Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Starting Out With Chickens

So you think you'd like to get some chickens so you can have fresh eggs?  Great idea! Even if you live in city limits, many municipalities allow 5 hens per household.  Chickens are fun and funny and the eggs - mmm, mmm, mmm.  We'll talk about what your chickens need, how many is enough and how to automate their care so they don't become a burdensome chore.
I love lists, so here it is.  Your chickens need:

  1. Water.  Duh.  But the standard way is not the best way.  The standard way is to have a metal bucket that let's a little water out at a time.  Sounds great, until your chickens jump on it and get poop all in it. Yuck!  Take a look at the Avian Aqua Miser.  You can purchase the little chicken nipples by themselves or already made into waterers. Those of you that aren't even interested have to go now just to find out what on earth a chicken nipple could be! 
  2. Food.  Baby chicks eat chick starter and laying hens eat layer pellets.  Organic feed is hard to come by because organic corn is pretty much no longer grown on an industrial basis in the United States.  I have decided to give my gals the best feed I can get and give them damaged fruits from the garden and access to grass and bugs. It's cheap redneck entertainment to find a grub in the garden, throw it to the chickens and watch all the others chase the one that scoops it up. (Hmmm, I might need to get a life!)
  3. Perches.  Adult chickens like to sleep above the ground.  You'll need 12 inches of perch per hen, but most likely they will crowd up in a much tighter formation.  I imagine it's the chicken version of  a sleepover - "YOU sleep on the outside, so the monster will get you first!" 
  4. Protection.  Speaking of monsters, chickens need protection from predators.  All the carnivores in the world are out there saying, "Yum, yum! Tastes like chicken!"  Your biggest decision will be whether you want a movable chicken coop, a stationary one, or a combination of both (movable coop when the grass is growing and a house through the winter).  There is a plethora of choices and ideas online, but if you want a movable pen, hold on! I have free plans coming soon that just might knock your socks off!
So how many?  If you choose heavy breeds, such as barred rock or wyandottes, you can expect 5 brown eggs a week.  The math is pretty simple, if you want 2 dozen eggs a week it will take 5 birds.  Sometimes you'll have extras, which will endear you to whomever you choose to bless with the extras.

Your chickens on auto-pilot:

  1. In a house, lay down a 3-4" layer of pine shavings to take care of the droppings.  Add more when it gets nasty or muddy. In the past I have let it build up for two years before scooping out the house, and what a fine garden amendment it was!
  2. Choose waterers and feeders that hold a good bit of food / water.  The daily chore is mainly gathering eggs!

1 comment:

  1. Chickens will not only help you clean plates- mine love left-over mac & cheese, but if free-ranged they will rid your yard of pests, including TICKS. Eggs and pest control- gotta love that :)