Backyard Chicken Basics

They’re less work than pets and more fun than an Xbox. Plus, they provide delicious, nutritious eggs.


  • Chickens in the Garden
    Chickens love to hunt for worms and bugs in freshly turned soil. 
    DUSTY BOOTS PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Yellow Chicks
    Chickens are entertaining even when they’re only a day old. 
    PHOTO: AGE FOTOSTOCK/SUPERSTOCK
  • Chickens Eating Bread
    Chickens relish many types of “treats” that might otherwise be compost or garbage: stale bread, vegetable peelings and more. 
    LAURA BERMAN/GREENFUSE PHOTOS
  • Chick Waterer
    Baby chicks require special equipment. If you use a waterer that’s designed for full-grown birds, the chicks may drown. 
    CLAUDIA WIZNER
  • Chicken Coop
    Chickens don’t necessarily need housing this fancy, but you must protect them from predators — including neighborhood dogs. 
    JOHNNYSCRIV/ISTOCKPHOTO

  • Chickens in the Garden
  • Yellow Chicks
  • Chickens Eating Bread
  • Chick Waterer
  • Chicken Coop

Chickens provide good food and good laughs. They’re quirky, beautiful and clever. They come in countless colors, shapes and varieties, and there’s hardly a culture on the planet that doesn’t raise them. Keeping chickens will teach you basic livestock handling, and these hardy birds will amaze you with their individual character traits. They eat ticks, grasshoppers and lots of other pests. More good news: Raising chickens won’t break the bank. A handful of chicks will cost less than a large pizza and require less effort than a house cat.

Another great reason for keeping chickens is the quality of free-range eggs. No more watery whites or pale yolks. You are in for the richness of a country hen’s eggs — eggs proven to be lower in cholesterol and higher in several vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, keeping you and yours healthier (see “More Nutritious Eggs,” below, for more on the benefits of free-range eggs).

But what’s my absolute favorite reason to raise backyard chickens? They add life and vigor to a home, turning houses into homesteads and people (children and adults alike) into naturalists. They connect us to our food and to our past. Trust me: It’s a better life that comes with morning clucks.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to live down a country road to keep chickens. What you do need is a little bit of space, some research and a city ordinance that allows laying hens. Before you begin your adventure with backyard chickens, you’ll need to plan for a few basics needs, such as housing, predator protection and supplies.



There’s a Chicken Breed for Everyone

When choosing your hens, knowing a little about the history and characteristics of the breeds you’re considering will be helpful. Some birds thrive outdoors and require little feed if they can scavenge on their own. Some can lay like champs in close quarters while others need plenty of free-range space to spread their wings. As for temperament, some are major characters while others are calm and gentle.

On the flip side, giant, corn-chowing hybrid meat birds (usually called “broilers”) should never be considered for laying stock because most won’t survive much longer than a few weeks after they reach slaughter weight.

tgoing04
5/29/2019 10:05:53 PM

I have been raising chickens for a long time. Long before my first "Mother Earth" Yep, I am old. Something I would like to share which has saved my girls many times: My husband poured concrete a few inches think and 18 " wide around the inside of the coup. Many times we have gone out to find the earth has been disturbed around the parameter of the coup. The only thing ever to get in entered during the day when the doors were open. It was a snake. Very little harm. It just got a few eggs. I have some perches very high in the coop. If the chickens are fearful they will go in the coop and get up as high as they can. That is when they all call out like crazy and we take off running. Once it was 2 eagles perched in a nearby tree. I am sure they thought they were at the market, however; a protective roof over the pen kept my girls safe, If you ever get down or bored, just sit a spell where you can watch your brood. Their dancing and antics will surely cheer you up. Another great tip is: you can hang rags, soaked in ammonia a few feet apart near the bottom of your fencing. It will keep out skunks, possums and racoons. They won't come near the smell. Just do it maybe 2 times/ week. Hope this helps someone.


chickenorganic
3/16/2014 2:57:28 PM

I'm so ready to raise chicken but I don't have a backyard. :( What I do instead is buy organic and antibiotic-free chicken and egg. I use FreeBird chicken and I've been using it for as long as I can remember. It's meat is juicy and tender. I have high cholesterol level so I need to be very careful with the meat that I'm using. Everything has to be organic.


MELINDA wilson
5/31/2011 6:12:12 PM

While it is always a great idea to re-use and recycle, you should be careful when buying a used anything for your animals. If you can, ask the person why he is getting rid of the coop and if he was having any issues with his chickens such as mites or other parasites, you do not want to bring anything into your flock. When you get it home make sure to disinfect the entire coop well. Some bacteria, viruses, and internal/external parasites can live in the environment a long time. Scrub and soak all the boards with bleach or other disinfectant and try to expose as much of the coop to direct sunlight to kill any potential bugs that are lurking around. Unfortunately many hobby farmers, and even commercial farmers, don't think about biosecurity. Keeping your farm safe by taking simple preventative measures will help you immensely in the long run.






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