They say fashion trends seem to cycle back around every 20 years or so. Well, comebacks aren’t just for fashion fads — chicken keeping is finally becoming popular again.
The practice was common in the early 1900’s before the industrialization and mass production of food, the popularity of refrigerators and the presence of grocery stores. In fact, Uncle Sam used to encourage people to raise chickens — it was the people’s civic duty! Just look at this advertisement from 1918:
Raising chickens is once again becoming a popular practice, but not for just farmers or folks living in the country. Because chickens take up little space and need only a small amount of attention, even suburbanites are starting set up coops. It’s a great way to save money on eggs, meat and teach young children about food and responsibility.
If you’re considering starting a flock, here’s some tips to consider:
Check Your Local Laws
Some cities and counties have unique laws concerning pets and livestock, especially if you live in an area with a relatively high population. For example, Fort Wayne, Indiana has laws restricting people from keeping “a Domestic Farm Animal in the City limits unless approved by the Department of Planning Services.” Other laws restrict number of birds by lot size, the gender of birds, chicken coop types, etc. Your state, city or county may have similar laws. Here’s chicken laws and ordinances in Utah, Arizona, Idaho and Nevada.
Build a Chicken Coop
You’ll want to have enough space for your chickens; keeping birds in too-tight living conditions will cause them to be smelly, aggravated and produce smaller/less eggs. A good rule of thumb is to have 4 square feet for every chicken (that’s inside the coop. Chickens will need 10 square feet of outdoor space). Chickens will also need about 18″ of roosting space per bird. Round dowels raised 4 or 5 feet off the ground make the best roosts. You’ll also need a nest box with bedding and a slanted roof. To read more about housing chickens, look at this helpful website.
Fence Your Chickens
Chickens attract predators ranging from coyotes, vermin, and the neighborhood dogs. Build a fence strong enough to secure your chickens. It should be tall enough to prevent animals jumping over it. It’s also a good idea to bury some of the fence below ground to deter predators from digging. Here’s some fencing materials to consider.
Make sure your chickens are well fed, too. Keep poultry feed in dry, cool areas so it doesn’t grow mold and make your flock sick. You’ll want to supply pellet feed in a dry feeder as well as scatter a grain source in their area. See this website for more information on what to feed chickens. You can also browse and order poultry feed and feeders here.
Clean the Coop
Don’t neglect your coop! Failing to clean the coop and litter can cause terrible odor that will bother you and your neighbors. Not only is it bothersome, but the smell can actually get you a fine in some cities. Don’t let this deter you from starting your chicken flock, though. Dirty chicken litter can actually be used in compost piles, which can eventually help fertilize your garden. Weekly cleaning is usually sufficient to prevent odor from spreading, but you can sometimes get away with adding litter weekly and doing a thorough cleaning once a month. You can find poultry bedding and cleaning supplies here (be sure to check our coupons before purchasing).
Once you’ve researched each of these topics, you’ll be ready to raise your own flock and enjoy producing eggs and meat for the whole family!
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