Chickens are one of my favorite animals. They are affectionate, entertaining, and they provide our family with both eggs and meat. However, as with any homesteading endeavor, planning is the key to ensuring we are the best possible stewards of these animals we are entrusted with. We must learn how to raise chickens properly to keep a healthy and happy flock.
When planning for a chicken flock it is essential to consider their housing requirements. Different factors can affect how you will house your flock, but it’s important that they have somewhere safe and free from predators to sleep during the night hours. Chickens are most susceptible to predators when they are asleep. If you choose to free range your flock as we do, it’s important to ensure they are locked up each evening at dusk.
Chickens also require somewhere to roost at night. There are many different designs of roosts, but whatever you choose needs to be strong enough to hold your flock of chickens (they generally like to roost together). While chickens will sleep on the ground if that is all that is available, they prefer their roost to be above the ground. They also like their roost to be secure. We have tried hanging roosts with wire, but our flock didn’t like them and chose instead to sleep on the laying boxes below.
If you are keeping your chickens for eggs, you will wish to provide the hens with a quiet, private place to lay them. Laying boxes come in many shapes and sizes. We’ve found that our hens always prefer the smaller, more private, dimly lit laying boxes. In fact, a favorite location was an old grass catcher of a push lawn mower that I put in their house on a whim. It is always a good idea to put some kind of bedding in the bottom of the box for a nest. We use hay because it is readily available. The bedding needs changing regularly to ensure proper hygiene standards are maintained.
Chicken housing also needs to include somewhere for food and water. It is amazing how much water birds go through over the course of the day. Ensuring they have open access to fresh, clean water is important for their health.
Dietary Requirements of Chickens
You must also plan for the dietary requirements of your flock of chickens. Chickens are amazing at breaking down kitchen scraps into fertilizer for your garden. They do, however, require more balance in their diet than kitchen scraps can generally provide. Free ranging your birds allows them to pick and choose what herbs, bugs, grasses, and seeds they can find. We also like to supplement our chickens’ free-ranging diet with either cracked grain (while they like whole grain it goes through them without being properly broken down), an organic commercial feed blend, or our own feed mix.
With just a little planning and care, your flock of chickens can provide abundantly for your family for many years to come.
Renata Finch is a happy wife and homeschooling mama to four precious children (including identical twins). She spends her days surrounded by beauty on their small farm. She journals her homesteading, homeschooling, and homemaking adventures at Sunnyside Farm Fun.