The idea of waking up every morning to freshly laid eggs appeals to many people. This is mainly because of the convenience that comes with it. For instance, one does not have to travel to the store to buy eggs. Additionally, building a chicken coop in the backyard and rearing one’s own chickens is an interesting activity for many people. Many people are joining the increasing families all over the country who are keeping backyard chickens. As popular as the craze is becoming though, there are a few things to be considered in rearing backyard chicken:
Chicken need a well ventilated and well drained pen. A section of the pen needs to be covered so your chickens have a dry area to use when they are laying or roosting. This area is also for the chickens to stay dry during the rainy season.
The birds also need clean and cool water in the pen during summer.
The vent can be opened during summer and kept closed during the winter season. Furthermore, an electric fan can be used during summer especially if the shade or ventilation is not good enough. Remember that too much heat kills chicken very easily. So it is advisable to locate the chicken pen under a tree or a place with good shade.
Building the Pen
- When building the shed, make sure it can allow you to stand straight up in it. Crouching every time is not fun.
- Nesting boxes must be built above the ground and should be very dark for the birds to lay eggs in. The boxes also need fresh straw because when the beddings are not changed, the birds tend to defecate in them.
- The perches should be wide because the chicken will use a lot of energy to maintain balance if the perch is too thin. Perches ideally provide your chickens with a place to relax, so ensure they are wide enough to facilitate this. Thin perches also cramp the bird’s claws instead of spreading them out.
- It is a great idea to construct a concrete floor because it:
* Keeps foxes out from digging their way in.
* Offers a hard surface that cannot be excavated.
* Drains the pen very well.
Number of Chickens
The number of chickens to be kept largely depends on the person and the available space. If you wish to raise a small number of chickens in a small space and don’t require too many eggs, than a small shed will do just fine. On the other hand, if you need a larger egg supply and more chickens, then a larger shed with a run attached to it should be constructed. This said though, it is important to check on the area regulations to make sure that there is no limit in the number of chicken that you can keep.
Food and Feeders
Pallets are good for chickens but are much better when mixed with scraps and grains. Avoid feeding scraps to your chickens that they won’t eat, because vermin will be attracted by the leftovers.
When it comes to the appropriate type of feeders, then grandpa feeders are the most appropriate for keeping away rats and other rodents from the chickens’ food. However, this type of feeder is only good if you are keeping a few chickens and there is no pecking order. Round feeders are more appropriate for situations where there is pecking order because the weaker birds can eat from the other part of the feeders circle instead of fighting with the dominant birds. The feeders should be kept low enough so that the birds can reach it easily. Provide the chickens with a lot of clean and cool water.
Protection from Foxes
Foxes are the biggest threat to keeping chickens. Never leave the chickens outside unattended, even during day time since foxes tend to attack more during day time. In addition, foxes can squeeze through a tiny hole and can attack through a very fine wire mesh. To prevent this from happening, moveable pens that move over the ground can be bought. Beware that the fox can still dig under the movable pen. Never forget to lock up the chickens at night.
- Paint the perches with water and lime and spray soapy Neem or Neem oil water on the perch every month. This helps to keep away mites.
- Get specific powder for bird lice and spray it on the birds’ wings and around the vent regularly.
- The birds’ legs should be scrubbed using warm water and a tooth brush to remove scales which become enlarged and can really bother the chickens.
- If a chicken dies mysteriously (not because of old age or heat) it must be taken to the vet for inspection. Otherwise the disease may spread to the other birds.
- Clip one wing of the birds which roam outside to prevent them from flying.