Beginners Guide To Chicken Keeping

» Posted by on Apr 8, 2009 in Raising Chickens | 0 comments

There are a few considerations when thinking about whether or not to start keeping chickens. The first is whether or not it is actually allowed in your area. Once you know if it is allowed you will also have to take into consideration any limits imposed such as if there is a specified minimum distance from neighbours for the coop placement and also how many chickens are allowed as these things will obviously affect the size and placement of the coop you build. For instance the ordinance that was passed for keeping chickens in Ann Arbor requires a permit to be applied for either 2 chickens or (up to) 6 chickens, and they must always be kept in a covered or fenced enclosure.

 

The Cost of Keeping Chickens

 

Another consideration is the cost. The expenses associated with raising chickens can differ. All chickens should be located within a reasonable amount of space (a rough guideline would be 4 square feet each inside and a minimum of 10 square feet each outside). Super lavish housing is not needed but at the same time you probably don’t want a ramshackle barely upright coop sitting at the bottom of your garden. All your chickens need is somewhere secure, dry and draft free (but well-ventilated) anything more picturesque is down to your own imagination (and bank account).

 

After the initial set-up costs (coop, fencing, waterer, feeder etc.) your ongoing costs will be feed, bedding and vets bills (fingers crossed vet bills don’t come up but you never know). Large commercial egg producers can make it pay, but for a small backyard chicken keeper it is very likely that you will not be getting particularly cheap eggs, however you will be getting some entertaining pets.

 

Hens tend to lay the most eggs in the first year or two of their lives, after that the numbers can begin to dwindle. Bear in mind though that they will always be producing droppings (good for composting), and eat any bugs they find so for a gardener they can still be very productive even if they don’t always lay many eggs – and of course will always be good pets as well. Keen gardeners will probably want to ensure that their prized plants are fenced off from the chickens though.Some people can be allergic to chickens (or at least the feather dander)  so if someone in the family is hypersensitive that may also be a consideration and may be something you can find out by visiting someone elses chickens (or a poultry show etc.).
Polish Chicken

Polish Chicken

Are Chickens Noisy?

It is a common question and it is quite subjective but in my personal opinion hens aren’t particularly noisy. You might have a neighbour who would complain if a small bird chirped outside his window on a summers day, and for those kinds of people there is probably not much you can do – they are always going to find something to complain about. Roosters do crow and can be noisy (particularly if the crowing is at three in the morning) but most hens gently cluck as they go about their daily business. They can be a bit more vocal if an egg is being laid or if they think something is in the area that they need to discuss or warn each other about but for most of the time you will not really hear anything that the majority of people would class as ‘noisy’. For a lot of city chicken keeping roosters aren’t allowed anyway. Hens will still lay eggs without a rooster so for most people a hen only flock is fine. If you do want a rooster then you would not want more than one for every ten hens as they can be quite demanding to the girls and may cause worn feather and sometimes even soreness and cuts on the backs from mating too often.

What Breed to Keep

In general there are two sizes of chickens : bantam (smaller sized) and standard. And then within each of those are many different breeds. Some breeds have a bantam and standard version of them. Personal taste accounts for a lot of the decision. You may also need to think about the kind of weather you get. If you have a small backyard it may be that smaller sized bantam chickens would be better than the standards. If you want something quite quirky and interesting to look at then a fancy breed such as a polish bantam or silkie may be the sort of breed you might like. If eggs are more of a consideration then something like a leghorn might be up your street – they are a bit more flighty than some of the other breeds, but they certainly can lay a lot of eggs. For a good all-rounder perhaps a Rhode Island Red. There are hundreds of different breeds to choose from. You might be tempted by some different egg colours. Hybrid breeds generically known as ‘Easter Eggers’ will lay various shades of pastel blues and pinks. Cream Legbars lay blue eggs and Marans are a chocolate brown. Something to think about 🙂

colored eggs

When A Pullet Starts To lay

A lot of breeds will start to lay at around 5 months old, some breeds though such as Silkies can take longer to mature.

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