Last month, we gave examples of all the microfarming possibilities you could pursue in your backyard, even with limited space, and one of those possibilities was raising chickens. In case you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips to keep in mind. As with beekeeping, it’s important to be aware of the various pieces of equipment you’ll need, as well as the most common threats to a backyard brood.
Maybe you’re starting out with grown chickens, but more likely, you’ll be raising your hens (and roosters, if you want them) from baby chicks. If so, then you’ll need a brooder to raise them in. Brooders can be very cheap and simple to make. Start out with a cardboard box, line it with corn cob bedding, add a heat lamp (although electric radiant-heat brooders are safer), and always remember to keep the chicks supplied with fresh food and water.
Like with dogs and cats, there are many different breeds of chicken. Some are built for warm weather, some for cold, some are good with children, others are feisty, and not all of them lay the white eggs you buy at the store. Living in Utah, you’ll probably want a breed that tolerates sub-zero temperatures well, and if you have small children, you’ll want your chickens as gentle and patient as possible. Some of the breeds that fit the bill are the Australorp, Cochin, Buff Orpington, Easter Egger, and Wynadotte breeds.
As your chicks grow into chickens, they’ll need to move out of the brooder and into a chicken coop. You can either construct your own or buy a premade one. Feeders, waterers, and nest lining are obvious necessities. The chickens will be happiest with plenty of space to roam, but you don’t want your kids playing in the same place the chickens are pooping, so a designated chicken run will keep things sanitary and organized. Pick up an egg basket for collecting eggs, and you’ll have everything you need to start out!
You might think that the biggest threat your chickens will face living in your backyard is the occasional squirrel with a craving for chicken feed, but there are a surprising number of predators in the suburbs.
Hawks and other raptors will view chickens walking around exposed in a backyard as easy prey, which is why it’s important not only to have walls around your chicken run, but also a roof. This can simply be made of more chicken wire.
Wild animals like raccoons, weasels, skunks, and foxes like chicken as much as hawks, so you want to make sure your yard is secure. If any of these animals are common in your area, chicken wire may not be strong enough to protect your brood.
Your own dog or cat could present a problem if allowed too close to the chickens without supervision, and that applies to dogs and cats owned by neighbors as well.