Get started with your own backyard chickens!
GD Meg had chicken envy after talking with me about my own backyard chickens. Listen to this Green Divas at Home radio show segment to hear our conversation, then read on for more!
We’re just getting started with chickens this year and our new feathered friends are so much fun I thought I’d share a few thoughts about our experiences from a novice perspective.
There are lots of wonderful, knowledgeable blogs written by long-time chicken chicks (mostly) and for detailed instructions, I recommend you find your local expert, follow her blog, and/or attend her classes.
We’ve wanted chickens for several years, but waited until our local ordinance allowed it. It’s important to make sure you’re allowed to keep chickens in your area and that you know what the rules are for how many, where, and how they should be kept.
We have rules about the number and sex of chickens (no roosters!), the setbacks of the coop from property lines, the height of the coop, and other rules. Beyond the rules, we always think it’s a good idea to share the benefits of our animals with our close neighbors. We try to share our honey with neighbors and plan to share our eggs too.
Speaking of eggs, we don’t have any yet!
We got our chickens from the local feed store, owned by a friendly man who happens to be a poultry expert. We wanted to make sure we got chickens from a local expert who would be helpful if we ran into problems or if we had questions — and be certain they didn’t have any disease issues.
We got our five hens when they were about six weeks old so they could go outside without a heater. Now they’re about 20 weeks old and should begin laying eggs any day. It’s been a lot of fun watching them grow up. We chose our chickens from what our feed guy had available. He had sexed chicks (sorted so we knew that they were hens).
We already had a 200-square-foot area enclosed with an 8’ fence that we decided to use for the chickens. We put together a small kit coop and placed it inside the larger fenced area. (We will be building a larger custom coop in the next few months). My husband framed a peaked roof over the fenced area. We now have plenty of sun for the chickens but also shade in the hot sun and protection from the rain in the larger fenced area. He also added an old wooden ladder and extra perches they love to sit on during the day.
Surprises about chickens?
They’re pretty easy to keep. Of course we check on them at least once per day, making sure they have food and water and no health problems. We usually like to bring them a treat too. They love grapes and vegetable peels from the garden, corn cobs, etc. They also love grass and dandelion flowers.
Since we got them I’ve let them in the vegetable garden or out on the lawn with me when I’m working in the garden. They stay together in a group and close to me and run and hide if they hear a noise or the dogs get too close to them. We only let them run free if we’re outside supervising, but they get several hours per week when we’re working outside.
We did take a very helpful class from a great instructor here in the Chicagoland area. She teaches at the Chicago Botanic Garden and other Chicagoland locations and does consulting for chicken keepers around town. Most areas have local experts who are wonderful resources and a great value for the price for their services.