Happier by the pair: Chickens are social birds and are much happier in pairs, so breeders will recommend you buy at least two. Stick with hens; don't get a rooster unless you want to be a breeder yourself.
Bask in the sun: Sunlight is good for a chicken's health and spirit. Face your coop's windows to the south to get the best sunlight. The sun provides free heat in the winter and allows Southern breezes to cool your birds in the summer. If you live in a cold climate, a heater is a must, especially for young chicks. Make sure your coop always protects your birds from wind and rain.
Roam room: Avoid cooping up your chicken too much. Chickens thrive when they have room to roam, and a happy chicken lays tasty eggs. Make sure your birds each have at least 4 feet of room to move around.
Your nest egg: The return on investment is easy to calculate: expect about one egg per chicken per day. Hens begin laying eggs as early as 6 months old. Check your nests regularly, because hens will not lay more than two or three eggs in one nest. It's a little extra work to check daily, but you'll enjoy fresher eggs, and more of them.
In the zone: It's easy to check zoning regulations for your area. Just call the county health or zoning department. Most regulations involve how many chickens you can keep and whether you can breed them. Keep neighbors on your side by minimizing noise and smell, and by sharing a few fresh eggs from time to time.
1. Many cities allow you to keep a few chickens as pets and for egg production. Roosters are often prohibited because the crowing is too noisy, but hens will happily lay unfertilized eggs without a rooster.
2. Each chicken requires 3 to 4 feet of space to be comfortable and healthy. Choose backyard chicken coops that are bigger than you think you'll need, as you'll probably want to add to your flock over time.
3. Even free-range chickens need a small chicken coop, which will protect chickens and their chicks from predators, weather elements, theft, and farm equipment. A chicken coop will provide nesting boxes where chickens can lay their eggs and a high roosting bar for sleeping.
4. If you are planning to keep a small flock in your backyard, consider a portable chicken coop or "chicken tractor." Portable chicken coops do not have floors and can be moved every few days or weeks to a different part of your lawn. Your grass won't get trampled, your chickens will have access to new bugs and fresh grass, and the chicken droppings will provide great fertilizer for your whole yard.
5. Chicken houses can be made from almost anything, although wood is the most commonly used material. We do suggest steering clear of cedar wood. The oils in the wood can be toxic for chickens, primarily impacting their respiratory system and making them more susceptible to other diseases.
6. Chicken runs or outpens are made of chicken wire; you should embed the fencing 8 to 12 inches below the ground around the perimeter of the chicken runs so predators can't dig in. You could also place a strand of electric or barbed wire around the perimeter a few inches off the ground on the outside of the fence.
7. Keeping your small chicken coop clean is vital to the health of your chickens, but there are many opinions on the best way to accomplish this. If your small chicken coop has a cement floor, you could hose it down daily; a wire floor will have a container underneath that can be removed and cleaned; or you could try the deep litter method, which uses 4 to 8 inches of bedding/litter material and only needs to be fully cleaned out once or twice a year.
8. Your backyard chicken coop must have proper ventilation to prevent ammonia and moisture build-up. Look for a backyard chicken coop with windows and doors that can be opened and closed as needed. All openings should be covered with wire mesh to keep predators out.
9. Place your chicken coop hen house in a sunny area so that the structure and surrounding land will dry quickly after rain, and make sure the windows are south-facing. This will help keep the coop warm in the winter and provide the best ventilation in the summer.
Find your chicken coop for the soul by visiting our helpful information on raising chickens.