People raise backyard chickens for a variety of reasons. Whether you’re interested in filling a coop for egg production or raising a small flock as pets, there are a few things you should know before you make the commitment to turn a portion of your yard into farmland.
1. You will have many chicken breeds to choose from.
Chickens come in all shapes and sizes, and there are dozens of breeds to choose from, depending on the purpose of your chickens. When building a flock, consider the behavioral and physical characteristics and climate suitability of each breed. Popular picks for backyard flocks that are being kept as pets or used for eggs include Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Plymouth Rocks, Australorps, New Hampshire Reds and Ameraucanas.
2. Your coop is key – be mindful of maintenance.
A chicken coop that is properly cared for should not smell, but if you neglect coop maintenance, it will. Before you bring chickens home, be sure you have a plan for how you will handle their waste. There are many different approaches to rid your coop of litter. While some people choose to dispose of the droppings by putting them in a compost pile, others simply bag it up and take it to the garbage can. It is also common for people to sell the waste to gardeners who will compost it themselves to use as fertilizer.
3. The right diet is imperative to raising healthy chickens.
All chickens need food (and water) daily, but the foundational diet for your chickens depends on the species, age of bird, and why you raise them. In general, the faster the growth, the higher the protein requirements.
Starter feed is designed to meet the dietary requirements of baby chicks, while grower feed is given to chickens between 6 and 20 weeks old. After your chickens have reached 20 weeks, or began laying eggs, their diets will predominantly consist of layer feed.
In addition to a good quality layer feed, a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables can also be given daily. Examples of raw fruits and vegetables that can be fed include: bok choy, silverbeet, spinach, endive, chickweed, cabbage, vegetable peels and fruit (e.g. banana).
4. Chickens are extremely sociable animals
You may be tempted to buy just one chicken before making the commitment to raising more, but remember that chickens are social, and they thrive with at least one companion. If possible, it’s recommended to start by purchasing three or more birds.
5. Chickens have a long lifespan.
The lifespan of your chickens will depend on how well you care for them. Hens living in spacious quarters with good nutrition and fresh air will live longer than chickens crammed into large production houses. Chickens can live eight to 10 years, but as they get older their egg production slows down. Before you purchase chickens, be sure you’re ready for the long commitment that comes with them.
6. You will need to protect your chickens from predators.
The types of predators you’ll need to protect your chickens from will vary depending on the area in which you live. However, a few common chicken predators are raccoons, opossums, weasels, snakes, bobcats, skunks, hawks, coyotes, dogs and cats.
To keep your chickens safe, it’s important that your chicken coop is completely secure. This includes the coop’s frame, walls, screens and doors, as well as the perimeter and, when necessary, the areas above and below the coop and run.
Coop Controls offers a convenient and easy-to-install automatic door opening/closing solution that keeps predators out and keeps your chickens safe – automatically. The automatic door solution will ensure that the coop door closes behind your birds at dusk and that they are safe for the night (and that they are let back out in the morning).
To learn more about Coop Controls Door Opener Kits and see pricing information, visit our product page.