Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Turtorial Tuesday: Keeping Backyard Chickens

monkeys on the bed!

I know this seems out of the question for many of you but in reality keeping back yard chickens is supper easy and very rewarding. Some of the main reasons people keep a back yard flock are:

* Easy and inexpensive to maintain
* Eggs that are fresh, great tasting & nutritious
* Chemical free pest control
* Free fertilizer
* Bug and Weed Control
* Fun & friendly pets with personality (yes, you read that right)

So here are the basics, Chicken's 101 if you will.

The Chickens-

Their are so many breeds to choose from I can't begin to even preview them. You want to figure out what you will be wanting from these chickens; eggs, meat, companionship or all of the above. You also want to decide what age you want your chickens to be when you get them. You can get eggs to hatch on your own, have day old chicks shipped to you or get older already laying hens (Hens start laying around 18 weeks). Keep in mind though hens will greatly decrease their laying between 2 and 3 years of age. You can order online through hatcheries like, McMurray's. Search craigslist or visit your local feed store which often have day old chicks.

Here are our girls at 10 weeks old.

How To Care Of A Chick - First 60 Days:

* Young Chick Brooder - Can be as simple as a sturdy cardboard box or a small animal cage like one you'd use for rabbits.
* Flooring - Pine shavings work best
* Temperature - 90 to 100 deg. for the first week, decrease 5 deg. per week. A 100 watt bulb pointing in one corner (not the whole brooder) works well.
* Food & water - chick crumbles / starter & a chick waterer
* Play time - Play with your chicks when young to get the use to being around people.
* Outside time - Section off an area in your yard where the chicks can explore, scratch, etc. Make sure you can catch them when it's time to come in.
* More details: Raising Chicks

Chicken Care After First 60 Days, General Chicken Care:

* Chicken Coops - Once feathered out you'll want to move your chickens into a chicken coop! Rule of thumb is about 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the hen house and 4-5 sq/ft per chicken in an outside run. Keep local predators in mind and make a safe home for your flock!
* Flooring - Pine shavings work best. You can even try the deep litter method for even less maintenance.
* Food & water - Most people go with chicken layer feed / pellets. You can even make a homemade chicken feeder / waterer
* Treats - Vegetables, bread, bugs, chicken scratch (cracked corn, milo, wheat)

The Coop:

The hubby built our coop, isn't it beautiful.

But their are many coops in endless shapes and sizes available, these ones are such a great idea... Eglu

They will need a safe place to go in bad weather and at night, they will also need nesting boxes in which to lay their eggs. Many coops have some sort of attached run that the chickens can come in and out of freely.

Here is their run with a ramp so they can go up and down as they please...
*That's Ruby free ranging for bugs behind the coop.

We used sand for the floor of the run and the girls seem to love rolling around in it. It is also makes it super easy for clean up we just use a cat litter scoop.

This is the door that leads from the coop to the run. It slides open and closed. We leave it open all the time now but will close it at night when it gets cold here.

Part way closed:

Here is their nesting box, the Hubby simply made a small box inside the coop. You can buy nesting boxes and I have head of people using milk crates or other things turned on their sides for them.

*The floor of the coop is covered in a laminate and then pine shavings. The laminate makes for easy clean up.

Perches, chickens like many birds like to perch. The hubby thought this would be an okay step to skip until the girls started to try and perch on their feeder and were spilling food everywhere. So he added them in:

*Many people simply attach a large stick to the coop.

Landscaping, those of you who know me know this is a mandatory step for me. I think it came out nice. I even laid the bricks, well some of them:)

Their is tons of info out there on keeping back yard chickens, here are some good places to start:

BackYard Chickens


***As many of you know we have a large dog, Whiskey. She is doing very well with the chickens. She has yet to bark at them or really pay them much attention. She will go up and sniff at them every once and a while but that is about all. So far so good.


Kelly said...

Sam, I am so excited for you and your chickens! And, where in the world was Chris during Lucas' 6 month bookcase project?? All that time we had a carpenter living next door and we wasted it?? arggh!

erika said...

thanks for the tutorial, i'd really like to do this some day. as usual, i am jealous of you. :)

the monkey's mama said...

how cool is that? I wish I had a yard to raise chickens. So so fun!

mom said...

Sam, you are doing such a great job. I believe you are a reincarnation of your grandfather.
Simplier times, we are so proud.
You may even reform your father and I.

Love, Mom

Thomas said...

I'm very impressed with your web page. You are an amazing young woman and I am very proud of you.
Can't wait till I see you all again.

Uncle Tom