There's a right and wrong way to own chickens. Keep your chickens happy and healthy with these tips.
More and more people are recognizing the advantages of owning chickens, and coops are popping up in yards all across the country.
Owning chickens is not like having a dog or even another kind of bird. In order to raise them right, you'll need to research the proper way to house them, feed them, and provide general care.
Here's a quick how-to guide to get you started.
Caring for Chicks
Most people start their chicken-rearing careers with the tiny fluffballs that are day-old chicks. If you're a first-time chicken owner, it's recommended that you start with all hens. Rosters are loud and aggressive, and hens lay better when they don't have to share the coop with males.
When your spring chicks arrive, you'll need to set up a brooder. A brooder is a box with a heat lamp hanging over it that will serve as your chick nursery. Fill a plastic storage container with some kind of bedding, add a waterer, a feeder, and buy a heat lamp from a farm supply store. Your babies should stay in the brooder until nighttime temperatures are consistently higher than 50 degrees.
When building or buying your coop, there are a few key features to keep in mind. First, you need it to be big enough. Make sure your chickens have room to spread their wings and move around to avoid health issues and overcrowding. Next, your coop needs to be properly ventilated and insulated.
Chickens need fresh air, but they also need to be protected from outdoor elements. Roosts, a pop door, and a fenced-in run will also make your chickens feel more comfortable in their new digs.
Retrofit an old shed, build a structure out of wooden pallets, or simply go to the store and buy a pre-made coop to keep your chickens housed properly.
Once you have your coop set up and your chickens are thoroughly pleased with their new home, you'll need to dedicate time every day to their care. They need clean water, daily food, and protection from predators.
Close the pop door at night to keep backyard critters out of your hen house, and feel free to share your kitchen scraps and grass clippings with your feathery friends. They'll love that extra treat.
Collecting Your Eggs
Pullets, or young hens, start laying eggs when they are between 20 and 24 weeks old. On average, they will lay about five eggs a week.
As the temperature drops, that rate will decrease and your chickens will molt. But no worries, once the days start to lengthen again, you'll start seeing more and more eggs in your coop.
Whether you have four hens or 40, owning chickens is a cost-effective step toward self-sustainment, and many chicken owners even turn a profit from selling eggs.
Keeping your chickens happy and healthy will depend on you taking this chicken-rearing endeavor seriously. Chickens are friendly, funny, and down-right entertaining, and with the right amount of work, your chickens will thrive as backyard farm animals.
Do you have chickens? Add any other tips in the comments below!
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