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Your Guide to Raising Backyard Chickens
By: Admin    July 13 2017 , 10:35 pm
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If you are into fresh, homegrown food, creating a more sustainable lawn, and feeling a great sense of accomplishment, then you may want to consider buying chickens. There are numerous benefits to raising chickens, and setting up a backyard coop is relatively simple; so where to begin? Even though zoning laws vary from state to state, and there are many options on how to set up a coop, which breeds to buy, and how to maintain a healthy flock, owning a bird or two may be more rewarding – and accessible – than you think.

Often people do not own chickens because it is illegal to do so in their area; so before you rush to the farm supply store, make sure to research your county’s zoning regulations. Contacting your local health board may also be necessary, and speaking directly to a county clerk can be helpful in understanding the legal documents you will need to access. Just make sure that you absolutely know whether or not you can own chickens before purchasing a flock – especially if you are also planning to buy a rooster!

Once you have done your technical research, the next step will be to choose the perfect breed. Like any farm animal, different types of chickens have different things to offer, and no two breeds will behave exactly alike. Undoubtedly, one of the best chickens for laying is the hybrid between White Leghorn and Rhode Island Red: the Golden Comet. These light brown beauties lay an average of about 300 eggs per year – roughly 6 or 7 eggs per week – and they also possess a sociable temperament, making them child-friendly. Many chickens are known for their adaptability to all-weather conditions, and breeds like the Holland, Plymouth Rock, and Sussex will lay eggs even in the cold winter months. 

When planning for chickens, you should also keep space in mind. Not all breeds will take to confinement, and some types are much flightier than others.  For example, the Andalusian and La Fleche, though beautiful birds and excellent egg-layers, will require more space to roam than some of their counterparts. If you are tight on space, such breeds as the Delaware or Ameraucana would be a better option and just as rewarding to own. Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, and Wyandottes are wonderful birds for two main reasons: they make friendly pets, (they are some of the most child-friendly chickens), and they adapt well to confined spaces. The Barnevelder has it all: calm and friendly, this chicken also adapts well to confinement, lays at least a few eggs per week, and can even be a show bird. (Fun fact: because of their notable dark brown hue, the Barnevelder’s eggs are often labeled “chocolate eggs”!) Speaking of colored eggs, the Easter-Egger is known for laying a variety of shades, from green to rose-colored, and the Araucana’s blue eggs are renowned. Supplementing your flock with one of these breeds is sure to add some fun at egg-collection time! While backyard chickens are largely kept for the sake of egg production, they can also be kept for their meat, show purposes, or just as great outdoor pets. Because there are so many breeds, it is crucial to do your research and know the chickens you will be housing – after all, content chickens make for happy owners!

Not all birds are created equal, and the same applies to chicken coops. That being said, housing chickens does not have to be a time-intensive or pricey task; in fact, with proper planning, you can easily buy or build the ideal coop to suit both your backyard and a flock on a budget. Keep in mind that all chicken coops are composed of two main sections: an enclosed space, where the chickens can sleep at night and lay their eggs, and an open area in which to forage and roam throughout the day. Larger birds will naturally need more space in both sections of the coop, while smaller breeds will need a fair amount but not quite as much room. It is a good idea to allow a minimum of 3 square feet per chicken within the coop; roughly six chickens will fit in a 90 square-foot outdoor roaming space. (These are basic measurements, but it is always smart to allow more space for your flock to encourage friendliness and avoid disease caused by pecking.) When placing your coop, consider any pre-existing structures in your lawn. Placing a henhouse by a shed or under a deck will help utilize even the smallest outdoor space, while adding insulation to your coop and keeping chickens well-protected. (Often helpless against crafty predators, your chickens will appreciate any extra security you can offer them!) If you are looking for a quaint addition to your lawn – as well as functional – do not hesitate to shop around for more colorful options when planning your coop. Henhouses should be safe and roomy, but they can also be made out of pretty much anything; this makes it possible to own chickens on a dime! Explore your options – even if you have a tiny yard and a tight budget, you will still be able to find a stylish, functional house for your new flock.

You have done your research and selected a breed; the perfect coop is up and fully functional; now you can look forward to the simple benefits of chicken-owning – if you know how to care for them daily! Chickens are fairly straight-forward, but there are a few things you will have to check every day. Make sure your flock has fresh food and water, and that eggs are collected daily to ensure coop cleanliness. (If you monitor and gather frequently, you will also get fresher eggs with fewer cracks!) Giving the coop a nice, deep clean can be done every few months or as needed, but bedding and nest boxes should be checked and replenished about once a month. Chickens are like any other pet: if you care for them daily, their worth will soon make you wonder how you ever lived without them and all the fresh produce and free fertilizer they will give you!

Consider buying chickens: with a little planning, your suburban backyard could easily make pure profit – from a handful of fantastic fowl!

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Jesse Nolan Jan 31,2018

Raising chickens seems more popular these days. I'm happy to hear more cities allowing people to raise chickens in their yards. It's a win for everyone.