Keeping chickens is a practice that dates as far back as when people started domesticating animals. They are fun to have around, are a good food source, and are low maintenance. If you have an ample backyard the idea of keeping chickens may have occurred to you but you may have needed a little more information before getting started.
Hens and Roosters
You do not need a rooster. Keeping a rooster is a matter of choice but not actually a necessity. While having these handsome, brassy, noisy, aggressive characters around your hens is an attractive choice, the hens are quite content not having a rooster that keeps mounting them as they can lay eggs without the help of the rooster. Chickens are sociable birds. They want to hang around each other most times and cuddle around each other on cold days. You may need only one chicken for a pet however, chickens are happier when in the company of chickens. If you want to keep a few have at least two or three.
The Hen House
Where there are hens, there are predators. Chickens will be happy to be strutting around free range-like but soon, without a place to roost, you'll end up losing some. In the country, they attract a lot, in the city they attract rats and cats. The hen house then is a good area to shelter and raise them. There are fanciful chicken coops that are available everywhere if you do not want to go through the trouble of building them. Fancy chicken pens are an attractive accessory to your backyard. There are however some basic elements to have for a good chicken coop.
First chickens need to be safe, this means that you need to make sure that the coop and run is predator proof. Don’t use chicken wire, instead use hardware cloth at least 2 feet from the bottom. Racoons have been known to reach through chicken wire and kill birds. You will also want to make the bottom of the run safe for anything that may attempt to dig its way in.
Chickens also love having dust baths during the day. This is how they clean the excess oils from their feathers and control insects. They do it all the time so they must have access to dirt where they can scratch, roll around and dig.
The Bigger the Better
While chickens are not territorial, they need also their space. Crowding them would result in excessive pecking at each other, sometimes even to death. While it is natural for them to establish a pecking order within the flock, if they are cramped or bored they may start pecking and fighting. To prevent overcrowding, allow at least three square feet of space for every chicken. During colder days when they will be huddling inside the coop, hang grass and vegetables that they can eat to keep them occupied.