Congratulations! Your decision to raise chickens is commendable. From eggs to chicken meat to the joy of hearing and seeing them crow, peck and scratch, rearing these birds will give you a lot of benefits. Before you pick up your chickens, you must ask yourself, “What do Chickens Need?”. Chicken raising, however, is a huge responsibility. It’s not enough that you buy them and let them roam around the yard. Your chickens have needs that you need to meet if you want them to survive, breed and give you eggs and meat.
Your checklist should include housing, roosts, chicken nesting boxes, food and water.
Before you buy your birds, it’s important that you already have their housing in place. You need a chicken coop for them to be protected from the elements, from other animals and to prevent them from entering and dirtying your house. If you are also maintaining specific breeds, a coop is a way to ensure that your birds do not inter-breed with your other birds. This is also where they will roost and lay eggs. There are different types of chicken housing. For beginners, a standard coop is highly recommended since it’s relatively affordable to build or buy and has more space if you want to begin with more than two birds. The disadvantage of standard coops is that they are bulky and quite difficult to move around on your own. If you want to start with just one or two heads, you can get the ark-frame type or the eglu.
Your chicken coop should have a place for chicken roosts. In the wild, chickens spend the night in tree limbs where they can better protect themselves. It’s best to approximate this condition inside your coop. Chicken roosts are just a solid dowel that is secured in place a few feet from the coop floor. It usually measures anywhere one and a half to two inches in diameter, preferably one with rounded edges.
Chicken Nesting Boxes
Another important important feature of your coop are the chicken nesting boxes where your laying hens can lay their eggs. While there are many ways to go about placing your chicken nesting boxes inside or outside of your coop, the rule of thumb to follow is to make sure that the laying hen is given privacy so she can lay undisturbed. She will not be as productive if the nesting boxes are too hot, too cold or placed in a spot where animals or people usually pass through. Lining the nesting boxes with sawdust is important in regulating the temperature and avoiding egg breakage especially when she starts to incubate the eggs. She will be turning the eggs four to five times a day and the sawdust provides the necessary cushion.
Chicken Feed and Clean Water
Chickens need to be fed the right kinds of food in order to be healthy. They need grains, greens, protein and calcium, especially if you are keeping penned most of the time. There are commercial available feeds for chickens that will give them the necessary nutrients even when they can’t forage for themselves. If you are raising your birds for eggs, give them laying mash and calcium supplements to improve egg production and thicken the egg shell. Of course, you must not forget to give them clean water all throughout the day.