Photo Credit: Almanac
I suppose everyone has a bit of the farmer in them…live off the land…feel the grass under your bare feet…be your own boss…set your own schedule…Basically, the farmer in you is really a drive that is deep down within us all to live a more carefree and self-sustaining lifestyle. At Colorado Sheds, we love to help fulfill your dreams like raising backyard chickens!
And for starters, one of our most basic, yet non-negotiable area of dependency, is food.
Great news, you don’t need to live on a farm or ranch, with acres of land, or barns and pastures full of various farm animals, in order to begin providing yourself and your family with your own “homegrown food”. All you need is a proper portable chicken coop, chicks or hens, and you can begin raising backyard chickens and your very own eggs!
Hmm…the ability to collect your own fresh eggs from your chicken coop, cook up an “everything but the kitchen sink” omelet with eggs from your own Colorado backyard and not your local supermarket has an irresistible appeal!
Below you will discover everything you need to know for practically and functionally raising backyard chickens.
The Benefits of Raising Backyard Chickens
But first, lets think about the benefits of owning and raising a flock of feathery fowl.
1. Fun Home Project for the Family
Baby chicks are adorable! No one, old or young, can resist the charm of these fluffy, golden, darlings. If you are looking for a fun and educational family project, starting a flock of chickens from eggs is a great way to strengthen family times and develop teamwork in the process. Of course, whether you start a flock as hatchlings or purchase your hens ready to lay, the process of planning will give your whole family a goal to work towards.
2. Chores for the Kids
How many times have you heard the words, “I’m bored”, coming from the mouth of one of your children? Chores are a great way to keep your child engaged in building responsibility and discipline. And it is great if your child’s chore list can include fun activities as well, such as:
- 1. Gather eggs for breakfast
- 2. Feed the chickens
- 3. Play with the chickens ( you might want to add the word kindly before the word play).
All in all, raising backyard chickens can help your children develop skills such as hard work, responsibility, and fulfillment in a job well done!
3. Free Eggs for Your Kitchen
Free eggs are one of the biggest benefits of raising backyard chickens. It is a tangible return on your investment. Plus, it is reassuring to know how your chickens were treated and to be in control of their diet which results in higher quality eggs. It is just plain cool to have limitless eggs available in your very own backyard. Right? Eggsactly!
4. Enjoy a Bug Free Garden
Do you know that your pecking birds will come with a chemical free, natural bug repellant for your backyard garden? Yes, your hens’ appetites, beaks, and quick feet will repel (or digest) pesky warm weathered bugs such as slugs, termites, Japanese beetles, Colorado Potato beetles and larvae, Asparagus beetles, and grasshoppers. Raising backyard chickens is alot better for the earth than spraying all the bugs with foreign chemicals!
Where do I start?
This depends where you may be at in this process, but we will start walking through the beginning stages of raising backyard chickens which involves thoughtful planning prior to actual possession of your chickens. If you already have your chickens, then scroll down to the helpful tips for raising them in a healthy and happy environment.
Now let’s get this chicken run on!
Step 1. Is Raising Backyard Chickens Legal!?
It is wise to check with your local township’s ordinances (and the neighbors) to ensure that it is legal to own chickens and to find out if there is a limit to how many you can own. Check out this blog from Backyard Poultry on, Can I Raise Chickens in My Area, for more tips on specific questions to ask your township and further tips in regard to raising backyard chickens.
There’s nothing worse than starting a project only to discover outside forces will keep you from finishing it. Stay on the good side of your neighbors by offering them an occasional dozen of perfectly formed ovals to make up for the occasional smell that may waft their way! Be neighborly as well by planning for a sturdy fence to keep your chickens from nesting in your neighbor’s trees, or front porch.
Step 2. Raising Backyard Chickens with Sufficient Space
If you have done any research, you may have discovered that the outdoor pen space required for a standard chicken is 8-10 square feet. If you are tight on space, you should consider purchasing Bantam chickens, they only require 4 square feet per bird. Learn more about How to Determine Your Flock Size and Space Requirements.
With all the wide-open spaces in Colorado, you should be able to spare a few square feet and enjoy your fresh eggs daily. Raising backyard chickens does require some space for your feathered birds to roam.
Step 3. Do Your Research Then Build or Purchase Your Chickens’ House
Every hen needs her own nesting ground, which means if you are raising backyard chickens, you will need a Chicken Coop. There are two ways to approach securing a weather safe and inviting chicken coop.
1. Build your own chicken coop
If you choose to go with option 1, then spend some time researching, a good article to start off with is from the Old Farmer’s Alamac, How to Build a Chicken Coop. Building your own hen house will require TIME, so take into consideration if your time is worth the money.
2. Purchase a chicken coop
If you choose to go with option 2, there are typically two kinds of backyard chicken houses available on the market: A pre-built chicken coop or a shed (you can add your own nesting boxes.) Purchasing your own chicken house from a local builder will be a time efficient alternative if you are already pushed for time and eager to get started on raising backyard chickens on your own.
