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So, you want to get a chicken?

Ever since we got our first batch of four scraggly hens, I have been chicken obsessed.

I have had a range of critters in my life; dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, and even reptiles, but the chicken is something unique and special in it’s own right and┬ácan worm it’s way into your heart like nothing else.

Stuff to think about

Besides being deadly cute when they are babies, here are a few things to know if you are thinking about jumping into poultry!

Local regulations

Check the regulations. Most urban areas do allow backyard hens, but often not roosters!  Seeing as most chicks come unsexed at the beginning, be sure to get older chickens (pullets) or have a back up plan for any roosters that happen to occur!

The coop

A chicken coop doesn’t have to be big, in fact if you have only a few hens all they really need is a nesting box or two and a perch to roost on at night! Biggest thing though, be sure it is predator safe. Racoons, mink, even neighbours’ dogs and cats would probably love a tasty chicken dinner! Make sure you can lock it up at night, and keep your hens secure while they sleep! We upcycled most of our coop, including windows and doors, so get creative with what you build (or buy) but keep it secure, and easy to access/clean. Check out the free, or building supplies section of your local UsedEverywhere.com site to start upcycling random finds into the coop of your dreams!

Choosing hens

There is a huge variety of chicken breeds out there, and a million different cross breeds (or mutts as we like to call them) available. Choose breeds that aren’t skittish, otherwise the kids won’t get much chance to interact with the hens, and you will spend a lot of time climbing to get them out of trees! A good laying, heritage breed is your best bet, or grab a sweet silkie chicken, or bantam hen to add some variety to your flock!

Our cute little Bantam hen “Carrots”

How much space?

Hens like to forage, and free range eggs are the best, but when we let our flock of 30 out into the garden they can clear the space (aka make it a wasteland) in just a few days. Think about where you want your hens to range, and be sure to protect the plants you don’t want them to eat. We are currently experimenting with plants around our coop to see what they hens WON’T eat. . . unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be the stuff we want!

Be a responsible chicken owner

Your hens will need to be let out in the morning, and managed safely during the day (if they are free ranging) and locked up again at night. Food and water need to be managed daily, as well as eggs collected. Your coop will need to be cleaned weekly and spread with fresh hay or shavings! Be sure you have the time to commit to an animal in your life before you invest in hens! This is especially tricky on those late nights out. . . forget to close the coop one night and you may wake up to carnage in the morning.

Prepare for an obsession

Most chicken owners I know get a little “weird.” Chickens have more personality than you initially think, and you get attached to them quite quickly. Two hens quickly turn into four, and four to eight! Be prepared to have chicken conversations around the dinner table (which one is YOUR favourite chicken?) and start worrying about why “Miss. Clucky” is looking so rough today. Chickens add a little something extra to our garden, helping you weed, and turn the soil, fertilizing your plants and just being good company. If you decide to get a hen, just be prepared that one may turn into a flock rather quickly.

Getting cozy with "Butterscotch"

And if you are ready to fly into to fowl, check out the chickens available in your area via the Farming and Livestock section of your UsedEverywhere.com location, create your safe coop zone and be prepared to marvel at your breakfast every morning! You are one step closer to being a self sufficient homesteader!

Julie is a mom of 3 attempting to live an extraordinary life on Salt Spring Island. A blogger, a consultant and a publisher, she works from her 3 sunny acres, watching over her free range hens and enjoying the balance of life she has been striving for. You can find her at www.3chickensandaboat.com

4 Responses to “So, you want to get a chicken?”

Nancy Chicken mom

I would add never buy one alone-chickens are social creatures, a group of three is good for beginners, but at the very least two. Chickens may die of loneliness

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Renee

Wish someone had told me before how addicting chickens can be! You completely nailed it!!!! Our little flock of 4 Rhode island reds, QUICKLY turned into hens of many different breeds.

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Andy

I grew up with chicken and foul on a farm in Alberta; we had about 100 at any given time. They are much better than cattle, that I know for certain.

I imagine if I lived farther off the beaten path that I would have a few Rhode Island red again.

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Kevin

I would love to have a few chickens but believe it or not our village has a bylaw against keeping chickens! Go figure? With major urban centers allowing folks to keep fowl, one would think a village would be more lenient. Meanwhile the towns cats and dogs roam unchecked. Seems a bit backwards to me.

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