Have you considered having a few backyard hens to make some healthy eggs for your family? Owning chickens can be a great way of creating your own food source and chickens can be a lovely addition to your backyard. But there are some things you need to know in order to have a happy and healthy chicken flock.
County Farm Centre can get you started from ordering chickens to the chicken feed, and all the supplies you need – so let’s get into it!
Secured, safe shelter
A secure and safe shelter is arguably the most important aspect of chicken keeping you’ll need to consider. Chicken coops come in different shapes and sizes, and there have been books written on chicken coops, so we’ll briefly list the most important considerations:
Secured from Predators
You’ll need to ensure excellent doors and that there are no openings for predators to enter. A raccoon can pry open an unlocked door, and a weasel can squeeze through a very small opening – and both will have a devastating impact on your flock.
Chickens require fresh air, even in winter, and so they must have ventilation.
While having ventilation is important, they also need protection from strong, cold winds and snow during the winter. Chickens will be reluctant to walk on snow, so it is a good idea to have an outdoor area that has some protection from the snow (Tip: an unused children’s trampoline can make a simple area for them to keep out of snowfall as well as protecting them from flying predators).
If possible, it is also a good idea to have the coop elevated off the ground in the event of heavy rains or flooding events. It also will help protect the floorboards and structure from wood rot (tip: ensure there are no gaps underneath the coop where predators like opossums and skunks will take up residence).
Roosts and Nesting Boxes
Chickens will want to be high off the ground, this is where they will sleep at night. They will want a separate area where they will make their eggs. It is important to provide fresh clean bedding in nesting boxes to promote clean eggs. Chickens want a clean private area to lay, and if they aren’t happy with it, they will find other areas to lay, which can be frustrating (Tip: put fake eggs in your nesting box to encourage hens to lay there).
Coops are essential to make chickens happy and healthy. Ensure they can get in and out during daytime hours. Predators are most active at night, as well as at dawn and dusk.
Secured, Outdoor Run
Chickens prefer to be outdoors, but it is your job to ensure they are protected from predators, as well as ensuring they don’t leave your property. So, a secure run is necessary if you want your chickens to have some outdoor time during the day. Depending on how heavy your chicken breeds are, some are very agile and will use their wings to their advantage to explore new grounds out of their run. Chickens can scale fences as high as 5 feet. County Farm Centre has a wide selection of fencing options.
Your chicken run should be a separate space from where you, your children, house pets, and other visitors congregate in your backyard. “Free ranging” your chickens can lead to trouble as they are less secure. Chickens will ruin most landscaping through their habit of scratching, and their high nitrogen manure will burn lawns and gardens.
Finally, you will need to consider “biosecurity”. Part of your biosecurity priorities is to ensure that you do not transfer chicken manure outside of your property. Backyard chickens are more susceptible to contracting Avian Flu which is carried by wild birds, and spread by their droppings. If your flock becomes infected, they can transmit it through their manure, and if anyone in your family steps on it, you can transmit it to a neighbor’s flock, helping to spread the disease. For more information on protecting your flock from Avian Flu, click on this resource. (TIP: Consider having a single pair of footwear you use when entering the chicken run and coop and ensure to not leave your property with that footwear).
Feed and Water
County Farm Centre with its feed supplier, Masterfeeds, has formulated feed that contains the right blends to promote health and nutrition to maximize laying production. Fresh water is also important. You can purchase various types of waterers for chickens. Ensure waterers are cleaned regularly, as chickens do have a habit of “doing their business” anywhere and everywhere! Winter and water can be tricky as you must ensure water doesn’t freeze. County Farm Centre has a selection of heated water systems that can help you out.
Consider having electricity available to your chicken coop and run. Whether you decide on providing heat, lighting, and water heaters – they will require electrical outlets.
Consider planning the placement of your coop or, more importantly, the run, in an area that receives daytime sunlight. Chickens will thrive in the sunshine.
Consider having overhead protection from hawks. While chickens can run into a coop if a hawk is circling, it can also help to have some other form of overhead protection – a trampoline, a net, or the protection of trees or shrubs. The more open an area that chickens are seen, the more chances of having a raptor (hawks, and owls) attack.
How do I get Chickens?
First, ensure you are legally able to obtain chickens. This will depend on your municipality and whether you live in a rural or urban area within your municipality. Some municipalities allow a specific number of hens, but not roosters. They may also have additional rules in terms of chicken housing, runs, and manure management – so be sure to check with your local municipality bylaws (click here to see bylaw for Prince Edward County).
Sourcing your chickens is an important decision, and there are plenty of options. You should consider getting your chickens from a reputable supplier who has a reputation of providing quality and disease-free chickens. County Farm Centre has partnered with Frey’s Poultry Ltd. for you to obtain chickens. We have lots of options including breed of chicken, chickens that are sexed (when you want to ensure only hens and no roosters), and whether you want to obtain chicks or “ready-to-lay” hens which are brought up off site and come to you when they start laying eggs!
Come in to talk to our knowledgeable staff help you get started with having backyard chickens!