Chicken are friendly and fun animals that are considerably easier and cheaper to raise in comparison to the usual household pets such as dogs and cats. The primary thing to do when planning how to keep chickens is to determine the real reason why you want to get into chicken ownership. It is imperative to keep in mind that having passion in keeping chickens is central to yielding good outcomes. Depending on where you want to keep your chickens, the local regulations and laws should be checked to verify the legality of keeping chickens in the desired area.
Choose a breed based upon purpose
Before buying the chicken, a research should be carried out to establish the total number and breed of chickens that will be appropriate to keep. In regard to breeds, there is an excess of 400 chicken varieties presently available. When making a choice of the chicken breed, it is essential to consider:
- Breed temperaments;
- Level of egg production; and
- Whether your chickens will have dual purpose, i.e. for meat and eggs or just one purpose, i.e. meat alone or eggs alone.
Multiple breeds may be combined into a single flock since they get along just fine.
Deciding on a management method
Thought about how you will house your chickens? Management method refers to how you will house your birds. The preferred management method should be determined well in advance especially in consideration of the space limitations.
A coop may be used for confining the birds or they may equally be let loose to roam the fields. Strong materials should be used for building the chicken coop to ensure they have an appropriate place for spending the night, laying eggs and keeping out of bad weather.
A run with a fence outside the coop is recommended when confining chicken to give them access to sunshine and fresh air. Chicken are bound to scratch and eat in garden plants and flowers hence the need to take care when the birds are let free to roam. Chicken should be given room for roaming and if the spot is up or off from the ground, the chicken will usually not go far from this spot.
Prepare the food for your chickens before you bring them home
The chicken food should be purchased well before their arrival. Some favorable sources for chicken food include the internet as well as the supply stores. For the larger breeds, pellet poultry feed is recommended, while crumble is recommended for the Bantam breeds. The food should be kept in covered feeders and regularly replaced since it can go stale. Chickens should never be permitted to consume damp feed. Some additional ideal food for chicken includes table scraps, cracked or fresh corn, apples, tomatoes or any baked food. Garlic or onions should not be given to chickens since these can potentially reduce the flavor in eggs.
Where to buy your chickens
When it comes to finding chickens for purchase, a few options are available to you. You can ask around at food supply stores, health feed stores and farmers markets. You can also find chickens to buy from the classifieds livestock section or purchased online. Other options include using the 4H Clubs, county fair or buying fertile eggs, incubating and hatching them individually.
Keeping the coop clean and comfortable
Essential to the health and wellbeing of your birds is the sound maintenance of the chicken coop.
Chemicals including antifreeze and pesticides should not be kept within the birds’ reach and food that remains uneaten should be cleaned to keep the coop from getting on the nose.
Everything should be kept clean. The frequency of washing the coop is highly dependent on the number of chicken being reared and the amount of space. When chicken are laying eggs, the nest boxes should be thoroughly cleaned especially if an egg has cracked. When the surroundings are kept clean, this equally keeps the neighbors from complaining, more so because of the foul smell that emanates from the mixture of waste, water and feeds after a considerable period.
The chicken should be keenly observed and the water and feed should be checked every day. Observing them regularly ensures that changes in habits and behavior are easily noticed in time to find ways of improving their habitat. Besides observing the drinking and eating habits of the chickens, it is imperative to ensure that the water and food are cool, clean and fresh. It is also vital to be very particular concerning any signs of ailments.
Things to look out for when it comes to the health of your chickens
Some of the possible symptoms that should be looked for as an indication of illnesses, disease or injury include:
- Labored breathing
- Swollen joints
- Reduction in egg production
- Loss of feathers
- Thinner eggshells
- Open wounds or abscesses
- Neck or head twisting
- Nose or mouth discharge
- Blood in stools
- Failure to eat or drink
- Retarded growth
- Weight loss
- Lack of coordination
- Enlarged abdomen
By taking into careful consideration and acting upon all the points outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to a very satisfying, chicken ownership experience. Enjoy!