Chickens 101: Everything you need to know about keeping backyard chickens!
Keeping backyard chickens may seem a little daunting at the start but the more you learn about them, the easier they are to deal with. Below are our five top tips to know about keeping backyard hens!
1. They do not need a rooster to lay eggs
Likely the most common question we have been asked about is how loud our rooster is. 95% of people think you needed a rooster in order for your hens to lay eggs so we have no need to keep a loud rooster around. We were in that 95% of the crowd until we started to look into raising chickens so don't be alarmed if that's the case for you! It turns out that layer hens will happily produce almost an egg a day in their prime without a rooster around, but each egg will be sterile. A rooster is only needed if you are wanting fertilized eggs which for most of us is not the goal. This is super nice as we don't have to worry about cracking a fertilized egg into a bowl in our kitchen!
2. They will eat almost all of your kitchen scraps
Chickens are amazing eaters and will happily gobble up almost anything you give them. While they have their favorites and it is important to feed them a balanced diet, they will pretty much eat anything that we eat. They also happily will munch down any weeds, grass clippings, or garden scraps that you may have as well.
3. They make awesome compost
While it may be strange, chickens are a huge compliment to your garden. While they will destroy your garden if they can get their feet on it, their bedding is full of nutrients that are amazing for your garden. Having chickens for even just one year to prepare an area to have a garden the next will make it substantially better. Chickens also love to pull up weeds and dig in the soil so they are great to change an area from regular grass into a garden. Edible Acres has some amazing content and many ways to help you along this journey.
4. They take up surprisingly little space and are easy to maintain
Chickens are birds and should be given as much space as you have, but they are content and will thrive on a surprisingly little amount of space. When raising them ethically, there are two components to housing; their coop and their run. The coop should be at minimum 2 SQF/ chicken with a little extra added on for the nesting boxes. The run only needs to be about 5 sqft/ chicken and may or may not need to be very protected depending on your daytime predators. For the first roughly 2 years, a hen will produce about 250 eggs/year, so a flock of 5 or 6 can easily feed a family and their friends! That means you need a max of 40 SQF for the entire coop and run which is pretty reasonable if you have a backyard. While a hen in places that stay warm and sunny all year can produce 300, it should be noted that light affects laying patterns dramatically. You can learn more HERE.
5. They can be very family/pet friendly and a great learning tool!
No matter the stage in life that you buy your hen, they can be a great learning tool for young kids. Not only can you watch them grow and change rapidly, but they are an easy tool to use to teach the circle of life. When death does happen (predator, disease, or anything else) it is a good opportunity to talk about it as the chicken they eat weekly for dinner has to come from somewhere!