With the development of local food movements throughout the western world, people living in urban localities are starting to keep chickens in their back gardens. If the local municipal laws allow the keeping of chickens, it is very easy to do, and relatively cheap too.
A chicken coop or hen house, is the weather and predator proof section of the chicken’s home. It is recommended that it is sized at two to three square feet per chicken. This part of the birds environment, needs to be warm, with somewhere to roost. Building this section out of wood, with a solid floor, and off the ground, helps to minimise drafts and makes it harder for predators to gain access at night. Line the floor and nesting areas with either pine shavings or straw. This part of the house requires weekly cleaning, sweeping out the old shavings or straw, and providing fresh. Once a month, give it a thorough clean.
They also require a run, an area where they can scratch around, looking for worms, and other things to eat. These runs are a fully enclosed, predator proof section of ground, ideally covered with pine shavings or even playground sand, as bare earth tends to get quite muddy when it gets wet. If your yard is secure and enclosed, it is possible to just let the birds wander around the garden during the day. They will keep the grass trimmed, and fertilized for free, and the birds will return to the hen house at sunset.
The only equipment really needed when keeping chickens, is to provide a fresh water supply, and a chicken feeder. They are usually fed some form of laying feed or pellets. A source of grit, also helps. The birds will happily eat kitchen scraps, especially vegetables and bread. Providing the occasional bug, earthworm or meal worm as a treat will be enjoyed.
There are a lot of varieties of chickens available. It depends on the purpose in having the birds. Some varieties are able to lay eggs, for up to about seven or eight years, others stop earlier. Certain birds are docile, some are slightly aggressive. They also range in size from bantams upwards.
As these birds are quite social, it is recommended that a minimum of three chickens be bought initially. When they are young, it is good to play with the chicks to get them used to human contact. Some chicks may even grow to be family pets.