop will have legal requirements depending on your location. It needs to be enclosed and protected from harsh sunlight, wind and rain. It needs to have adequate ventilation, roosting bars, nesting boxes, and easy access for adult humans to get in there to feed and clean daily. You’ll need pine shavings or similar (shredded cardboard, for example) for the nesting boxes and your coop floor.
- Daily requirements
- Shelter – see coop requirements above.
- Food – proper commercial chicken feed as well as suitable table scraps from your kitchen. Include grain, grit, cracked corn, and dried meal worms – these are much-loved treats.
- Water – plenty of it, not deep, easily accessible, and refreshed daily.
- Waste Management – clean the coop daily and use the manure on your garden.
- Company – chickens are social birds – so have at least two to four chickens living together.
Care for your Chickens during the different seasons
- Chickens need to be vaccinated against Mareks Disease, Fowl Pox, Newcastle Disease, and Infections Bronchitis and Laryngotracheitis. Purchase birds that have proof of these vaccinations.
- Keep your chickens warm in winter and cool in summer. Give them plenty of water and access to both sunny spots as well as shade.
- Wings need to be properly, safely clipped on one side only following every molt.
- Fox-proof your coop and run to protect your birds.
- Snake-proof the coop as snakes will be attracted to eggs, a favorite food source during the warmer months.
- Seek veterinary care if your birds are lethargic, depressed, seem anxious, not eating or drinking, not laying, or otherwise unwell
Healthy, Happy Chickens will Feed, forage, preen, chat, take dust baths, and put themselves to Bed at Night.
Raising chickens is a great hobby for everyone from kids to seniors. Do some research, check your local council regulations, and welcome some of these friendly birds into your backyard and your life.