I love chickens. I love all types of chickens! I have regular size chickens, and bantam chickens. I have fuzzy chickens, and ones with feathers on their feet. In the past we have had chickens that wear a hat of feathers, too! I have broken many chicken “rules” and brought home interesting chickens when I find them. I have found, through trial and error, what makes a happy chicken.
When I went to the chicken yard to open the gate this morning all my girls ran to meet me and trailed after me to the house, clucking and hanging out by my feet. They were so pretty in the morning sun! The roosters finally dispersed the crowd of hens, being roosters and all. They only have two things on their brains; food and chicks!
My chickens reside in a large 20×20 foot enclosure of 6 foot chain-link fence and a lovely little coop with a bamboo ladder and nest boxes. They are locked in at night or when I am on vacation to protect them, but when I am home I release them to range the yard during the day. They look forward to this time, and race/fly out of their yard in delight! I keep the garden fenced with a 4 foot welded wire fence with fruit trees bordering it. After the harvest I open it to the chickens who do an excellent job of removing pests and fertilizing the soil.
While I don’t have truly free-range chickens with only a half acre of land, my birds are quite content and me feed costs are much lower for allowing them to roam. The small inconveniences, like mulch on the paved walk or my roses getting eaten for breakfast are minor compared to the service my birds provide in insect control and fresh eggs. I derive much pleasure from these lovely birds, and visiting children adore being allowed to go search for eggs in the nest boxes, too!
Here are some tips to raising healthy chickens yourself:
- Make sure they have housing that has good ventilation and room for food and water out of the weather
- Keep a run with enough room for your chickens so that when you cannot let them range they won’t fight
- Provide at least 1 nest box for every 3 hens
- Give your birds space to roost
- Give good quality feed in addition to fresh (not moldy or spoiled) compost and forage
- Allow your birds to roam your yard when possible (they love searching for their own food!)
- Do not over-crowd. I keep never more than 20 birds on my half-acre, and most of them are bantams. 13 is my limit on larger birds, and that’s nearly too much.