Step 4. Choose and Purchase Your Chicks or Hens
If you’ve done your preparation homework you are ready to select those feathery ladies! What kind of hen you choose may depend on your area as well as your purpose for raising backyard chickens. Do you want the biggest and best quality eggs? Are you looking for aesthetically appealing (extra good looking) chickens? Make sure you know what your preferences are before diving into your backyard chicken purchase.
Questions to Consider for Your Backyard Chicken Coop
Chickens are living creatures that will need DAILY care. Especially from the elements such as, rain, snow, sleet, or hail! Here are several things to consider:
- How many eggs does your family need per day/week?
- Do you want extra eggs to give to the neighbor and friends?
- How much space do you have? Moving your portable chicken coop from one spot to another from time to time will give the grass time to recoup from constant hen pecking.
- Is there space to build a chicken run attached to your hen house?
Take Note: Raising backyard chickens from eggs or hatchlings is the cheapest way to acquire your future egg laying hens. But remember, little chicks turn into big hens, and they will need space.
Check out these web pages for helpful tips on choosing the right chickens for you:
Congratulations! You now your ready to begin raising backyard chickens! This next section of our blog will highlight how to raise healthy and happy chickens.
How to Raise Healthy and Happy Chickens
1. Prepare the Bedding in Your Backyard Chicken Coop
Your ladies aren’t necessarily picky (although they are pecky!) but watching what you put under their feet will make a difference. Pine shavings are ideal (and great smelling) and can be found in most farm stores. Shavings give your chickens good traction and have the added benefit of preventing your chicken coop from smelling too bad. Other bedding possibilities are straw, leaves, or shredded paper. Check out, Pine vs. Straw: Best Bedding for Your Chickens, to further guide you to a satisfactory bedding decision when you are raising backyard chickens.
2. Provide Efficient and Easily Accessible Food and Water Containers
Every day and during many hours of the day your chickens will need adequate food and water. You can go the whole way and purchase state of the art feeders and waterers for your ladies. But if your budget won’t support that kind of investment, there are all kinds of ideas out there that work for raising backyard chickens.
For example, check out this YouTube on ways to DIY your own chicken feeders.
Also, these photos offer other creative ideas for for feeders and waterers when you are raising backyard chickens.
3. Raising Backyard Chickens with Quality Feed and the Right Amount
Good quality feed is one of the most important factors in determining the productivity of your feathered ladies. While it is essential to have a run available where your hens can scratch and peck to their hearts content, it is also essential to provide a commercial mash or pellet, so they have a balanced diet. Any agricultural retail store will be able to direct you to what’s best for your specific breed. Organic feed may be more expensive but will secure better health for your backyard chickens and higher quality eggs. Read, 7 Best Chicken Feed for Laying Hens (Natural, Organic, and Non-GMO) or the Complete Guide to Chicken Feed, to determine which feed is right for you and your chickens.
Generally, it’s best not to give your hens too many table scraps since they will then eat less of their main course (their feed) which may result in less productivity and overall health. While you are raising backyard chickens, it is important to know how much food your chickens need a day to be healthy and happy instead of obese and sick. Read, Why You are Feeding Your Chickens to Death, and How to Stop it, and Is it Safe to Feed My Chickens Table Scraps, to become more equipped as to how much you should feed them and what you should and should not feed them.
4. Clean Your Chicken Coop- A Clean Chicken is a Happy and Healthy Chicken
Certainly, if you want to keep your backyard chickens and neighbors happy, the cleaner your coop is the better! This may mean weekly freshening up the bedding and likely no less than a monthly complete cleanout. This is important both from your chickens’ health point of view as well as reducing annoying smells. Olfactory senses do NOT need that kind of stimulation!
Cleaning your coop in between flocks is important as well. All the bedding, etc. should be removed and the floors and walls of your portable chicken coop should be the recipients of a good scrubbing. Use an organic cleaner or create your own vinegar and water solution.
5. Maintain Your Backyard Chickens’ Home
While all the points we’ve made are important for the success of your chicken venture, all will be in vain if you don’t take care of your backyard chicken coop itself. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Finally, while it’s not been proven that chickens produce more eggs when their abode is kept freshly painted, such upkeep is essential to the longevity of your portable chicken coop. But realistically, how would you enjoy sleeping with a continuous drip aggravating and disturbing your sleep…a well-maintained chicken coop promotes the health and success of raising backyard chickens.
6. Enjoy Raising Backyard Chickens
Show your backyard chickens some love by talking, playing, and enjoying them. No matter whether it’s an animal or a human, every living thing on this planet benefits physically and emotionally from kind words and attention rather than cruel shouting and abuse. No need to go so far as to dish out hugs and kisses (although you are more than free to), but daily soothing and friendly interaction with your chickens will boost their health and happiness. Guaranteed.
Enjoy Watching, Raising Backyard Chickens 101, for further inspiration!
HAPPY CHICKEN RAISING!