Across the country, families are getting involved in the backyard flock movement.
With a coop, some hens, and a long-term strategy of action, raising backyard poultry offers families fresh, nutritious eggs and the pleasure of seeing a developing egg-laying chicken develop from a chick to a hen.
Before you start to grow your happy backyard flock, you need a plan of action. There are a few steps that you need to take if you want to raise healthy and happy chickens. Focus on the following tips when planning your chicken coop.
Decide What Chicken Breed is Best for You
There are many different breeds and species of chickens available. You need to think about the amount of space you have, your preferences, and your climate. For instance, you want to choose a bantam breed for your plans if you are dealing with limited space. If you live in an area where it gets cold, then extreme cold-weather chicken breeds are best.
Decide How Many Chickens You Want to Own
How many chickens you want to own depends on how much space you have available and whether there are neighbors that might be annoyed by the noise caused by your growing flock.
According to Happy Farmyard, the average number of chickens allowed per one acre of land is 55, give or take five at either side of the spectrum. If you only have a small backyard, then five chickens will easily fulfil your egg needs while allowing for enough eggs so that none go uneaten.
If you have plenty of room for chicken coop expansion, then ten chickens would be ideal for providing eggs daily for a family of four.
Build or Buy a Chicken Coop
Chicken coop construction options are as diverse as the breeds of chickens you can raise.
If you would rather do something more hands-on, then wooden pallets are an excellent choice for building with. Pallets can be stacked or nailed together to build coop walls.
If you plan on having more than one story in your chicken run, then it is important to know that you must allow at least 6 inches between the top of the lower wall and the bottom of the upper wall for ventilation purposes.
If you want something a bit more aesthetically pleasing, then you might consider buying prefabricated materials for your chicken coop. They can be ready-made in most cases, but there are some plans available online if you have plans of deviating from pre-made styles.
Find a Reputable Chick Supplier
When your chicken coop is ready, it is time to bring home a flock. The only problem is that you have no chickens to put in your new coop.
If you plan on buying the more traditional way from a hatchery, then be prepared for a long wait of up to eight weeks before they arrive at your doorstep. If you want them sooner, then just one-day-old chicks are available from most feed stores and online suppliers.
Regardless of whether you purchase from a hatchery or start with chicks, make sure that you know how long it will take for your hens to start laying eggs so that there will be enough eggs for the family’s daily consumption without sacrificing flavor or nutrition.
Allow for a Development Period in Your Coop
Many people do not allow a development period before they place their new chickens inside of their coop. The development period allows for the free-range chickens to move into their new home and begin associating with their owners without any fear.
The development period is important, so you will want to make sure that your hens have more than adequate space in your coop during the initial training period.
Do Not Over-Clean or Over-Sanitize Your Coop
Too many people clean their coops excessively, which can do more harm than good. Allowing the chickens to naturally process their own wastes and debris will help to prevent disease and allow you to save money on cleaning products.
Do Not Let Your Chickens Over-Roam
It is important to learn how much space your chickens need to prevent them from roaming too far.
It’s important to know your chicken, if it tends to be a flighty bird that doesn’t range much then 5-7 square feet per bird is fine. If your birds are chunkier and tend to roam a bit more then you’ll need at least 10 square feet per bird.
Be Aware of Predators
Predators are a natural hazard that all free-range chickens must live with.
Be careful when bringing feed to chickens in the run, as the sound of grain spilling onto the ground can be a predator’s dinner bell for miles.
The risks are also higher during the egg-laying season, as this is when many predators will hunt to feed their young.
If you live in an area where larger predators are known to exist, then it is important to make sure that your chickens cannot get to the top of your coop. Predators can climb onto roofs and fences where they pose a threat to free-range chickens.
It is important to remember that free-range chickens need an added element of protection from predators, as traditional coops only offer your chickens the run of the coop and small outdoor area.
You can purchase an additional protective pen to keep predators out during the day, but it is important to remove the pen at night so that your chickens can return to their coop.
Create a Nutrition Plan for Your Chickens
Just like humans, chickens need a balanced diet to stay healthy and happy.
The most important thing to remember is that chickens cannot eat chicken feed all the time.
It is important to remember that chickens should have a diet of 75% to 90% grains and seeds, with 10% to 25% fresh vegetation.
Other important nutrients include greenery, table scraps, and natural minerals.
Give Your Chickens Fresh Water Every Day
One of the most important aspects of caring for your chickens is providing them with fresh water every day.
You should place their waterer so that it will not be easily contaminated by their feed and droppings, as this can cause your chickens to contract diseases more quickly.
Make sure that their water supply is placed deep enough so that chickens cannot walk into it and stir up the bedding.