Raising Backyard Chickens And Building A Coop
Building a coop and raising backyard chickens is a fun way to produce your own healthy, farm fresh eggs or supplement the dinner table.
Last year, with the threat of inflation looming and an uncertain future, I decided that I was going to build a chicken coop in my backyard and get me four laying hens to furnish me with fresh eggs. I'm not a complete novice when it comes to raising chickens. I was partially raised, summers and weekends, on my grandfathers farm and collecting the eggs and feeding the chickens was one of my everyday chores that I actually enjoyed. Collecting eggs is like opening a box of Cracker Jacks. There's always a great prize.
Raising chickens is probably the easiest form of self sufficiency that you can do. Far easier than a vegetable garden. Chickens are hearty and need very little tending, they are inexpensive to feed, they are quite, without a rooster, and they stay close to home. Once your chickens get accustomed to their new coop you can let them roam free during the day and they will return to the coop just before dusk. All you need do every evening is close and latch the door.
The first thing that I needed to do to begin my backyard, 4 chicken farm, was to build a chicken coop. Like I said earlier, I have some experience with chickens and was already familiar with what I needed in materials to build the coop. Chickens do not require a large space to be happy or content. Chickens are flock animals and like to stay close together. I built a 3' wide by 6' long by 6' high coop which is huge for just 4 chickens. It would easily hold a dozen without the threat of over crowding.
I built the main part of the coop out of treated 2x4's and covered it with rabbit wire. You can buy chicken wire at any hardware store but I prefer rabbit wire because the openings are smaller and offer greater protection from predators and curious pets. I built the roost, roof and nesting box from ½ inch plywood and added a raising lid on the nesting box to get to the eggs. I covered the roof with regular roofing shingles and painted the roost and nesting box barn red with white trim to add a little pizzazz.
The total cost of my backyard mini chicken farm was around two hundred dollars including the 4 chickens. Here is a link to a drawing that I made showing the coop and it's components if you would like to use it as a model for your coop.
A lot of people believe that you have to have a rooster in order to get eggs from hens. That is not true. Hen (female) chickens lay eggs without the presence of a rooster, the eggs are just not fertile, and will never hatch. If you want little chickens, then, you need a rooster. Not having a rooster crowing every morning at daybreak is an advantage for people who have close neighbors.
The egg production of my 4 chickens, Henrietta, Prudence, Miss Prissy and Agnes, totally caught me by surprise. My chickens laid at least 4 eggs, usually more, everyday. If you multiply that by 365, they didn't take weekends off, it comes to 1,460 eggs or 121.5 dozen. I like eggs but I can't eat a half dozen eggs everyday. So, I keep my relatives and many neighbors supplied with eggs. A dozen eggs a week for a year costs around $150 so in the first year I was already operating in the green.
Having farm fresh, naturally produced eggs is just one of the perks of raising your own chickens. It has other advantages too. We all know how delicious fried, baked or barbeque chicken is and backyard chickens are even better due to the lack of additives used by commercial chicken farms. If you do decide to use your chickens for Sunday dinner then don't give them names. It's really difficult to eat a chicken you once knew as Prudence.