Be More Self-Sufficient: A Simple Guide To Raising Backyard Chickens
by Esme Addison
Have you ever wondered about keeping your own backyard chickens? Don’t be surprised, you’re not the only one. Whether it’s because of the tumultuous prices of common kitchen staples, or because you want to live a more sustainable life having your own supply of fresh, organic eggs is attractive to many.
As part of my goal to provide more information on sustainable living, I want to provide a brief overview of keeping backyard chickens. I actually know one one person who has chickens. She’s a friend of mine named Jen, and we met when both our sons played soccer together.
Jen actually lives the life I aspire to have. My life is super cozy I’m happy to say, and I do have an herb garden and make my own natural herbal remedies. But I don’t raise chickens or have a vegetable garden or make crafts with great frequency. By the way, Jen shares her craftiness on Etsy! Stop by and check out her cozy, seasonal handmade decor.
As I mentioned in my article on cozy self-care, I have to mindfully create opportunities to craft like I did when I made a journal for fall. But Jen lives the life, and I hope one day to be more self-sustaining than I currently am.
Table of Contents
The first step, I think is to be aware of what you want, then set the goal. As I research and write about the topic, I’m really defining for myself what I hope to achieve… but I digress.
So, let’s talk about what’s involved in backyard chicken keeping, how to find out if you can do it in your area, and the basic items needed to get started. Then we’ll outline the routine needed to manage them, troubleshooting common issues, and the benefits of keeping chickens.
Jen was generous enough to let me visit her backyard chickens and take photos for this article.
Keeping chickens in the backyard has become increasingly popular in recent times, as more people are seeking to lead a self-sustainable lifestyle. With concerns about the quality and safety of store-bought eggs, many people are turning to raising their own chickens for a reliable source of fresh, organic eggs.
In addition to the benefits of having a personal egg supply, backyard chicken keeping also aligns with the current trend towards sustainable living. As people become more conscious of their environmental impact and the importance of supporting local agriculture, raising chickens in the backyard can be seen as a practical and responsible choice.
The pandemic has also played a role in the surge of interest in backyard chicken keeping. With lockdowns and social distancing measures in place, people have been spending more time at home, leading to a greater focus on home-based hobbies and activities. Raising chickens is not only a productive and rewarding hobby, but it also offers a sense of security in uncertain times.
Five Reasons To Keep Backyard Chickens
There are many benefits to keeping chickens in your backyard. Here are some of the top reasons to consider it:
- Fresh, organic eggs on a daily basis: Imagine waking up every morning to a fresh, organic egg from your own backyard! Not only are they tastier, but they are also healthier than store-bought eggs, which can be weeks or even months old.
- Cost-effective compared to buying eggs from the store: Raising chickens can save you money on groceries. A laying hen can produce up to 280 eggs per year, meaning you can get a steady supply of eggs without spending a lot of money.
- Fertilizer for the garden: Chickens produce high-quality fertilizer that can be used in your garden. This can save you money on expensive fertilizers and promote healthy plant growth.
- Educational and fun for children: Keeping chickens can be a great way to teach children about responsibility, sustainability, and where their food comes from. Plus, they’re cute and fun to watch!
- Good source of companionship: Chickens can provide companionship and a sense of calm to those who take care of them. They are also great listeners!
Before you begin keeping chickens, it’s important to research your local laws and regulations. Some areas may have restrictions on how many chickens you can keep, where they can be kept, and whether roosters are allowed. Once you’ve determined that you can keep chickens, it’s time to get started!
- Choose the right breed of chicken: There are many different breeds of chickens to choose from, each with its own characteristics. Some breeds are better for egg production, while others are better for meat production. Some breeds are more docile and friendly, while others are more independent. Research the different breeds to find the one that’s right for you.
- Set up the coop and run area: Your chickens will need a safe and comfortable place to live. A chicken coop provides shelter from the elements and predators, while a run area gives them space to exercise and forage for food. The coop should be large enough for your chickens to move around in and should be easy to clean.
- Purchase the basic supplies needed: You will need a feeder, waterer, bedding, and food for your chickens. These can be purchased from a local farm supply store or online. Make sure to get the appropriate supplies for the age and size of your chickens.
- Find local resources: There are many online forums and neighborhood groups dedicated to backyard chicken keeping. These resources can provide valuable information on everything from choosing the right breed to dealing with health issues.
Choosing A Chicken Coop
When it comes to raising chickens in your backyard, one of the most important things you’ll need is a sturdy and safe chicken coop. A chicken coop is a shelter where your chickens can sleep, lay their eggs, and seek protection from the elements. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know to choose the right chicken coop for your needs.
Size of the Coop
The size of your chicken coop will depend on the number of chickens you plan to keep. As a general rule of thumb, each chicken needs about 2-3 square feet of space inside the coop. Additionally, you’ll need to provide at least 8-10 square feet of outdoor space per chicken, so they can move around freely.
If you’re just starting out with a small flock of chickens, you might want to consider a coop that can house 3-4 chickens. If you have a larger flock, you’ll need a bigger coop or several smaller ones.
