Contributed by Rachel Whetzel
Whether you live in the city or in the country, chickens are a worth while adventure. I started my flock in a city lot, with a chicken tractor and three hens. Since then, we moved to the country, and I’ve grown my flock to include 12 hens and 1 rooster.
Facts about chickens:
- You do not need to have a Rooster to get eggs from your hens. Having a rooster in the city is often not allowed. Some reasons to have a rooster if you CAN have them are to produce fertile eggs to grow your own meat, and as a flock protector. OR as an alarm clock that goes off whenever IT feels like it. Otherwise, just keeping hens is perfectly OK. You’ll get eggs either way.
- Keep your Rooster/Hen ratio in balance.If you do choose to have a rooster, or you can’t part with that “hen” that ended up crowing, you need to be sure to keep balance in your flock. Too many rooster results in fighting and over mating. This isn’t healthy for either roosters or hens, and over mating stress can kill your girls. A good rule of thumb is 1 rooster to every 8 or more hens. One rooster can easily service a flock of 20 hens.
- Chickens are omnivores. That means they can eat what we eat for the most part, and they LOVE table scraps.
- Chickens poop A LOT. Their poop is valuable as fertilizer, but it will need to be composted to be mild enough not to burn your plants.
- Chickens like to scratch A LOT. If you choose to allow your chickens free range, you need to know that none of your plants are safe no matter how mature they are. There are some plants that chickens seem to ignore, but it’s safe to assume that they will not eat or trample them all. The only way around this is to not care, or protect your flowerbeds with well placed bird netting.
- Chickens need a relatively small amount of space to live. I relate the city chicken’s quarters to that of a well built rabbit hutch. The general consensus is that each chicken needs 2 square feet of indoor roosting space, and 4 square feet of outdoor access. Too small an area will cause your chickens to peck at and hurt each other. There are also variables to account for when you’re calculating size. My own outdoor “coop” only has about 2 square feet of space per bird, but they only use the run for about 2 hours a day, and then they are completely free range.
- There are risks for predators no matter where you live. Free ranging chickens are at risk to air and land attacks. On the other hand, they are free, and able to run away if they have the chance, instead of being trapped in a pen. A well built coop complete with covered run is no good if the wire isn’t strong enough to keep out a raccoon, or with holes small enough to keep them from reaching through the wire. Even in the city, there are predators. Be sure to research your area, and defend your chickens accordingly.
- Egg production requires Calcium. Be sure that your hens have free access to oyster shell. You can buy a huge bag at the local feed store.
- Chickens aren’t fancy. While it’s easy to look on line and see all the stunning houses and coops designed, chickens aren’t fancy. They will live in whatever you have on hand. Get creative with your plans. I have used a horizontal storage shed with an attached run for my coop, and I currently use a larger storage shed attached to an old hen house with it’s walls taken off as the coop area. The chickens have never complained.
- Different kinds of chickens are better than others. There are a lot of chicken breeds out there. What breed you choose should depend on what their purpose will be. Two key things to consider are climate hardiness and egg production vs. meat production.
Chickens are a joy to keep, and fun to watch. In exchange for good food, they provide you with excellent eggs that will spoil you to buying from the store ever again. For a look into
my adventures in chicken farming, you can visit my blog http://minetothine.com or read only my chicken posts at http://www.minetothine.com/search/label/Chickens
photo by HOMEGROWNer Brooke Welles
Some resources for you:
The Backyard Chickens group here on HOMEGROWN.org
BackyardChickens.com this site is full of good information and fast replies in
emergencies. Keep in mind, that most of the members are not homesteaders, so
some of their “help” is a little more city than farm.
CommunityChickens.com - from our friends at Mother Earth News.
The City Chicken this site has a wealth of information about how to house chicken in the city. Great for ideas and encouragement.
Breed Search This tool allows you to plug in
information about the purposes your birds will serve and where you live. Then
it suggests breeds that will suit your needs.
Chicken Poo photos It may sound funny now, but when you spot a poo that looks like someone may be sick, it’s really handy to check and see. Turns out the range of “normal” poo for chickens is pretty broad.
Poultry Help - Wing Clipping To keep chickens from hopping fences,
you can clip their wings. Here is an easy lesson with photos on how to do this.
Agressive Roosters A lot of people have a tale about an aggressive rooster in their childhood. This article will teach you how to speak in Rooster, and keep your young sweet rooster from becoming crock pot fodder. I’ve used these techniques with 100% success in my one and only rooster. He’s officially an adult now, and still acts respectful to me and my kids.
The Backyard Homestead Great resource for more than just
chickens, this book helps you plan your homestead and give you ideas for how to
plot your land. Including where and how many chickens you can keep on 1/10
to1/2 an acre of land!!
Keeping Chickens With Ashley English - All You Need to Know to Care... - A great beginner's book.