There are multiple reasons to raise chickens in your backyard. Firstly there are the fresh eggs, tastier than any store-bought eggs. Secondly, they spend their days eating weeds, grass, worms making them great gardeners and finally they’re their friendly companions.
Chickens are not only practical pets they are also inexpensive, as many of the initial expenses are just one-time purchases; coop, fencing, watering system and feeders, not to mention the actual feeding of them is cheap.
Here are a few tips that will help you to raise your hens.
How Many Chickens Should I Keep?
There are about 400 breeds of chickens, fortunately, you don’t have to choose just one breed. The breed you choose will depend on climate as well as what is best for your family.
Chickens are sociable creatures, so you should keep a minimum of two, although, we recommend about three to six birds. As on average an adult hen will lay about two eggs every three days, with this amount, you’ll always have a steady supply of eggs.
How Much Space Do I Need?
The list of predators for chickens is pretty long, foxes, hawks, dogs, rats, owls, and more. This means your chickens will need a safe coop to sleep in and lay their eggs. The area must be fenced to keep the chickens in and predators out.
Ultimately, the size will depend on which chicken breed you’re raising. One medium-sized chicken needs at least 3 square feet of floor space inside the coop and 8-10 square feet outdoors. There are plenty of cheap chicken coops for sale, the more space, the happier and healthier the chickens will be; overcrowding contributes to disease and feather picking.
The coop will not need a heater for the winter, as for the most part, chickens are built for winter and cold weather. They technically wear down coats, after all. The bigger threat to your chickens is the hot weather. Make sure they have lots of cool, freshwater and plenty of shade.
What To Feed Them
Chickens are easy to look after, all they need is nutritious food and water. While many people give them chicken feed from the pet store, they can eat almost anything, including, grains, fruits, vegetables and insects.
They will happily eat the leftover food scraps, with many owners choosing to give their chickens their leftover produce, including watermelon and lettuce.
Installing a water system will give you an easy system for your chickens to be able to access fresh water. This will save you time from having to change out and refill the water daily.
Chickens Are Great For The Garden
Most people decide to get chickens as pets for the constant supply of fresh eggs, but chickens can also be a great addition to the family as they are great gardening companions.
Chickens spend their entire day scratching around in search of food. It doesn’t matter to them if it happens to be in the garden or if they uproot plants. So at the end of the harvesting season, it’s a good idea to let them roam around your gardening space and let them clean up the remaining overripe vegetables. After that, they’ll scratch the ground and peck out hidden worms or insects, mixing up the soil in the process.
That is why it is also important to keep them out of the garden whilst it is growing as chickens will seriously do damage to your garden. Especially when the plants are young and small.
Chickens also produce an endless amount of manure. Luckily, chicken poo can be composted and eventually added to the garden. They supply about 1 cubic foot of manure per chicken over 6 months, so you should never have to purchase any again!
Hens Won’t Lay Eggs Forever
It is important to know that the best laying years are the hen’s first 2 years. After that, they will still lay eggs, but less as they age. There are different ways to deal with this situation, some people cull their old hens and eat them, others let them live out their lives. But before you commit to getting chickens, you should think about what you intend to do.
Chickens Make Wonderful Pets
When you own chickens, you will probably be surprised at how intelligent, affectionate and friendly they are. In deciding to raise chickens, you have added some new pets to your family, that just happen to tend to the garden while providing you fresh, delicious eggs for breakfast.