I don’t remember a time growing up that there weren’t chickens. From a young age my family had me exposed to livestock, and I vividly remember the lessons.
One time, when I was little I followed my Grandma, Grammy, out into the field to bring in the cows. Instead of staying close I started mimicking the rooster. Her voice still rings in my ears “You shouldn’t do that he will get mad”…”Sammy walk away or he’ll jump you”, but I was having too much fun making him puff up, lucky she had something to knock him out of the air before he got me.
The point is I learned never to become overly comfortable around livestock, funny enough when my son did this this morning instead of doing what I did when I gave the warning he ran out of the enclosure. Funny how different his reaction was to mine.
Well starting things off on the right foot for new livestock of any form you should know what animals you want to have on your property and planning accordingly makes a huge difference.
Growing up I learned that knowing the animal being worked with makes for better interactions. With chickens in particular there are friendly birds and protective birds.
The rooster I first met was protecting his hens from something he saw as a threat. Hens can be the same if not given enough space or cared for properly. Like with any animal raise it right and there shouldn’t be a problem.
Papa, my grandfather, said that for every three or four birds there should be one perching for resting, now this isn’t necessarily the case, there are other ways to have evening perches for them to be safe at night plus some research and development you can have a very healthy but condensed coop.
On average one adult hen needs ten inches of a perch, this being that they group together to stay warm. Now ten inches is quite a bit of space and they won’t use all of it. Grandpa used a latter method for perching his flock, but these are a dozen or more options.
Another thing to consider when keeping chickens is the coop geography as well as where you want them laying eggs. If the hens are confined to a run then the nesting boxes will be just fine, as long as there is one box per two or three hens.
Grandpa used twelve inches cubed to keep for nests that way there was room to move a hen off eggs if needed and not crush eggs. Now free range hens are far more clever when it comes to nests, anything from feed troughs, hay bales, garden corners, planters, and under the porch were all places I found the eggs growing up.
Grammie and Papa kept two groups of chickens, one set at the coop and a few escape hens to eat bugs around the property. Chickens are omnivorous, meaning they will eat anything from seeds, greens, bugs, snakes, lizards, frogs, and small rats or mice. Right now, at the farm, there aren’t any roosters but there are enough hens to make over a dozen eggs a day and they are all freerange with the coop that Papa built when I was little.
The number of hens that are at the farm today out number the size of the run Papa built but all fit nicely in the coop. Some of the more active breeds need as much as fifteen square feet each, with a less active bird being safe with eight or ten square feet each. It may seem like a lot of space but it keeps disease down, as well as reduce fighting.
Working with your chickens will prove to be the best way to keep them happy. Everything from how much space each individual needs to what hens are safe to add day old chicks to when broody, what roosters will be gentle, to what the pecking order is. Just remember to keep it simple, all you really need is enough floor space for them to stand on and not be squished, roughly three square feet works, nesting boxes, run dry place for food, the list goes on but remember just because it isn’t fancy and grandiose doesn’t mean that they don’t have what they need.
More on adding chicks, housing requirements, types of feed, pest control, and breed types another day. Till then, sign up to be among the first to be notified when I publish content and know when we launch free resources.