If you’re an urban dweller and have attempted to grow your own food, you’ve probably found it takes some hacking, know-how, as well as care and patience. Growing veggies indoors or in an economical space at the local community garden can take a lot of work but is well worth it.
Raising your own chickens can give you eggs that go beyond the standard brown and white varieties sold at the grocery store. Plus, you can feel good that they’ll be given plenty of space to roam, good food to eat, and love.
If you’ve daydreamed about raising small livestock, you don’t need to live on a large expanse of land to make it work. You can make a go of it with a lot less space than you think.
Here’s what you’ll need to put together a small coop and raise a clutch of happy organic chickens.
Chicken coop supplies
Before you set out to build a small pen and coop, poke around online for some inspiration. Spend time sketching out some ideas and creating a blueprint. Do you want to build a multi-tier home for your new feathered friends? If space is an issue, build up. What about a ladder, a roosting bar, or some nesting boxes to keep them cozy at night?
As for location, you’ll want to pick a spot in your yard that meets city ordinances. You’ll also want to make sure there are no permits required for raising chickens. Ideally, you’ll want to build the pen away from your neighbors to avoid complaints about any noise. Another consideration is whether you want it near your bedroom so that you can be alerted to any trouble at night.
To build a home for your chickens, you’ll need pieces of plywood. The sizes depend on your particular design, but an example would be 2’ x 4’ for the frame and 1’ x 1’ for the rungs of a ladder. While you can cobble together scrapwood, plywood is readily available at a local hardware store. The cost will depend on the quality and type of wood. While you don’t need anything too fancy, you’ll want to get something sturdy that will hold up. You’ll also need nails, a hammer, and measuring tape to get the job done.
To ensure predators can’t get to your chickens at night or while you’re not nearby to keep watch, you’ll want to use hardware cloth, which is a type of barbed wire sold in rolls. Make sure the holes are small enough so the predators in your local environment can’t break through.
Heavy-duty gun stapler
You’ll need a heavy-duty staple gun and staples to build the frame of the coop as well as staple the hardware cloth to the perimeter. While you can use nails and hinges for the door, the staples will come in handy when constructing a home for your chicks.
Corrugated plastic sheets
While you might have picked a spot that will protect your chickens from the natural elements, placing sheets of corrugated plastic over their pen and house will provide further protection from rain and snow. These are fairly inexpensive, so you might want to purchase a few extra to have on hand in case of an emergency.
Organic chick feed
To make sure your chickens are well nourished, organic laying feed will provide a complete source of nutrition. The feed comes in two forms: crumbles or pellets. If you’re getting baby chicks, you’ll want to give them grower feed first, then starter feed until they develop into full-grown adults and are old enough to lay eggs, which is when they are about six months old. You’ll then switch to the laying feed.
If you’re going the organic table scraps route, the mix should include organic fruits and veggies. Steer away from raw potato peels, raw grains, and pasta, as those tend to swell up in their stomachs.
If your chickens are not free range, you’ll want to add grit into their diet to aid with their digestion.
Feeder and waterer
To avoid your chicks knocking over their water and stepping into and pooping on their food, you might want to look into getting a hanging feeder. This can also help keep the food fresh longer and prevents critters from feasting on your chicken’s food. While you can make your own out of PVC pipe, there are plenty of options, and the cost will depend on the material and size; you’ll also need different-sized units for chicks and grown chickens. These can get pretty fancy, so shop around to find one that’s a good fit for your needs. You might be fine with a low-end option.
While it’s easy to get carried away by a particular breed’s beauty, you’ll want to find chickens that will be happy with the setup you’ve provided for them. If space is a concern, bantam chickens are known for being smallish. If you’ve got your eye on a certain type, read up on things such as its traits, characteristics, and egg production beforehand.
With exotic breeds, make sure they’re a good fit for the type of environment you live in. And if there will be multiple breeds cohabitating, you’ll want to ensure beforehand that the breeds are compatible with one another. You can get chickens at a local rescue, feed store, or online through a hatchery. Visit the hatchery if you can. Chicks are far less expensive than full-grown adults, but you will need to get at least two to aid companionship.
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