Backyard chickens are easy to care for and will entertain you for years. Their needs are simple: water, food, shelter, safety, and socialization. A small flock of hens will even reward you with eggs during warmer months, no rooster required!
Secure your coop. All chickens need protection from predators; give careful thought before free ranging your pet chicken. Hawks, dogs, and coyotes would love to snack on your pet. A chicken run covered in chicken wire or hardware cloth will enable you to interact with your chickens while keeping them safe. The general rule for contented chickens is six to eight square feet of space per chicken. While a four foot high run may save lumber, making your run six to eight feet tall will enable you to stand and comfortably play with your backyard chickens.
Secure the ground. Weasels, coyotes, and raccoons can dig. Extend chicken wire or hardware cloth two feet away from the enclosure and allow the grass to knit it to the ground. Paver bricks will add additional security, making your enclosure predator proof.
Hang a top loading bird feeder or a poultry feeder a few inches off the ground to provide chicken feed. This will keep the feed clean and if your flock is small you will not have to fill it very often. Grit can be offered in a sturdy dish. Chickens have a gizzard and require grit to grind and digest their food.
Offer fresh water at all times. There is a variety of options found online or at feed coops. Elevating the water will help keep it cleaner. Read Winterizing your coop for winter water tips.
Offer clean crushed eggshells or oyster shell for calcium. This will strengthen the egg shell of laying hens. Wash and save any eggshells from your cooking. A clip on dish from the rodent or bird department of a pet store neatly hangs on to chicken wire and keeps it clean.
Provide roosting perches and a safe storm shelter for your pet chickens. Varnish the walls and place bedding material under the roost for easy cleaning.
Place boot mats or paper on a shelf under the main roost for easy clean up and ability to monitor your chicken's digestive health. Set a 2x4 sideways so the chickens can fluff their feathers over their feet in cold weather as they roost.
Keep perches 18 inches or lower for heavy bodied birds to prevent bumblefoot, a common bacterial infection in chicken feet. Read more about prevention and cure of bumblefoot.
Lay sand on the floor of the chicken coop and run. Manure cleans up quick and easy with a scooper and dustpan. Just like a cat box, regular cleaning will reduce odor while keeping your shoes and birds clean and dry. Dispose of the manure under trees as fertilizer or place in your compost bin.
Make sure to visit your chickens every day to keep them socialized. Don’t forget the treats!