Raising Backyard Chickens

JD Lory

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Table Of Contents

-Plan For Size and Location

-Build the Frame

-Finish the Exterior

-Outfit the interior

-Building the Run

-Keep Your Flock Safe

-More Ways For Keeping Your Flock Safe

-Helpful Tips

-Frostbite Issues

-Tips on Preventing Overheating Issues

-Egg Freshness Testing

-Meat Chickens

-Laying Hens

-Chicken Boredom

-What to be Careful About

-Survey and the Results

-Word Cited

Step One: plan for size and location

"The first thing to consider is size. The accepted minimum sizes are two to three square feet per bird inside the coop and four to five square feet per bird in the run. However, extra space is always better. Because just like humans, chickens are prone to squabbling when they’re packed in tight quarters at all times.

Second thing to be consider is the location of where the coop is going to be placed. Chickens need shade in the heat of the day, so locating the coop under a large deciduous tree is ideal. This will allow them to be cool in the summer and can bask in the sun during the winter, once the leaves have dropped. If a site under a large tree is not available, you will have to shade the run with shade cloth or other material that can create shade, such as lining the roof of the run with tin."(1)

Step Two: build the frame

"As with most outbuildings, the simplest approach is to begin with a rectangular frame and then add on the various components that are needed. It would be best to use naturally rot-resistant lumber, such as cedar or redwood. Because using pressure treated lumber, which could contain heavy metals, such as arsenic, would be harmful to your chicken’s health. The open air run should be covered with chicken wire or metal mesh on all sides to prevent predators from entering. Set four 4×4 vertical posts in concrete or any level ground, in a rectangular shape based on the size of the coop you need. Some examples of sizes to use would be; four feet by eight feet, six feet by twelve feet, or eight feet by sixteen feet. Make sure to cut the posts so the front ones are eight feet tall and the back ones are six feet tall in preparation for installing a pitched roof over the enclosed portion."(1)

Step Three: Finish the Exterior

"Now is the time to add a roof and walls to enclose the nesting and roosting area. Any weather-proof material may be used, but tin is an easy, yet fashionable choice for the roof, and wood siding makes a quaint exterior for the walls. Additional two by four framing will be necessary for the walls and roof structure. When you build the walls, make sure to plan for easy access to collect eggs and to clean the coop. All access points should be lockable with raccoon-proof latches. A typical gate latch with a carabiner in the turnbuckle is usually sufficient to fool these masked bandits.

Plan for access on three sides of the coop. Door where the ramp comes in from the run, hatches along nesting boxes for easy egg collection, and a door to access the water, feeder, and for cleaning out the coop.

The three types of access doors may be constructed with a simple two by two frame in the same fashion as the main entry gate to the chicken run. Instead of covering them with chicken wire, use the same material that was used for the exterior of the coop. No anti-sag kit will be needed in this case.

Ventilation is extremely important, especially in the summer. The chicken door and the portion of the floor covered with wire mesh will allow air in from below, but there are also needs to be a place for hot air to exit at the top. Either leave space between the eaves of the roof and the top of the walls or cut vents near the top of the walls. In either case, make sure these spaces are covered with chicken wire to keep critters out."(1)

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Step Four: outfit the interior

Here is a list of what your chicken coop or hen house should consist of to consider your coop complete and ready to house chickens.

-Rooster Bars (at least one, but more would be better)

-Nesting boxes (at least one twelve inch square box for every four birds)

-A watering device and a feeder (hang them six to eight inches above the floor of the coop)

-A light bulb in the summer and a heat lamp in the winter can help extend the laying season (optional)

"Locate the nesting boxes along the front wall at least twenty-four inches above the floor. These can be as simple as wooden shelves with plywood dividers that are filled with straw. Add a two inch piece of wood across the front of the boxes to keep the straw from spilling out. There are also prefabricated nesting boxes available, though some chicken keepers use plastic kitty litter boxes for nests because they are easy to remove and clean periodically. The roosts should be positioned higher than the nests. Chickens are descended from tree-dwelling jungle fowl and will always seek out the highest point to sleep (and the nests will quickly become soiled if the chickens use them for roosting)."(1)

Make sure you have a safe place to hang your light bulb/heat lamp, this will insure the safety of your chickens and it will keep them from being able to mess with the bulb or cords.

