One of the few things that people can do for their self sustainability is to learn how to have chickens. Chickens are actually quite easy to keep, which I know from experience. I have experience in keeping them in my backyard. I had around 1/3 acre to 1/2 acre, a portion of which was used for a home and front yard. We kept 8 chickens in my yard. The way we kept them in an urban city lot was different than I wanted to have them, but with limited space comes limited capability and some creative thinking. One thing was the fact that we had no roosters because they are loud and we were in a neighborhood.
People hardly knew they were there. It is also easy to “buy off” your neighbors with fresh eggs. Nobody will turn down organic, grass fed, free ranging eggs. Those things go for $4.50 a dozen easily. It would be very easy to sell them for $3 a dozen at a farmers market if you have too many for the family.
They need shelter:
We had a chicken coop for the Henhouse. We had it built by 1x4s from scavenged pallet wood. It was about 3.5 feet tall on 2 foot stilts. It opened up by splitting in half (top and bottom). It was heavy but doable. I later added hinges and a “kickstand” so I could hinge it open. It is best to keep about 6 inches of clean bedding of pine shavings or straw. Pine shavings last longer, but straw is better in my opinion. It was tons cheaper to purchase and added lots of organic matter to compost. We would clean the coop out about every 2-3 months. Keeps the diseases at bay.
They need a place to scratch:
We had a chicken run that was about 15 x 25 that we re-appropriated an old dog kennel for. It gave them plenty of room for scratching and pecking, laying around, and running. This was only where they were kept when we had to contain them. Usually we let them run around our back yard that was privacy fenced. An active chicken will yield much healthier eggs.
The need good food:
Why is organic eggs such a big deal? Because whatever the chicken ends up eating will affect what you eat. We fed them organic feed. We let them run around the back yard so they would eat greens, seeds, and bugs around the yard. This greatly reduced the amount of feed they ate, and raised our egg yields. Give them any veggies that you will not eat, can, save the seeds. Why? Because we gave rotting veggies to them and they ate them, pooped them, and the next year we ended up with 4 tomato plants THAT WE NEVER PLANTED!
Give them treats:
It is awesome to give them bugs. We gave them tons of meal worms that we were farming ourselves. What good are treats? Happy chickens yield better and more eggs. DON’T FEED THEM CHICKEN! It sounds hilarious, but they will eat it and like it. Other people tell you it doesn’t matter, but how would you feel if you found out that your burger from a restaurant was from people?
A good place for dust baths:
We had a dirt floor under our shed that they used, but you can do the same with a covered sand-box.
They drink a lot of water:
So keep up with it. If you don’t have the a watering nipple, they will perch and poop in the water. Keep it clean.
They have tons of natural predators, so make sure the run and coop are built properly. Livestock guardian dogs are a great addition if desired.
Chickens are hilarious. They all have their own personalities. I don’t know how many times my family and I sat around watching them just laughing away at how they act. One day I was watching them and after about 30 minutes of watching them decided that they were easily amused… then I realized that I had just spent 30 minutes WATCHING THEM BE AMUSED!
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