The sound of a rooster crowing at dawn; delicious farm-fresh eggs for breakfast; pest control; These are just some of the benefits of raising backyard chickens. In a fairly small amount of space and with very few supplies, you can easily start your own backyard flock.
Chickens are very easy to raise and care for. In fact, if you have the space and foliage for them to grow freely, they will provide many benefits and are very inexpensive to maintain. His needs are few. My start in chicken farming was sudden and I didn’t have time to prepare or buy supplies. When the chickens were first delivered, I put them in a fenced-in dog pen. The only “shelter” was a large dog house. I placed a couple of bowls with water in them. The next morning when I went out with flashlight in hand to check on them, I didn’t see a single chicken in the pen. I was horrified to think that some predator had managed to enter during the night and kill the entire flock. That was the first lesson in how easily chickens will adapt to their circumstances. All 25 of them had huddled together in the dog house to keep warm for the night! I was lucky none of them had suffocated.
So, here’s my quick and short list of “must haves” for your flock.
Your chickens will need some kind of shelter. There are some pretty amazing chicken coop designs available in books and on the internet. This can be as simple or as extravagant as you like. You can buy a ready-made chicken coop or make one yourself. Basically, the shelter should provide them with protection from the elements (rain, snow, sun, heat) and from predators. When I first got my chickens, I was lucky enough to have a small structure on the edge of the woods on my property. I took it apart, moved the wood to the fenced area and rebuilt it. It is a simple, three-section wooden shack with a metal roof. I installed some studs for “bedrooms”. If you have a problem with predators in your area, you’ll need to make sure the coop is predator-proof so you can safely confine your hens overnight. Raccoons are smart and will climb a fence or dig under it with no problem. So simply having them fenced is not enough. I lost a few chickens to raccoons until I managed to secure the coop properly.
Your chickens need a constant supply of fresh water. There are several styles of drinkers available commercially. In addition to a couple of galvanized birdbaths, I also placed metal dog food bowls with water in various places. If you are going to use bowls, make sure you buy sturdy bowls with some weight, otherwise your chickens will step on the bowls and refill them several times a day.
Chickens will eat almost anything. If you have the space and plant life, and don’t mind having chickens roaming your property, let them roam free. You’ll reduce the amount you have to feed them, and I’m a firm believer that they’ll be healthier by foraging fresh food from your garden. My chickens eat grass, leaves (they especially like salad), berries, grasshoppers, crickets, worms, ticks; I have even seen them devour baby snakes and field mice. I complement what they find on their own with kitchen scraps and a good feed for laying.
These are the absolute “must haves”. There are other supplies you may want. But, these basics should get you off to a good start with your herd.