Keeping chickens in your backyard is both a fairly easy thing to do as well as fun. There are a few things that you will need to get started.
Please be sure to check in your local area about the laws and ordinances for keeping chickens. Some cities may require permission or licenses to keep them on your property and many areas also restrict the number that you can have and do not allow roosters.
First decide if you are going to purchase pullets (teenage chickens), chicks, or adults. If deciding to raise chicks you will need an indoor set up including an enclosure they can’t get out of and a heat lamp among food, water, and bedding material to house them until it’s warm enough and safe to put them outside. Many people have used things such as kiddie pools to keep the little chicks contained.
If purchasing pullets or adults you can introduce them right into the outdoor coop.
A chicken coop needs to be secure from predators and moisture and have everything the chickens need. This includes a coop, run, food, water, nesting boxes, bedding, roosting areas and entertainment. We have two coops – one for our backyard and one for the farm.
If you will be raising chickens in a very cold climate you will also need a heated water dish so that they always have fresh water and possibly a heat lamp and coop lights. Without heat and light chickens will lay far less in colder months. For many, that is just fine and they don’t bother with heat or lights as its natural for chickens to simply lay less when it’s cold. We don’t use heated anything because it’s just a bit easier for us to change the water out and let our girls take a break during winter. Chicago is brutal enough in the winter, why make them work too, right?
Nesting boxes are easy to create from old crates, this is where chickens will lay their eggs.
Roosting areas can be made with long pieces of wood or old wooden ladders.
Entertainment is also easy to make. Feeding them your fruit and veggie scraps both provides nutrients and fun for them. Cabbage tied to a rope, a mirror, and ladders to climb on, there are tons of ideas to keep them from being bored. The easiest entertainment is letting them out to free range when possible. Just make sure to keep them away from areas where they can eat plants as they will eat just about anything!
A few things to keep in mind; you will need a way to remove and dispose of waste from the coop. The easiest way to do this is to have a good rake used only for the coop and create a compost pile, throwing the waste in there each week. It turns into the perfect fertilizer after a few weeks. If you have 5-6 chickens and a smaller family, you may end up with extra eggs. Having some additional egg cartons on hand for storage might be a good idea! (In warmer months each chicken will lay roughly one egg per day!)