Keeping chickens is something most of us only usually associate with farmers and others who might live in rural communities. However, over recent years, our appetite for organic food and the likes of free range eggs have become increasingly popular. Then, there are those who are looking at how they can become more self-sustaining when it comes to food. This is hardly surprising when we consider how much food prices have risen over recent times. As a consequence of all of these trends, many more people in both urban as well as traditional rural communities have begun to express an interest in raising chickens.
The Benefits Of Keeping Chickens
Raising poultry has many benefits – some of them obvious, others perhaps not so. Firstly, you’ll get free range and hormone free eggs on a regular basis and meat too if you want it. However, raising chickens has added benefits in a wildlife garden in that they are a natural form of weed and pest control as well as their droppings making for great fertiliser.
You might decide to build a chicken coop and run yourself or you can buy one. Basically, you need to ensure that your coop is kept cool in the summer months and kept warm over the winter. Chickens are hardy creatures and can cope well on hotter summer days but you need to provide them with a shaded area so that they can get out of direct sunlight if they so choose. Similarly with winter, they’re very adaptable but an area where they can escape harsh weather is crucial. You must also make sure that your chickens have adequate means and space for shelter from the rain as chickens can get sick if they get too wet for any length of time. The size of your chicken coop will depend upon the number of chickens you intend keeping. Make sure they’ve got a sufficient area to run free in as that will keep them happier. Also, ensure that you keep the coop secure so that your chickens can’t fly out but, equally as importantly – no predators can get in.
Each chicken will usually produce around 4 to 6 eggs per week and they can continue laying for several years. Although they will lay their eggs out in the open, you’ll have more success if you provide them with a dark, enclosed nesting area to do so. A crate filled with straw will suffice.
Feeding Your Chickens
Make sure your chickens always have a plentiful supply of water. As for food, whilst you will give them chicken feed, chickens really add value if you’re looking to become more self-sustaining as they’ll eat almost anything. Therefore, food scraps which you may have previously thrown away make an ideal compliment to their regular diet. You can simply throw your scraps straight into the coop as chickens love scratching around on the ground for food. It’s also important to regularly clean out the coop to avoid the possibility of disease. Don’t forget the droppings make for great compost.
Other Things To Remember
Firstly, before you decide to raise chickens, check with your local authority first that you’re allowed to do so. If told you can go ahead and you live in close proximity to your neighbours, it’s also worth considering how they might be affected too. So, it’s always a good idea to speak to them first, if appropriate. Chickens squawk when they get excited but, contrary to popular belief, they’re not excessively noisy and are often quieter and cause less disturbance than most domestic dogs. However, make sure you haven’t got a rooster (a male chicken) as they ARE loud and you are not permitted to keep them in many places, especially in urban areas.
Raising chickens is a great way of becoming more self-sustaining which is something wildlife gardeners are very keen to do. Chickens have got little characters of their own and people often get very attached to them, as they would with other pets. However, remember that with raising poultry of any kind, with that comes responsibility. Chickens must be fed, watered and their coop cleaned out every day so if you’re away from home frequently, this might be something you need to consider first.