We jumped into getting chickens when we moved back to our rural house. But we made sure to think about something really important things that could have led us into trouble otherwise. Read on to make sure you don’t make any of these five common chicken keeping mistakes.
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Common Chicken Keeping Mistakes to Avoid
Anytime you add new livestock to your farm there is a learning curve. All the ins and outs of keeping them happy & healthy can seem overwhelming.
Chickens are often the first livestock that people get when dipping their toes into the homesteading waters. Chickens are awesome and are fairly easy to care for, so they make the perfect first farm animal!
Not Researching Zoning Laws
Before you add any type of animal to your property, you need to make sure you are allowed to keep them. Even if you live in a rural setting with several acres, your town could still have limits on things like how big your flock can be, how close to the property line the coop can be located, if you can free-range, or if you can keep a rooster.
Not Being Prepared for Predators
Many people new to outdoor animals have never considered the predators lurking in their backyard. Nearly every carnivore on the planet would love a chicken dinner.
Even something as small as a few rats could kill a chicken. Talk with other local chicken keepers to see what type of predators might be a danger for birds in your area.
This is why we do not free-range, and we make sure that our runs and coop are secure with the chicken wire buried underground, we don’t leave feed laying around, and we do have traps set at all times just in case. Bonus: a cat that loves to hunt.
A lot of people don’t use chicken wire anymore, but use hardware cloth as it is much stronger.
Building or Buying a Too Small Coop/Run
The chicken coop & run are certainly the largest expense in starting up a chicken flock. Unfortunately, many commercial coops for sale will WAY overestimate the number of birds you can fit in the coop. They often use the space requirements set forth by the government for large-scale egg factories which is not what you want in a backyard coop.
Being kept in cramped conditions is a sure way to spread diseases. The hens will also be aggravated and there will be lots of fighting.
A large, covered run is just what you need for happy, egg-laying birds. Covered to protect against wild bird diseases and such.
Not Fencing your Free-Range Chickens
Chickens do not respect property lines. Chickens LOVE to roam and if they are in a group they feel safe with they could wind up very far from home & unsure how to get back.
When you first get chickens you might be excited to have birds constantly patrolling the garden eating harmful insects. They will do that, which is great, but on their quest for bugs, they will dig up your daffodils, eat your lettuce and strawberries, and just generally scratch dirt & leaves on every pathway and surface.
Portable fencing or a chicken tractor that you can move around is a safer option for your chickens and your garden.
Rushing into Introducing New Chicks
When you put your little month-old chicks in your chicken run, your formally sweet and docile adult hens turn into monsters, relentlessly chasing and beating up the babies. If left to their devices, they might even kill them!
Set up a grow-out run or cage of sorts to introduce chicks. It allows hens and chicks to get used to one another while keeping the chicks safe. There will still be some chicken drama later on but this is natural as the chicks learn where they are on the pecking order of things.
Take a minute before getting chickens to make sure that they stay safe and you are ready for whatever comes at you.