Thursday, March 17, 2016

Backyard Chicken Basics

When I first got the chicken bug, I browsed about a million “what you need to know” articles discussing details such as space requirements and feed.  We studied and made plans for a year or two before even building our backyard chicken coop.  I really did my homework, or so I thought.  It turned out that there were several things I didn’t think about that were truly important.  So without further ado, here are a few backyard chicken basics to keep In mind.  

Eggs:

What is the chicken without the egg?  In the beginning I must confess I just wanted “cute” chickens, but down the road my mind turned towards a full and colorful egg basket.  So make sure to research what chickens work best in your climate, their egg productivity, and egg color.  Now go ahead and pick whatever chickens your heart desires.     

Living High And Dry:

Last spring most of the entire country suffered from heavy rains and flooding.  When we built our coop I didn’t really think about keeping the girls out of the muck.  Luckily, and without much planning, we placed our coop and run in a high, angled area of our backyard.  We also built up the run, which was simply to combat the angle of the hill.  Now I am happy to report that it was just lucky that we did – it was never truly mucky even with all the rain. 

Shade:

Due to our limited space we happened to build our coop right under a large Russian olive tree.  I cursed it at the time because its angle prevented us from building the coop on stilts, which would have given the girls a bit more room.  But now I thank my lucky stars, because that tree provides protection from the sun and other elements.  This is so important for a backyard chicken keeper like me.  It just makes sense if you have an enclosed backyard coop and run, and you happen to work a full-time job.  Fried chickens don’t lay eggs.

Wintertime:

In the beginning we did not have a covered roof on our run.  As soon as winter hit I found a real need.   My chickens frown on snow, believe me.  We ended up covering about ¾ of our run with a corrugated roofing material from the hardware store in zero degree weather; yeah, that day was a lot of fun.  That roofing also helped with the overly heavy rain last year.  One last and very important winter pearl of wisdom:   Get yourself a heated poultry fountain, and get it before you need it.   I will guarantee you from experience that if you wait until the first cold snap to discover the need, you and everyone else will be hunting the farm stores for that water heater and you will ALL be out of luck.

Chicken Keeping B.I. (Before The Internet)

My mother, grandmother and great grandmother didn’t have to think of these things - their girls had acres at their disposal, they had it all day long, and they could go anywhere they wanted for shade, bugs or otherwise.  They also didn’t have to think of coop size requirements - they just housed them in a barn or shed where there seemed to be enough room.  They also didn’t fret much about what to feed them – some cracked corn, some table scraps, some garden scraps, and all the bugs they could eat.  In fact, I really doubt they did any chicken research at all and would have a good chuckle at today’s concept of caring for backyard chickens.  Oh, how times have changed.

Another great post for first time chicken keepers:
What To Plan For
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