Essential Supplies for Keeping Chickens
Keeping chickens isn’t as difficult as it is for larger farm animals; take my word for it because we have goats and horses on our property too. From a time standpoint our chickens take up a very small fraction of our day. We can have them taken care of each morning in five minutes or less and we won’t have to do anything with them the rest of the day. The goats take two or three times as long and the horses even longer than them.
The best part of having chickens is the fresh eggs that you will get from them. An added bonus is that they love to forage for bugs and can actually help keep them from negatively affecting your plants. We have also grown to appreciate their little personalities because each one of our hens acts just a little bit differently, kind of like smaller and feathered versions of us.
The biggest drawback for chicken owners is that they have a tendency to leave their droppings in the places that you prefer to walk and that can be a bit messy.
One thing to consider when getting chickens is that they are very susceptible to pesticides so you should be incredibly careful when spraying any weed or bug killer near them. Unfortunately even a small amount of pesticides can affect them fatally.
Many people start with baby chickens called peeps. These little balls of fluff usually fit in your hand with room to spare and make cute little peep noises. Feeding them is simple, you just need to get starter feed from the place you got them and you are all set. Depending on how many birds you get you might want to get the fifty pound bag they sell. After a few weeks they will begin scratching in their cage and they will waste a bunch of their food anyway so a larger bag might be a good investment.
The starter food is important because it is full of ground up pieces of corn; corn is the main ingredient in any chicken feed. Since they are so small normal sizes of feed are too big for their beaks to pick up.
As they get older, and bigger, the feed does as well and will look more like corn that we will actually recognize.
Feed bags are usually sold in fifty pound bags and how long it will last depends on how many chickens you have and if they get out of the coup at all. If they are allowed out, to roam and scratch for food, they won’t eat as much feed since they are getting bugs to supplement their diets.
Buff OrpingtonClick thumbnail to view full-size
Have you ever built a chicken coup?
Chicken Hen Houses
Their house, or coup, is very important because this is their safety place and it will protect them from any predators that might want to get to them. Building a sturdy coup for them is something that you will want to take very seriously. Take it from experience it is not fun to come out in the morning and see what happens to a chicken that a predator gets to.
Any hardware store will sell rolls of chicken wire for you to use when building the coup. We built our coup out of 2x4’s and sheets of plywood on the bottom few feet of the structure. The plywood helped stabilize the wood framing and gave them an area where nothing from the outside could see inside. We then wrapped the upper portions in chicken wire and stapled it in place.
After a few months we swore that we could see evidence of something trying to get in through the edges of the chicken wire so we made the decision to add an extra layer of wire to double their protection. Since then we haven’t had any further problems.
Chicken wire is super cheap so I would double it like we did. It doesn’t take much more time and the peace of mind will more than offset the extra labor.
When building the coup don’t overlook some kind of boxes to allow the chickens to go into and lay their eggs. They will want to make a nest to lay the eggs in so these one foot square boxes are perfect for them.
If possible build them a few feet off of the ground too. Chickens have terrible eyesight when the sun goes down and getting off of the ground is one of the first things they will desire to do before it gets too dark to see. We occasionally have a chicken or two that will jump up to a fence instead of going where they are supposed to. When we pick them up to put them in their home they usually squawk a little bit because they can’t see it is us picking them up.