You say you want to raise chickens? Well, good for you. More and more people are now raising chickens – even in their backyards – and for good reason. Chickens lay eggs, they make swell pets and, of course, you can eat them. However, if you have kids and treat your chickens as pets that might not be the best idea in the world.
The really important stuff
The good news is that chickens are pretty hardy creatures and will eat practically anything, even including stuff we might not recognize as food. They are both carnivores and vegetarians. They're forage and the food they eat may be even more nutritious than what you would feed them. They will eat bugs, ants, insects, fruit, bread, roaches, seeds, vegetables, leaves, leftovers that have been hiding in your refrigerator, and grass – in other words just pebbles or coarse sand. They even love Italian and Chinese dishes.
They need a place to hang around
Chickens are not very particular about where they live, either. All they really need is a place to roost and lay eggs that's safe from the elements and their natural enemies. Chickens are very sociable. They love to have another chicken for company that they can huddle with from time to time, especially on rainy days and in the cold seasons. However, they are not always peace-loving. Chickens can get cranky and become irritated even at little things. When they do, you can forget about socialiability. They'll peck a companions and if that companion does not pay an adequate amount of attention fast enough they might actually peck it to death.
Most people who keep chickens in their backyards build or buy coops to keep them safe. A good chicken coop must have adequate ventilation, waste management, and an an amount amount of space and good light. Chicken droppings contain ammonia and create dampness inside the coop so your coop must allow for proper ventilation to make sure the air inside can circulate properly. You will need to allow 3 to 4 square feet of space for each of your chickens. This gives the chicken enough room to sort of mill about and will keep them more productive. As I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, chickens are very social. They like to have other chickens around them and when they are at their best behavior, they're huddle together, scratch together and stay put when not feeding. It's also important that your coop provide an adequate amount of light. But all in all, chickens will be very happy if they have a clean place to coop, good ventilation, an adequate amount of space and clean and steady feed.
Speaking of feed
There are two types of feed for chickens when they are in their pens. The first and most important is corn mixed with other seeds. The second is pellets. Pellets come in three flavors. They are crumbled pellet, pellets and what's called layers mash. While these three variations have similar compositions, they are named differently to identify the grade of the milling. For example, layers mash is crushed to almost a powdery consistency to make it easier for chicks to digest. In comparison, crumble pellets are milled to a rough consistency and are good for young chickens. And regular pellets are best for full-grown chickens. Chickens can get along very well with one measure of pellets and one measure of mixed corn. You can throw in other food because they'll probably eat it too and if they do, do not worry. It's okay.
Chickens will also eat grit, too. They need it for their digestion. If you do not give them grit, they'll soon be pecking at pebbles. To prevent that, you can either purchase grit from a farm supply store or make it yourself. This is very easy – all you have to do is roast eggshells in your oven till they turn brown, pound them until they're not too powdery and mix the resulting grit with their regular feed.
Keeping your chicken safe
One of the biggest problems with keeping chickens is keeping them safe. If you're typical, you like to eat chicken and so do a lot of predators. To protect your chickens, you will need to have a sturdy coop that's free from gaps and holes. If your chicken house or coop has flooring made from slats, you will need to install wire fencing underneath to prevent predators from getting in that way. You will also need to cover any weak posts with wire to keep predators from biting through them. And most important of all, make sure you lock up the chicken hutch when the chickens are in their coops.
To discourage predators
The first step in discouraging predators is to find which ones live in your area. Different predators use different methods to get at your chickens so you need to know which ones are most likely to want to get in your coop. You can discuss this with animal control or other local authorities in your area. A really good investment is an electric chicken fence. You can also discourage predators by removing places and clearing spaces where they could hide. And finally, if you have dogs around, this will definitely discourage predators from getting near your chicken coop.
Chickens in the city
If you live in a city and want to keep chickens in your backyard, the first thing you need to do is check local ordinances. Many cities permit a certain number of chickens while others do not allow chickens at all. If yours is one that does permit chickens, you will need to decide which breed you want. Bantam chicken breeds are good as they are about one quarter the size of a regular chicken. In fact, a bantam chicken is kind of like a toy dog breed. Other breeds that are good for pets are the Barred Plymouth Rock and the Road Island Red as they are usually very mild-mannered. If you would like a bantam chicken that lays well, you could choose a Cochin. The Bluff Orbington is a larger breed of Bantam that is also very friendly. These are just a few of the good breeds; you can find many more by surfing the Internet.
What are you waiting for?
If you're fortunately enough to live in an area that does permit chickens, what are you waiting for? They're fun, make good pets are low maintenance and will provide a steady supply of good, healthy and truly organic eggs.