Powered by Blogger.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

10 Tips for Raising Backyard Chickens

I'm not the first person to channel my inner farmer and dive into the world of raising Backyard Chickens......and I certainly won't be the last. Recently a friend of mine started looking into getting her own Backyard Chickens. I thought I would share with you some things I wish I had known, and some valuable information passed on to me from our own neighbourhood "chicken people". Here are my top 10 tips for raising Backyard Chickens.

 1. The Birds and the Bees.....and Roosters - Hens lay eggs regularly with or without a rooster in the coop. However, whether or not those eggs have the possibility to produce little fuzzy chicks depends on if your hens have had some "alone time" with a rooster; thus fertilizing the eggs. 
You would be surprised how many people ask, "How do your hens lay eggs without a rooster?" or "What do you do with the eggs that have babies inside?".....uh, we don't have a rooster! Just like female humans need a man to continue the "circle of life", female chickens likewise need a rooster.

2. Give 'em a Good Home and Room to Roam -
Your coop doesn't have to be this $100,000 Versailles-inspired home from Neiman Marcus. But, it should be the right size for the amount of chickens you have. If your coop is designed to house 3-4 chickens, I would suggest getting 4 chickens, especially if you live in a colder climate. The reason....if there's too much extra space in the coop, the chicken's body heat won't be sufficient to warm the area (in the winter months) and your chickens will freeze. The run itself is where they need room to roam, scratch, and get out of each others hair.....uh, or feathers. Some backyard chicken keepers will keep their chickens all "cooped up", without a window for sunlight or a space for them to run and stretch their legs. Literally "cooped up". I am a firm believer that this is inhumane and if you are going to keep chickens this way you shouldn't be keeping chickens at ALL! 

There are many resources for chicken coops. We found ours through
*F.Y.I. hens are able to share nesting boxes.

3.Chicken Breeds - Most imagine all chickens to be a fluffy yellow ball of feathers when born and a clucky fat white feathered, white egg laying hen as an adult. This is not the case. There is a huge variety of chicken breeds. Some laying large dark brown eggs, some laying medium size blue/green eggs. Some hens lay daily while others only every three days. So do a little research, askaround, and be adventurous. We have a melting pot of chickens in our coop.....Bard Rock (tan eggs), Leg Horn (white eggs), Rhode Island Red (tan eggs), Americauna (blue/green eggs), and a White Faverolle (light tan eggs.) 


4.Picking up Chicks  - The more you handle and pick up your hens when they are chicks the tamer they are as adults, usually regardless of the breed. I used to have my girl Betty, a Bard Rock, that would follow me around the garden then nestle down next to me as I pulled weeds. Ahhh, tender......right? So don't be afraid to let your kiddos enjoy your cute little chicks. Just make sure they don't "squeeze" them. 

5. Kicking Them Out of the Nest and into Their Coop - For the first few weeks you have your chicks you will want to keep them inside under a heat lamp. Ours were kept in a large, paper lined, Rubbermaid bin in our laundry room. Check out all the details here: backyard chickens.
 You will know when they are ready to transition outside to the coop when: they really stink, their down has been replaced by adult feathers, and it's nice and sunny warm outside.
Once they are ready to take up residence in their coop you will "nesting box" train them. Your chickens need to eventually sleep and lay eggs in their nesting box. This is a skill they need to be taught. For, about, the first week they are in the coop you will need to go out, at sundown, and put them in their nesting box for the night. Within a few days they should get the idea and nestle down on their own at night. This insures that they will sleep and lay their eggs there from then on.

6. Keeping Them Fed - Chickens love to eat weeds......they love to eat your "pretty plants" too. And, while our kids love to feed our grown hens pizza and PB&J crusts, they do need "real" food too. To keep them laying we feed them 18%-20% (this refers to the amount of protein) lay feed when they are full grown. Ask you local IFA Country Store  for more information on what to feed baby chicks.
 There are also plenty of treats you can give them and a few things that you shouldn't give them. No green tomatoes for your feathered friends but, the red ones.....they love! For more ideas go to this link: Treat Chart for Chickens.
Chickens also need plenty of water no matter what their age. Water! Water! Clean Water!
 7. Chickens don't Lay Golden Eggs but they Have Golden Poop! - It's true chickens don't smell like petunias. In fact they have some of the stinkiest poop my sniffer has ever sniffed. But, if you are an avid gardener their poop is garden gold and let me assure you there will be plenty of it! Our vegetables have never grown as big and healthy as they have with a little help from our hens waste. Clean out the coop and till it right into your garden.....awesome!
Our Anaheim Chile Pepper plants, as a result of the chicken's poop were huge last year! If you can look past my son Luke and his killer style you'll see our Chickens and coop in the background.

8.  Let There Be Light! - Hens will begin laying eggs when they are approximately 6 months old and will continue to lay regularly as long as they are receiving 14 hours of light a day. If you don't want their egg production to slow down in the winter months then let there be light! Every winter we hang a light in our chickens coop linked to a timer. The light turns on bright and early. This ensures they get enough light to keep 'em a' laying.

9. Gathering and Storing Eggs - We gather our eggs daily for a couple reasons. It prevents damaged eggs and broody hens. Broody hens are chickens that feel a "Momma Bear" sense toward their eggs. They feel the need to sit on, incubate, and protect their eggs, regardless of whether or not it is a fertilized egg. They can get quite ornery. But if you take the eggs everyday it prevents them from getting too "attached". We store our gathered eggs in the refrigerator. They will keep their for up to one month from when they are laid.
The white egg is from our Leghorn hen. The tan eggs are from our Bard Rock and Rhode Island Red Hens. The Blue/Green eggs are from our Americauna.
10. Work vs. Rewards - Keeping chickens is not a farming honeymoon. They are cute when they're newly hatched but, they do get stinky and become a lot more work. While it is'nt necessarily economically savvy (we break about even) to raise your own chickens, the knowledge that our eggs are fresher, and healthier make us happier. It is a labor of love, especially if you have to tend your chickens through the frigid Utah winters. And, like I mentioned earlier if your a gardener their poop is a huge bonus. But, I love "My Girls" and I love have Chickens and eggs right in my backyard!

No comments:

Post a Comment