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Build a Chicken Coop

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Raising Backyard Chickens

Healthy Chicken Keeping chickens in your backyard might seem extreme, but it's popularity is growing rapidly as hen ownership is now the fastest growing group of pet owners in England. While they do make good pets they need far less care and attention than most other animals if allowed to live in their natural habitat. 4-6 hens will provide a good amount of eggs for a family, and will lay eggs for 1 or 2 years. After that their meat will be tough and should only be used in a curry or similar dish which is cooked for a long time. To produce meat both cockerels and hens can be fattened up for between 12-14 weeks. A dozen or so birds is a good number if you intend to eat them.

They require:

  • Outdoors - free ranging birds are much less likely to suffer disease, do not lack vitamin D and provide more Omega 3 in their meat and eggs than Indoor birds. An Outdoor life also provides them with:
  • Grass - Chickens eat grass. Throw in some grain as well for them to peck at but a quarter of their food and all their protein needs are provided by fresh grass (not too long). They also thrive in woodland or land where cereals have just been harvested (known as stubble).
  • Food and Water- free range birds will very much take care of themselves whereas caged or indoor reared animals need many things that a normal outdoor life would provide. Chicken feed is essential to indoor birds as it contains a balance of protein, grit and calcium which outdoor birds can mostly provide for themselves. Birds which are used for egg production should be given some special feed ( layers' mash or pellets) but this does not have to be measured for outdoor birds.
  • Shelter - A coop with several distinct areas is needed (see below). The coop needs to be rat proof and chicken wire fencing around their outdoor space will keep them safe from foxes and other predators.
  • Scratching - Chickens have a natural instinct to scratch at the ground - pigs are often used to prepare land which has been used to grow root vegetables or woodland, chickens are also usefull in utilising and enriching woodland and stubble (harvested cereal crops) eating all grains that might otherwise grow and compete with the next crop, and scratching at the land acts like a harrow (a machine which disturbs the soil after the plough or pig turns it over - leaving it more level) which can be useful when you don't own a tractor.

Chicken Coop

Chicken coops or runs come in various designs or can be made at home to include these key features:

  • Perches - should be dark to discourage nesting
  • Nesting boxes - accessible from outside top collect eggs and keep clean
  • Run - grass area enclosed in chicken wire to protect from rats and foxes. Smaller runs must be moveable as chickens change the land behind them, eating pests and grass and adding manure, so should be moved often.

If you want to build it yourself you should have detailed plans before you start to ensure all issues are dealt with in the original plans. You can buy pre-designed plans for a minimal cost which includes several options in design and size, as well as detailed guides to raising chickens, choosing the right breeds and getting the most from them.How to Build a Chicken Coop is and instructions on how to build a chicken coop are very easy to follow for the beginner, making it almost as simple as putting up a piece of flat pack furniture (which is how most pre built coops come anyway). Then you can house as many chickens as you want, which would cost you a fortune in pre-built coops unless you upgraded to an industrial size. How to build a chicken coop also comes with a guide to raising, breeding and choosing the right chickens for you, and how to get the most eggs that they can produce without farming them intensively. It enables you to build a coop which will last, and prevent issues in the future by dealing with them in the construction of the coop, with detailed advice on ventilation, floor structure and rat proofing.

Other Poultry

Other poultry can also be an option if you have more land. Ducks require fresh water and particularly enjoy eating garden pests such as slugs, and Geese are often used as guard dogs. They don't produce many eggs and require more land than other birds, but they provide 80% of their food from the land, are more hardy and live longer than ducks or chickens, and provide delicious meat. Turkeys are more difficult to keep as they are prone to disease, and cannot be kept anywhere near chickens or they will almost certainly become ill.

Medium Chicken Coop

eBooks

SmallScale-Chicken-Production.pdf - 91 page eBook on raising Chickens.

Glossary of terms:

  • Broiler - Cockerels bred for meat or old hens from laying stock.
  • Fryers or Roasters - Table breeds (bred for eating) usually between 12-14 weeks old or 3-4 pounds.
  • Point of lay pullets - young females ready to lay.
  • Broody - hens become broody when about to lay fertilised eggs - also referred to as sitting hens.
  • Coop - Chickens indoor area, also known as an Ark .
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