I have heard chickens referred to as “starter stock” for those moving towards a more self-sufficient and prepared lifestyle. And there is a lot of truth to that assertion.
They take up very little space, require a minimal time commitment, and other than a coop the feed financial investment is relatively small. Most cities and towns allow for a few hens in the backyard which gives you a chance to try your hand at raising some of your own food even if you don’t live in a rural area.
If you live in town, find out what the regulations are, as they may limit the number of hens you may keep (roosters are never allowed) or require you to get your neighbors to sign in favor of letting you have hens. They may also dictate the type and style of the coop and run you may have.
If you live in a more rural area then you only need to decide if you wish to allow them to free-range or if you are going to build a run for them.
A chicken coop doesn’t have to be fancy to get the job done, it just needs to be able to keep out predators and the weather all while giving you easy access for collecting eggs and keeping the coop clean.
As a general rule of you want at least 20″x20″ space per standard size chicken with at least 12″ of roost space per bird as well. You can usually get by with 1 nest box per every 4 hens – although they will usually pick one or two nests as their favorites and ignore the rest.
Pine shavings (not cedar) or straw make good bedding and while you want the building to be draft-free in the winter, you will want to have some sort of ventilation for summer.
Depending on where you live, and if you decide to free-range your chickens during the summer they can forage for grasses, seeds, insects and can mostly fend for themselves.
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