When I first started raising hens, I allowed them “free range.” However, as many owners will realize there are quite a few dangers to letting girls roam around the yard. I will provide some ways your hens can have lots of outside time but still be safe.
Raising hens isn’t for chickens 🙂
Five Basics for Backyard Chickens- A Beginner’s Guide
1. Know your vocabulary
- Chick – a young bird; gender unknown (this is what many of you will purchase from Tractor Supply)
- Pullet – a female bird not yet of laying age
- Hen – a mature female bird who lays eggs
- Rooster – a mature male bird
Popular types of backyard chickens:
- Rhode Island Red
- Dominique (Plymouth Rock)
2. Check your ordinances
Due to the popularity of backyard chickens, many places allow residents to raise their own flock. Read the guidelines carefully as a rooster may not be allowed. Before investing in some chickens, do your research on your town/county/compound/retreat/tiny house neighborhood.
3. Provide proper housing, food, and water
Coop: that is where the chickens live. They need a place to stay safe, warm, and comfortable laying eggs. Chickens “roost” at night and it’s imperative you make sure they have a place up off the ground. I have a tree limb where my girls sleep at night. They forego their fancy farmhouse coop to sleep on a limb – go figure! 🙂
If you purchase a coop from a store be sure to check the number of hens it can house and keep in mind they will still need an area to “roam”. This area will most likely need to be fenced around in order to keep creatures away from the ladies (and gentleman?).
Depending on your chick-town, you may not need to feed and water them daily. A feeder will come in handy and will only need to be refilled every few days. I started with laying crumble but they were going through it too quickly, so I have switched to laying pellets.
Your typical store waterer will do the job but will be messy and need lots of cleaning because of their scratching. I suggest buying a bucket waterer that has nipples on the bottom and hangs. It will save you time, money, and loads of hassle. When you purchase the bucket waterer, go ahead and pick up some extra nipples in the event you need to switch those out due to a leak. (Disclaimer: the coop below does not belong to me but to my cousin Donna! Gotta give credit where credit is due 🙂 )
4. Deter predators
Predators come in all forms and can climb, slither under a fence, or swoop down from the sky. Build your coop in such a manner that hawks, raccoons, opossums, snakes, and dogs keep away.
I put my chicken coop inside an old dog kennel that has a metal roof. The chickens have a double roof: one on the coop and one on the kennel. I keep a close eye to make sure nothing is burrowing under their living quarters. As I stated above, make sure the chickens have a place to roost where they are off the ground and not susceptible to being snatched.
5. Gather eggs
Hens DO NOT need a rooster to lay eggs. I mean, I think that is freaking awesome. If you want to keep a rooster around, they will definitely protect your hens and allow the possibility of having chicks. Be warned that roosters can be mean and territorial and there should only be one rooster in the henhouse (I guess that is kind of like one bull in the pasture, huh?).
I gather eggs every couple of days and every now and then I write the date on them. If you leave eggs at room temperature they are good for about a month. If you place them in the refrigerator, they could last up to 6 months. My husband thinks that the time frame is shorter but let’s be for real, who leaves eggs in the fridge for 6 months anyway?
Because I am a jadeite junkie (more on that later), I use a vintage Tupperware dish to store mine in.
I hope you feel a bit more confident venturing into backyard chickens. If you start your own flock, leave me a comment! I would love to hear your names, I never named mine! Is that weird?