Urban Farming: Raising Chickens
Every morning, I walk outside and hear my four chickens screeching, waiting to be let out. When I open the chicken coop door they all fly crazily out and stand in front of me, waiting to be fed. Roosoo is the top pecker: she is bossy and mean, and when she walks she puffs out her chest with her head held up, strutting in front of the other chickens. Bugs is always looking for adventure and excitement: when I come outside she jumps on my shoulder and we play together. Dandelion is dainty and ladylike: she is always fixing her feathers and goes around making sure the other chickens are clean. Sweety is always tagging along behind the other chickens: she’s sweet and always jumps on my lap and sits there.
I had so much fun raising, training, and playing with my chickens. Chickens are great pets for anyone, even people who don’t live in the country. They are funny and entertaining. They can learn simple orders too, if you teach them. They are very loving and loyal. This article will teach you a lot about raising happy and healthy chickens and chicks.
Next put some wood shavings in the box or brooder. Buy a water container for chicks from a pet store. Only use containers that are meant for chicks to drink from. You will need to cover the top of the box or brooder with a wired metal netting. Most brooders already come with this. The chicks can not be around lots of noise because if they are scared or stressed, then their cloaca (anus) will clog up and they will die. If that does happen, the best thing to do is get a soft cloth and put warm water on it. Hold the chick and gently rub it from underneath. Do this every day until the blockage is gone.
If you want to build a relationship with your chickens it’s best to do it when they are chicks. To be friends with your chick, pick one up and chirp to it. Put the chick on your lap and play with it. Give it a name and start talking to it like you would do to a person. At four to five weeks, your chicks are ready to move outside to the coop.
Nesting and Housing
Your chickens will need a safe, secure, and comfortable chicken coop. You can buy one, but I made mine. I really had a lot of fun building it, even though it was time consuming. If you want to make one too, here are some tips to follow.
The roof of the coop should be slanted. If you make it flat all the rain, snow, and branches will just sit there on top of it. If you make it like a triangle or slanted to one side, this is more likely not to happen. If your chickens are outside for most of the day, there is no need to make the coop huge. If you don’t let your chickens out, the coop needs to be big and you need to include a run so they can get exercise and fresh air. When you build the coop, watch out for holes, cracks, and weak wood, because bad weather conditions can break through the coop and small creatures can get in. If you build your coop on dirt or grass, you will need to put something underneath to keep animals from digging into the coop. I used a large plastic square as the floor. If you make your coop out of wood, which is the better choice, there is a spray just for wood that will keep it from becoming rotten or moldy.
If you let your chickens out in the day, bring them into the coop at the same time every evening and they will soon learn to go inside the coop at that time by themselves. Make sure there is a door and a lock. You have to go close the door and lock it yourself every night, because if you just put an opening for the chickens to go in and out of the coop, raccoons will sneak in and attack the chickens.
Chickens need nest boxes to sleep, rest, and lay eggs in. If you want to get nest boxes, you don’t have to go through the difficult process of making them. All you have to do is get boxes from stores such as Costco. For smaller hens get smaller boxes and for larger hens get larger boxes. The box has to be covered on both sides and the back. You can leave the top open if you want, but if you don’t then make sure the chicken can go through with the top on. If the weather is snowy or rainy, make sure to face the boxes away from any opening. If you want to put the box on the bottom of the coop, make sure to first put a plank of wood underneath it because in certain weathers, the bottom may become wet and soggy. You will need to fill the nest boxes with thin dry sticks, grass, hay, and wood shavings. But you need to make sure that for a laying hen, you can not put anything that is wet in the nest. If the egg touches water then the chick will die inside it. Try to keep the nest warm for your chickens.
To choose a good food for your chickens, talk to someone at a pet store that sells chicken feed. They can help you choose the best type of food for your chickens. One rule of thumb, however, is to never feed your chickens food that is meant for a different type of animal. Feeding chickens or chicks may not be a big deal. Feed them once in the morning and once in the evening. They will be eating a lot of bugs during the day. If you feed chicken food to chicks, they will get very sick. You have to be aware of what you feed your chickens and chicks. Make sure any food you give them is not moldy. You will also need to feed them grit, which are like tiny rocks that you can get from a pet store that sells chicken feed. Adult chickens who go outside do not need to be fed grit.
You will need a water container for your chickens, which you can buy from a pet store. Place it in the chicken coop; leave the door open so they can drink from the water during the day. If you leave the water outside, other animals like squirrels will drink from it. Make sure to clean the container and replace the water daily because contaminated water can cause a disease called thrush.
You can feed them treats every once in awhile to reward them or to simply bond with them. One thing you can feed them is bread (but make sure it isn’t moldy!). They also love lettuce, mealworms, and corn. My chickens LOVE bread. As soon as I would step outside holding a piece of bread, they would run to me, flapping their wings and screeching. I would crumble the bread and scatter it on the ground, and they would pick at it and coo happily.
Eggs and Chicks
Hens start laying eggs at about six months old. Hens lay eggs everyday with or without the rooster. With the rooster, the eggs will be fertilized; without the rooster the eggs will not be fertilized. Even if the eggs are not fertilized, a hen might become broody and try to hatch them, refusing to get off. You will need to have a chicken nest in the coop. Get your hen used to laying eggs in the nest because the first few times she will lay her eggs in crazy places. Sometimes they might hide their eggs so you won’t find them. I discovered that mine were secretly laying eggs in a flower pot.
If you do have a rooster and your hen has chicks, she will raise them and you won’t have to do anything. The hen will make sure they are safe, eating, and healthy. You just have to keep your eyes on them when you can. Cats tend to attack chicks more than chickens.
Building a Relationship with Your Chickens
If you want to build a relationship with your chickens it is good to start by naming them. You can get a handful of food and let her eat from your hand. If she is too scared, scatter a tiny bit of food on the ground close to you. Talk to her and pet her on the chest and back. They hate being touched on the beak and near the eyes. Another strategy is to sit still on a chair, get some food and pour it on your lap, and shake a bowl of food so your chicken can hear. When she turns her head your way, place a tiny bit of food on the ground near your feet. Wait until she comes and shake the food in the bowl so she can look up. She will most likely jump on your lap and start eating. Stroke her gently when she does.
I have enjoyed my experiences with my chickens and I have learned a lot. I hope that I have encouraged you to try and raise a chicken or two on your own. If you do decide on raising some chicken,you can always contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I would also love to see pictures and hear about experiences you have with your chickens. Happy farming!