Raising Chickens In Your Backyard
So, you have decided to take the leap and get some chicks to keep in your backyard or barn or wherever. Keeping chickens can be a lot of fun if you are properly prepared, you have enough space, some extra money and a little extra time. I decided to start keeping chickens a few years ago and I have never regretted it. There is nothing better at the the end of the day to sit in a chair out back and watch them run around catching bugs, digging in the yard and generally just being happy little critters. However, like anyone that jumps in feet first without doing their research, I made a lot of mistakes at first. I don’t want anyone to go through the troubles that I had when I got my first chicks. So let’s discuss some of the things you need to consider before you ever buy your first chick. We are going to discuss the following things:
- Are you allowed to keep chickens in your area?
- Do you have enough money to get started?
- Chicken coops – Design and Installation
- Chicken coop location.
- Do you have any storage space?
Do Local Regulations Allow For Chickens?
Make sure that your area allows you to keep chickens in your backyard. Some areas have very strict rules and regulations that forbid you to have chickens at all. I know of a situation in a neighboring subdivision where a new family moved in and brought their six hens with them. In most areas around me this is allowed, however, the neighbors all quickly objected and it was discovered that this particular subdivision had rules against having any chickens. This poor family was forced to find a new home for their beloved family pets. Do not let this happen to you. Be aware that keeping chickens can be done in a lot of areas, but that doesn’t mean your neighbors will like it.
While having a few chickens is not extremely expensive, money is required especially in the initial start up. Chickens are not picky about where they live but you will have to be able to provide a secure coop of some sort to house them in. You will also have to look at the chicken coop and run that you build. Functionality is also very important so that you can easily care for your hens without too much trouble. A poorly designed coop will look bad and will be a pain to work in when you have to gather eggs and clean it. Are you handy with a hammer and nails? The cheapest way to build your chicken coop is to do it yourself. I tend to be a pack rat and I have lots of scrap wood in my barn which made it very low cost to build the actual coop. But, if you are not handy or just don’t have the time, you will need to hire someone to build it which will add to the cost.
Chicken Coop Location & Design
The size of your chicken coop will depend on how many hens you are going to keep and how large of a building you can afford to construct. Even a small number of chickens have minimum space requirements. Most of the pre-built chicken coops that I have seen online are way too small for the number of chickens they say they will hold. If your flock is confined to an area that is too small, they will fight, it will be smellier than is should be, it will be harder to clean and the health of your flock will suffer. Remember that you will have to have electricity and water located close to your hen house. Trust me. There is nothing worse than having to keep a very long hose run across your yard and driveway so that you don’t have to carry the very heavy water containers from the water faucet to the coop! Same goes for your electrical needs. Extension cords work in a pinch but are not really intended to be run across a large area of your yard year round. It is a huge safety concern. So either build the coop close to water and electric or budget to install it. Drainage, sunlight and shade are also very important considerations when deciding where to build the hen house or coop. A low area will hold too much water and flood the area which can lead to illness and just generally nasty conditions. Too much sunlight and your chicks will suffer through the summer. You may be forced to invest in screens or shades to provide enough shade for them to survive. If you have a shady, well drained area, you should consider placing it in that area.
You will also need some space to store all of the things you need for keeping your chickens. Keep in mind that you will have to keep, cedar bedding, lighting equipment for winter on hand and anything else that you might need. If you don’t have a storage area, you will need to build one. Convenience is always something to consider. It will be a real pain if you keep your supplies in the garage and the chicken coop is not located close to your garage.
This is just a brief overview of some of the things you need to consider before you think about keeping chickens. One thing I didn’t talk about above is time. Make sure you have the time to commit to taking care of them. You need to be able to check on them every day and clean the coop once a week. Do not make the mistakes that I did. I didn’t do my homework and I lost a lot of chicks in my first attempt. My biggest regret is that I didn’t take the time to properly research the various chicken coop designs available. I went cheap and small at first. It didn’t last very long at all (2 years) and it was way too small for the number of girls I ended up with. A friend of mine bought a pre made coop online in June of 2013 and it is already falling apart so be sure and read the reviews before you purchase. You don’t have to buy or build the most expensive hen house but it does need to meet your basic needs. Talk to local people who own chickens now and visit some online forums to get an idea of some of the issues these people have faced. It is easier to avoid these problems to begin with than to go back and try to fix them at a later date. Check out this resource for more information on building a chicken coop. Bookmark & Share