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Chickens in the Yard
Keeping Free Range Chickens
King of the Yard
Farm living is the life for me.....
Many people these days like to know where their food comes from, and who can blame them. Raising your own chickens for eggs and meat can be a rewarding challenge, but is it right for you? What you need are cold, hard facts about backyard chickens.
By now you probably know the basics....food, water, shelter and such. Chickens really don't need much more than those few basics. What you may not have read is how much they poop, fight, squawk, cluck, and scratch.
First and foremost, chickens are like little pooping machines. If you plan to let your chickens run loose in your yard, there will be poop everywhere. In the grass, on the porch, and in the walkway.....chickens do not care where they poop. Keeping chickens in your yard may restrict your barefoot walks on the lawn.
Second, chickens can be very loud. Obviously you can prevent crowing by not having a rooster in your flock, but even a flock of hens is pretty loud. They will cluck and squawk all day long no matter what you do. Chickens live by the famous 'pecking order' philosophy they invented. They will fight and bicker nonstop over which chicken is at the top of that order, you can count on that.
When chickens are not fighting or pooping, they are scratching the ground. Chickens scratch all day in hopes of finding a seed or bug to munch upon. When kept in a pen, even the smallest of flocks will scratch the earth inside down to bare dirt in no time. Chickens allowed to roam will have a wide range, and could wander into a neighbors yard. Your neighbors may not like having all their new mulch scratched out of the flowerbed and onto the lawn.
You must also consider that chickens go to work very early in the morning. Imagine those same neighbors going to bed extremely tired from raking their mulch back into the flowerbed, only to be awakened at five in the morning by your crowing rooster. Chickens normally become active about a half an hour before sunrise.
All these are things that must be considered before obtaining your chickens. While there are some challenges, there are also rewards. Nothing is better than gathering a big basket full of eggs laid by your own chickens. Don't let these facts discourage you, just use them as a tool to create a better management plan for your flock. I have included some tips in the next section to get you started.
Backyard flock of mixed chickensClick thumbnail to view full-size
How many chickens run loose in your yard?
Tips for the timid
Don't let these challenges get you down, just use these tips to stay ahead of your chickens. Some of these may seem like common sense, but maybe you can find something useful.
A nice, long water hose works wonders on chicken poop. You would be well advised to have a water hose long enough to reach your entire yard and chicken coop. I like to take the hose and wash out poop filled nest boxes on hot summer days. It is also, of course, great for filling up water bowls.
You may be able to isolate some of the scratching your chickens do by spreading out some feed in a grassy, scratch friendly area. The chickens will busy themselves pecking the feed out of the grass until it is all gone. I used to raise hundreds of free range chickens, and I used an automatic deer feeder to keep them close to the yard. The feeder was set to go off every two hours, and they would come running.
Keep those chickens on lock down, at least for a while. Chickens tend to roost in the same place each night. By keeping chickens locked in a coop for a while, maybe two weeks, you can train them to return to the coop each night. I currently let my chickens out of a large chicken coop each morning, and they return each night to their respective roosting spots inside the coop. I simply go out after dark and close the door so that no predators will come visiting. I recommend giving chickens a special treat inside the coop from time to time, such as bread or lettuce. You should close the door each evening well after dark, to ensure all of your chickens have returned.
Pros and cons of raising chickens
Chickens Eat Bugs
Loud crowing and squawking
Roosters are free alarm clocks
Roosters wake up early
Fun to Watch
Please don't let any of this discourage you from raising chickens, it is only meant to inform. I have raised chickens for over fifteen years and I have enjoyed every minute. As long as you plan your work and work your plan, you will be okay.
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