Raising chickens can be a very rewarding experience. Not only do you get fresh eggs from the hens but it also can be very fun. Chickens do not require enormous amounts of space and if only raising a few can even be done in a small backyard.
Housing is very important for chickens. For one thing it gives them a place to lay their eggs so they don’t hide them where you can’t find them. Second, it protects them from nighttime predators such as racoons and opossums. It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can even convert and old shed or a corner of the garage into a chicken coop. The coop should be secure and dry. It needs a foot of perch space for each hen and a nest box for every three hens. A coop that is 8 by 12 feet would be adequate for a few dozen birds. If you have less chickens that then a smaller area would suffice. You will need power to the chicken house in order to keep a light bulb burning during the winter months. This will ensure that get at least 12 hours of light so that their laying does not decrease and it will also provide them a little warmth on cold winter nights.
Chickens also need an exercise area, an enclosure outside their chicken house where they can run around on the ground. Since chickens are able to fly the are needs to either have an 8 foot high fence or be covered with chicken wire. Chicken wire is the more common choice as its much easier. Also using chicken wire as a cover will prevent hawks from making prey out of your chickens. It is recommended that the exercise area have grass in it because chickens like to scratch in the soil and catch bugs. The chickens will sometimes eat the grass. It is perfectly safe and even good for them.
Although it would be cheaper to just use some containers you have sitting around at home for food and water dishes it is recommended to buy dishes marketed for chickens at the feed store. The reason for this is because they are designed so that the chickens can not perch on them and soil the food and water. You don’t want your chickens eating food or drinking water that has their own feces in it and you also don’t want to have to be constantly changing their food and water.
For small flocks of hens its best to simply buy a pre-mixed all-purpose laying mash and then supplement it with either some scratch feed or some whole corn. A little grit, bought at the feed store, will help them with digestion. Also, you can get crushed oyster shell at the feed store which makes the egg shells of the eggs they lay stronger. You can even feed chickens table scraps. They’ll eat almost anything. Some suggested scraps for chickens are fruit peelings, bread, pancakes and cooked meat.
When gathering eggs, it is best done when the chickens are outside of the coop. They can get very protective of their eggs and may even try to peck you. Also, chickens are usually on in the nest boxes if they are laying eggs. If you check the chicken house for eggs several times a day at first you will soon get a feel for what the best time to gather the eggs is.