13 April 2012

Simple Backyard Chicken Keeping

This post is written by contributing author Deborah Jean.

If you ever dreamed of having a farm or your own, keeping a small flock of backyard chickens will make you feel like the farmgirl/guy you are! 

When we first began keeping our small flock of backyard chickens 6 years ago, we got some funny looks (and questions) from our neighbors and friends:
Chickens? Really? 
Why would you want chickens? 
Why not just buy your eggs at the store like everyone else? 
Well, I'll tell you why. 

Keeping backyard chickens is one way to experience a small sample of living a more sustainable lifestyle and is often the gateway into deeper homesteading practices for people who are striving to create a healthier, simpler life. 

Why keep chickens?
It's true, at first we didn't know just how simple keeping chickens would be. With so many helpful books, links and a few chicken keeping friends to glean information from we were on our way!

Chickens provide fresh eggs daily 8- 9 months out of the year. Unlike chickens at large poultry farms who never get a break from laying eggs, your backyard chickens can take the winter months off unless you provide artificial light to keep them laying. When spring arrives they'll begin producing eggs again throughout the summer, fall and early winter months. We still get a few eggs in December and January! 

Chickens are natural composters. Rather than tossing our kitchen scraps on the compost pile we give them to the chickens. They in turn fertilize the soil in their run, which we shovel out every couple of months and add it to the compost pile. 

Chickens love to scratch and peck at the earth for bugs and worms. If you are already a gardener they make the perfect companion! Chicken compost added to top soil adds natural nutrients to your flower and vegetable gardens. If you like your garden to look nice year round don't let them near it until it is finished producing for the year, then you can let them have at it doing their magic on the soil for next year! 

Where to keep them?
Once you have ordered (or hatched) your first flock you'll need to start thinking about housing for your "girls". There are several options for the backyard chicken enthusiast! Coops come in all shapes and sizes. 
  • You can buy plans online and build your own;
  • have one built;
  • buy one locally from an agricultural/tractor supply store;
  • or build something UNIQUE from RE-claimed materials. 
We chose the latter and built our own chicken coop after being inspired by coops we saw online. We created a passive-solar salt box design large enough for 10 laying hens and painted it a traditional Barn Red! 

Bonding with your chickens
Of all farm animals, chickens are the simplest to keep and the most practical but there's also romantic side! You can bond with your chickens just like any other pet. There's the smell of fresh pine shavings in a newly cleaned chicken coop on a warm spring day. Or, watching the girls stretch out in the sun and take a dust bath. I especially enjoy listening to my girls cackle and cluck as they lay eggs throughout the day. Best of all, they're always up for a little "GIRL TALK".

For endless backyard chicken keeping information and inspiration, visit Backyard Chickens and join their community of cluckers! And, visit my blog on April 17th for the second annual virtual Hen House Hop

Come by, enjoy, and share a post if you have chickens! 

I'd love to know how many of you keep or are considering keeping backyard chickens!

Deborah Jean writes from a little yellow house near the shores of Cape Cod Bay in America’s Hometown. It wasn’t her dream house in the beginning but the dandelions that grace her front lawn each year have taught Deb many important life lessons. She blogs about them from her homemaking blog aptly named Deborah Jean’s DANDELION HOUSE where she shares creative seeds for your homemaking hands, heart and soul. Deb's world is centered around her husband, two teens, their beloved Corgi Max and "her girls" - The Cottage Hens!   Stroll  her gardens (weeds and all) and enjoy fresh, wholesome, organic cooking from her kitchen.  She’s no stranger to making do, recycling and upcycling. She loves giving pieces of the past a new look and purpose!  Connect to Deb via pinterest and facebook.