Hens make a great addition to any urban homestead. They can till garden soil and keep pests at bay. Their manure is great for composting and fertilizing. Kids love gathering eggs, and you’ll all love eating them. Think you don’t know anything about keeping chickens? If you’ve heard these common phrases, then you already know the basics of raising backyard chickens!
Humans don’t like being stuck indoors, but chickens feel safer sleeping, roosting and laying eggs in a small, enclosed space. How big should your chicken coop be? Each bird will need one square foot in the nesting box, ten inches on the roosting pole and three square feet inside the coop.
Up With the Chickens
Chickens wake up early and need plenty of space to roam and explore. A run will limit their range so they don’t eat newly-planted seeds. It also protects them from predators. Give each bird at least fifteen square feet to wander and scratch – more if you have the space.
The Pecking Order
Birds are quick to establish a social hierarchy called the pecking order. Higher status birds freely peck lower members, sometimes creating bald patches and even wounds. Give birds plenty of food, water and space so they aren’t fighting over resources, and be prepared to isolate an overly-aggressive bird.
Flying the Coop and Clipping Their Wings
Chickens are fast and they do fly, though not well. In urban areas, they may hop the fence and set out to explore the neighborhood. In rural areas, they might wind up roosting in trees or being eaten by predators. To keep birds on the ground and closer to home you may need to clip their wings. Trimming primary flight feathers is easy and won’t hurt your birds a bit.
Coming Home to Roost
No matter how far you let your chickens roam, when evening comes their thoughts always turn to the nest. Keep your chicken coop clean and comfortable and your birds will always come home to roost.