Step five: building the run

"The interior of the run needs a thick layer of straw over the ground to absorb chicken droppings and moisture when it rains. A watering device may also be hung from one of the rafters (by bailing wire attached to a nail), or making any homemade watering device would work so the birds can drink when they are outside during the day. The base of the waterer should be six to eight inches above ground level. If the run does not receive shade during the hottest hours of the day, add a layer of shade cloth on top of the chicken wire ceiling or use some tin to help create shade. Build a gently sloping ramp at least eight inches wide from the ground level up to the platform for the enclosed area."(1)

Before the run area is enclosed, outfit it with the following items:


-Watering device

-Dusting box

-Roosting Bars(optional)

Keep your flock safe:

"No doubt about it, your backyard chickens depend on you for health, housing and safety. In return, they will supply you with eggs, entertainment, pest control, fertilizer, meat and more. But as prey animals, chickens are also the subject of great interest to everything from domestic dogs to snakes, rats, owls and hawks. You should expect to lose a bird to predation occasionally, but these tips will go far to help keep your flock safe."(2)

"Train your birds to return to the chicken house every evening and be sure to close it up. If you raise your chicks in that coop, they will naturally return to lay eggs and roost at night after you let them range for the day. Make sure the coop is varmint-proof and that you close it up at night once the birds have settled."(2)
"Raise the chicken coop off the ground by a foot or so to discourage rats, skunks and snakes from taking up residence beneath it."(2)

Additional Ways For Keeping Your Flock Safe:

"Enclose the coop in a secure poultry run to discourage dogs, coyotes, bobcats and other four-legged carnivores from gaining access to your flock. You can choose poultry wire, welded-wire mesh, or other fencing materials with sufficiently small openings to keep your birds in and predators out.

Cover the chicken run with welded-wire fencing, chicken wire or game-bird netting, to discourage hawks and owls from making a buffet out of your birds. If you shut your chickens in the coop at night, owl attacks will not be an issue. But hungry owls are cagey and may grab their meal right at dusk, or slightly beforehand, so if owls are a problem in your area, don’t wait until after dark to close up the coop.

Choose small-mesh fencing materials for enclosing coops and runs when raccoon's and members of the mink or fisher family are among the predators. Raccoon's and other fairly dexterous animals are infamous for reaching through larger meshed fencing or chicken wire and killing the chickens they can snag. This is especially important when you keep your chickens in a fully enclosed wire coop/run, such as various chicken tractor (movable coops without a floor) designs. Although two by three inch welded-wire fencing is less expensive, you will lose fewer birds if you use one by two inch mesh or smaller welded wire."(2)

Helpful Tips:

"Bury galvanized hardware cloth or other welded-wire fencing around the perimeter of the chicken run if you have problems with predators digging beneath your surface fencing."(2)
"Provide a light (motion-sensor-activated) that will flood the chicken run with light after dark or install a set of Nite Guard Solar predator-deterrent lights see advertisement inside front cover. This will keep most nocturnal predators away from the coop."(2)
Letting chickens roam and treating them like one of the family is the best thing for them.

"Yard – particularly at night. Be sure your dogs aren’t tempted to chase running, squawking chickens if you choose not to close up the coop at night or choose to leave the dogs in the chicken yard during the day."(2)

"Prepare yourself to take swift action when you discover predation. You can take measures to eliminate the predator or to eliminate its access to your birds. Failure to do so will result in subsequent losses, if the predators think the buffet line is open."(2)
"Create a predator-danger zone around the coop and chicken yard. Most terrestrial predators are uncomfortable crossing an area with minimal cover. Go ahead and plant bushes inside the chicken run – your birds will love the shade and nibbling on the leaves – but leave the perimeter as cover-free as you can. Raccoon's are less likely to try to work their “hands” into a welded-wire enclosure when they have to sit in the open to do it."(2)

Frostbite Issues:

"Freezing of the birds combs during the cold winter months is always a hot topic. Generally speaking the larger the comb the greater the risk will be of the comb freezing. Smaller combs tend not to freeze as much but given the right conditions they will also freeze. There is no sure fire method other than supplying heat that will prevent combs from freezing during boost of server cold weather. There are some things that you can do to lessen the chances that the birds combs will freeze."(6)

Such as keeping excess moisture out of the coop, try to eliminate any drafts, do not allow cold air to blow directly on the birds. Using VetRx on the combs will help stimulate blood vessels which brings warm blood closer to the surface of the comb, preventing less freezing of the comb.(6)

Tips On Preventing Chickens From Overheating:

• Shade

"Coops and runs should be partially shaded if possible. Keep the shaded area large enough so that birds aren’t huddling in a small space. Chickens without shade tend to stay inside, away from cooling breezes. If you have darker birds, they’ll need more shade to stay cool and reduce fading, since they don’t reflect sunlight like light birds. Conversely, white birds may take on a “brassy” appearance from having their feathers exposed to too much sun."(7)

• Water
"A hydrated bird is able to regulate its temperature more efficiently – and keep its egg production up. An egg is almost 75% water – so keeping this nutrient available is essential for egg production. A fresh supply of cool, clean water is a necessity year-round, but especially in the heat of summer. Have more than one source of water, so chickens don’t have to move far or fight to get it."(7)
• Treats
"Provide chilled or frozen summer treats. Create your own giant popsicle by floating fruit in a bowl of water and freezing. Chickens also love fresh fruits and veggies from the garden (who doesn’t?). As with all treats, don’t overdo it. Feed no more than 10% of the total diet in treats, and make sure a complete commercial ration is the main source of food. Avoid high starch grains, such as corn, which heat up a chicken’s body temperature during digestion."(7)

Feeding frozen treats work for both cooling a chicken and helping with boredom.