Type of Coops
There are many different types of chicken coops available, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs. Here are some popular types:
- A traditional coop is a classic, barn-style structure that is designed to provide shelter for your chickens. They often come with nesting boxes, roosting bars, and a fenced-in outdoor run. This type of coop is ideal for small to medium-sized flocks and is often made of wood.
- Portable coops, also known as “chicken tractors,” are movable coops that allow your chickens to graze in different areas of your yard. They are often made of lightweight materials like PVC or aluminum, and are ideal for smaller flocks.
- Modular coops are customizable, easy-to-assemble coops that can be expanded as your flock grows. They often come with modular components that can be added or removed as needed, and are ideal for medium to large-sized flocks.
- If you have an old shed or garage on your property, you may be able to convert it into a chicken coop. This can be a cost-effective option, but it’s important to make sure the structure is safe and secure for your chickens.
When it comes to choosing materials for your chicken coop, there are several options to consider. Wood is a popular choice for traditional coops because it’s sturdy and easy to work with. However, it can be prone to rotting and requires regular maintenance.
Alternatively, plastic or metal coops are lightweight and easy to clean, but may not be as durable as wood. Whatever material you choose, make sure it’s strong enough to withstand the elements and keep your chickens safe from predators.
Ventilation and Insulation
Proper ventilation and insulation are essential for a healthy and comfortable coop environment. Your coop should have windows or vents to allow for proper airflow, and insulation to keep your chickens warm during the winter months.
Nesting Boxes and Roosting Bars
Nesting boxes are where your chickens will lay their eggs. They should be comfortable and spacious enough to accommodate your hens. Roosting bars are where your chickens will sleep at night, and should be positioned higher than the nesting boxes to prevent the hens from soiling them.
Your coop should be secure enough to keep your chickens safe from predators like foxes, raccoons, and hawks. Make sure the doors and windows are strong and lockable, and consider adding a wire mesh around the outdoor run to prevent predators from digging under the fence.
Keeping your chicken coop clean is essential for the health of your chickens. Regular cleaning will prevent the buildup of feces, which can attract flies and other pests. It’s important to remove old bedding, replace it with fresh material, and scrub the coop with a disinfectant solution. Make sure to wear gloves and a mask when cleaning to protect yourself from harmful bacteria.
The placement of your chicken coop is also important. It should be located in an area that’s protected from the elements, like wind and rain, and should have plenty of shade in the summer. Additionally, it’s important to make sure the coop is not located near areas where predators may be lurking, like wooded areas or tall grass.
The cost of a chicken coop can vary greatly depending on the size and type of coop you choose. A small traditional coop can cost anywhere from $200-$500, while a larger modular coop can cost upwards of $1000. Portable coops tend to be more affordable, ranging from $100-$300.
In addition to the cost of the coop itself, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of feed, bedding, and other supplies. However, raising chickens can be a cost-effective way to provide fresh eggs for your family, and can even help reduce your carbon footprint by reducing food waste.
The Daily Routine
Once your chickens are settled into their new home, it’s important to establish a daily routine for their care. Here are some tasks you should perform on a regular basis:
- Feed and water the chickens: Chickens need access to fresh food and water at all times. Make sure their feeders and waterers are full every day.
- Collect eggs and store them properly: Chickens can lay eggs at any time of day, so it’s important to check for eggs regularly. Store them in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to use them.
- Clean and maintain the coop and run area: The coop and run area should be cleaned out on a regular basis to prevent the buildup of waste and disease. This can be done by removing any soiled bedding and replacing it with fresh bedding. The coop should also be disinfected periodically to kill any harmful bacteria.
- Dealing with health issues and predators: Chickens can be prone to health issues, such as mites, lice, and respiratory infections. It’s important to monitor your chickens for any signs of illness and to seek veterinary care if necessary. You should also take steps to protect your chickens from predators, such as securing the coop and run area and providing adequate lighting.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Even with the best care, chickens can sometimes experience problems. Here are some common issues and how to deal with them:
- Chickens that are not laying eggs: There are many reasons why chickens may stop laying eggs, including stress, illness, and aging. Make sure your chickens are getting enough food, water, and sunlight. If they still aren’t laying, it may be time to cull older birds or add more light to their coop.
- Identifying and treating common health issues: Mites and lice can be treated with a dusting of diatomaceous earth or other insecticides. Respiratory infections may require veterinary care and antibiotics. It’s important to monitor your chickens for any signs of illness and to seek treatment as soon as possible.
- Dealing with predators and keeping the chickens safe: Predators such as raccoons, foxes, and hawks can be a threat to your chickens. To keep them safe, make sure the coop and run area are secure and free from holes and gaps. Consider using motion-activated lights or alarms to scare off predators.
Keeping chickens in the suburban backyard can be a fun and rewarding hobby. Not only do they provide fresh eggs and fertilizer for the garden, but they can also be educational and fun for children, and provide a source of companionship for women. By following the tips outlined in this guide, you can get started with backyard chicken keeping and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.