Backyard Chicken Farming: a Guide to Caring for Laying Hens

A growing trend among suburbanites is backyard chicken farming. In this guide to caring for laying hens, learn the nutritional and housing requirements of chickens as well as how to keep their environment clean.

Along with vegetable gardening, raising chickens in the backyard is one of the easiest and most beneficial projects that modern families can undertake.  Not only are chickens easy to maintain but there is nothing more satisfying and healthful than being able to harvest fresh, organic eggs.  Having chickens can be very educational as well.  Children benefit greatly from learning how to care for different kinds of animals and they will thoroughly enjoy the different personalities that chickens possess.

Keeping Laying Hens in the Backyard

The first thing to consider when starting a small poultry flock in your backyard is city ordinances.  In many urban and suburban areas, a certain number of chickens are allowed.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping your birds a specified number of feet away from other houses. 

After you make sure you are within the boundaries of the law, the next decision to make is how many chickens to get and where you will keep them.  Since chickens are social creatures and don’t do well alone, you should plan on having at least two.  That being said, it’s probably not a good idea to have a rooster – hens lay eggs without one and you can be sure that your neighbors will not appreciate the noise.  It’s also a good idea to limit your flock to three or four hens.  An average sized backyard will support a small flock nicely without generating too much noise or odor.  If you have a privacy fence, your neighbors may not even know they are there.

The Chicken Coop

Providing adequate shelter from the elements and protection from predators are probably the most challenging components to caring for chickens, but good quality chicken coops that address these needs can be readily purchased from reputable dealers online or at local feed and poultry supply stores.  Although the choices can range from very simple and modestly priced to very fancy and extremely expensive, a simple coop that houses two to four chickens can be purchased easily for about $100 to $300.  In general, a coop will need a covered, weatherproof area that gives each chicken at least one square foot of nesting space for laying eggs.  This nesting area will need to be lined with pine straw, shavings or hay for warmth.  In addition, each chicken will need about four to five square feet of outside room to scratch, roam and peck the ground. 

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Published in: Rural Living

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