Backyard chicken keeping has become very popular, even more so in recent months. Saint Francis Farm has rescued several chickens that needed to be re-homed, mainly because of limitations and regulations in some neighborhoods. It's important to understand the regulations regarding chicken keeping in your area. Keeping chickens can be very rewarding. Fresh laid eggs not only provide a rich source of protein for you and your family, but they are much tastier than eggs that you purchase in the grocery store. Also, chickens make great pets. If you handle the chicks early on they can be very affectionate. They not only recognize their names, but they also bond with the people that care for them. In this article I wanted to pass along some of the information that I have learned over the years with basic chicken keeping.
Housing: First and foremost, it is important to provide a safe and clean environment for your chickens. Some areas are conducive to allowing chickens to free range, however, most are not. Chickens have several predators, hawks, owls, foxes, snakes, and neighborhood dogs. The safest way to keep chickens is in a fully enclosed run that is secured with fine gauge fencing or chicken wire. Their coop should have several nesting boxes and areas for the chickens to roost at night. If you still like the idea of free ranging chickens, you can build a chicken tractor on wheels which is basically an enclosed run that you can move around your property. Chickens love eating bugs and worms and are great at keeping pests at bay in your backyard.
Feeding: Chickens should receive a variety of food in their diets. The primary food is egg layer pellets or egg layer crumbles. I prefer organic egg layer pellets as I generally eat organic foods and feel that it's healthier. They also enjoy chicken scratch, which usually contains a variety of seeds. Corn based scratch is not the healthiest mix for your chickens as it can make them too heavy. To ensure that my chickens are healthy, I add poultry booster to their pellets which is a top dress vitamin and mineral supplement. I also add Strike III, which is a digestive supplement that contains pumpkin seed, oregano, garlic, and diatomaceous earth which naturally minimizes intestinal parasites. My chickens also receive a variety of fruits and veggies. Greens such a spinach, kale, turnip greens, are an excellent addition to their diet. Apples, melons, berries, are all very much appreciated by your feathered friends. And finally, make sure that their water is fresh and clean. I add a bit of apple cider vinegar to their water which has multiple health benefits. Happy, healthy chickens produce great tasting eggs!
Health: Chickens are relatively easy keepers, however they do develop health issues that you need to prepared for. Roost mites are tiny bugs that if go unchecked can cause illness and death. One way to know if your chickens have them is to inspect the eggs, tiny red spots indicate their presence. For a bad infestation you may need to use permethrin. I have been successful with using diatomaceous earth in the chicken coop as a preventative measure and have never had an issue with mites. Chickens can also get respiratory diseases and other illnesses that are hard to diagnose. If you see a chicken that is hiding in a corner or generally looking unwell, you should quickly separate it from the rest of the flock. It's very important to keep your coop clean, this will go a long way in ensuring that your chickens remain healthy. There are many resources online today, Facebook groups for backyard chicken keeping are very helpful as experienced members will quickly answer your questions and assist you with identifying health issues and solutions.
I hope that this article has been helpful, but it really just scratches the surface of information on basic chicken keeping. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.