We have had chickens for the last 5-6 years, and they have been enjoyable little workers for our tiny homestead. Awhile ago I was one of the Trustees for our large plot subdivision, that prohibits having chickens. My wife wanted chickens, and she ignored my dislike of the idea, and spoke with the other Trustees. She was asking for a variance to the subdivision rules, and followed their direction getting signatures from a portion of the other homeowners. Once complete, then they had other hoops for her to jump through just to get a vote to change the rules. What??? She just wanted a variance, not to change the rules, or to jump through more hoops to be told no. She asked what would happen if she just got them, and they replied they would sue (with a grin on his face, because he know there were much bigger fish to fry than a pretty girl’s chickens).
So, now we had to build a coop. The coop measured about 8 foot by 4 foot, and about 5 foot high at the top of the angled roof. The floor of the coop is layered with wood shavings and a nesting box provides access into the coop to grab the eggs. My wife built a run measuring 8 foot by 20, out of regular lumber and covered it with chicken wire. The chickens were ordered in a group of 25 baby hens, and she raised them, then found a new home for half of them, as she originally only wanted about a dozen birds.
The birds are allowed to free range throughout the day, and they find their way back into the coop as the sun is setting. We will go out in the evening to close the run and the coop, and open it all up the next morning. A couple of times, the run gets closed before they retire for the night, and we have had to hunt them down roosting in trees and behind bushes in the middle of the night. There is chicken feed to supplement the food they can find free ranging. Their egg production for the first few years was great, we would net about 8 eggs every day. We could had more if we ran a light 16 hours a day in the coop. Now that the remainder of those chickens are older, egg production has dwindled to almost none. She has a couple of new batches of hens (and a rooster, hope the neighbors aren’t too annoyed) that she has raised since May.
The chickens help the yard by scratching around looking for bugs. They are entertaining to watch how they interact with each other and handle their “pecking order”. One bit of advice though, don’t let your wife name them after her aunts, because it is difficult to tell the family that a stray dog, or another predator has killed the chicken named after them. The chickens we have are basically pets that luckily have a small production quality, rather than just being consumers. We have considered getting birds to raise for meat, but we are not ready for handling the day the culling would happen just yet, although the quality of meat would be far superior to what the grocery stores offer.
We also realized how little is known about chicken reproduction. We have been asked numerous time about why we get eggs when we (at the time) did not have a rooster. We also were surprised when someone couldn’t believe we would eat brown eggs that came out of a chicken’s butt. So I asked where the white eggs she buys at the store come from (and watched a blank stare of realization happening). The eggs are very fresh and look much richer than eggs bought from the store, and likely they are a month or two fresher.
If you have some space and the desire to raise chickens, they will be an asset to your little homestead too. Please feel free to comment with your questions or tell us about your flock.