• Ventilation
"Proper ventilation is a must. It provides comfort by removing moisture, ammonia and other gases, and provides an exchange of air. Mesh-covered windows let air in and keep predators out. A wire mesh screen doors helps keep the coop cooler at night. Increase circulation with a fan."(7)

Egg Freshness Testing:

So there is a way to test the freshness of every egg you collect. Submerging an egg in a cup or bowl of water can determine the freshness of your collected egg. The positioning of the egg determines the freshness of the egg.

Meat chickens:

"Home raised chicken meat has a far better flavor and texture over commercially raised chickens.

Commercially raised birds are generally kept in small cages, under low light conditions, their entire (short) lives. They never see a blade of grass, a ray of sunshine or a single bug.Commercial meat breeds have been selectively bred over many generations to grow to butchering size very quickly, but as a result the meat doesn't have time to develop and mature.

Raising your own chickens, and letting them out to forage, get the sun and get exercise makes for a firmer, better flavored bird.

If you're thinking about raising chickens of your own, I encourage you to try it. Start small at first to get the feel for it and to see if you really like it. Many people raise chickens for eggs.

Less people do for meat, but that number seems to be increasing as well. Before you start your flock, there is some preparation work and basic knowledge you need to know to ensure a healthy happy flock."(5)

Laying hens:

"Fresh eggs, laid by hens that are allowed to get out and forage for a part of their food, taste different than eggs from a commercial farm.

Grass, sunshine and bugs make for very tasty eggs. They look different too. The yolks are near orange, instead of the pale sickly yellow color of store bought eggs. If you have never tasted fresh eggs, you are missing out."(5)

"I found that the older hens usually produce fewer eggs, but larger ones. In a production flock, this is a problem because consistency of supply and size is important. In the home flock, who cares? Another advantage to older hens, they are used to you and are less flighty and panicky."(4)

Ways to Help Deal With Chicken Boredom:

Having a roosting bar inside the chicken run is a great form of activity for the chickens during the day and it can provide a good source of entertainment for those watching.
Hanging a head of cabbage inside the coop, especially during the winter months can help keep your hens happy. Not only is this a good source to keep your hens happy, it can also be a healthy, tasty snack.

What to be careful about:

"Salmonellosis causes diarrhea, fever and painful abdominal cramps. Children are most likely to contract it, and young children are among the most likely to have severe infections.

In its update on the outbreak, the CDC once again reminded people that poultry can carry disease and that people handling chicks and ducklings need to take common sense precautions."(3)

— "Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Adults should supervise hand-washing for young children."(3)

—"If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water."(3)

—"Clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house, such as cages or feed or water containers."(3)

—"Do not let children younger than five years of age, elderly persons, or people with weak immune systems handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry."(3)

— "Do not let live poultry inside the house, in bathrooms, or especially in areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored, such as kitchens, or outdoor patios.

— Do not snuggle or kiss the birds, touch your mouth, or eat or drink around live poultry."(3)

Survey poll of the week

question one:

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Respondents in this survey were able to answer yes or no to this question. Twelve out of thirteen people said yes they have heard of salmonella poisoning and one said they have not.

question two:

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The correct answer to this question is no. Eleven out of thirteen respondents answered this question correctly.

question three:

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The correct answer to this question is 8-15 years, only three respondents answered correctly. Two respondents answered 0-3 years, seven answered 3-8 years, and one respondent was not sure of the answer.

question four:

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The correct answer to this question is 1 box per 4 hens, respondents answered this question with a total of seven out of thirteen people knew the correct answer. Only two thought it was 1 box per 6 hens and four respondents thought it was 1 box per hen.

Question five:

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Eight respondents got this question correct, four thought is was 3-5 months and only one was unsure.

Word Cited:

  1. "How to Build a Chicken Coop - Modern Farmer." Modern Farmer. N.p., 08 Sept. 2015. Web. 15 May 2016.
  2. "10 Basic Tips for Protecting Chickens from Predators." Grit. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.
  3. "Backyard Chicks Make More Kids Sick | Food Safety News." Food Safety News. N.p., 29 June 2011. Web. 15 May 2016.
  4. "Raising Chickens 101: When Chickens Stop Laying Eggs." Old Farmer's Almanac. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.
  5. "Raising Chickens for Eggs and Meat." Raising Chickens for Eggs and Meat. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.
  6. "THE COMB of THE CHICKEN." Chicken Whisperer Magazine. N.p., 22 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 May 2016.
  7. "The Scoop from the Coop." The Scoop from the Coop. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.