Raising your own chickens comes with many rewards. Whether it be saving money, making money, eating healthier, or maybe just a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Of course, with any reward or pay-off comes work. The better you care for your chickens, the more you get in return.
Protecting your hens
The first things you want to be sure of is that your chickens have a safe, predator-proof place to roost at night. After this has been taken care of, you will want to add some egg boxes, if you are raising your chickens for eggs. There are different materials you can use as cushion in your egg boxes. Probably the most efficient would be pine straw or dried grass clippings. If this is not obtainable, you may purchase straw or shavings. Also, provide a large limb or round, wooden pole at least four feet off of the ground for them to roost on at night. If they are not going to be free-range chickens, you want to be sure to provide a sufficient amount of fenced in area for them to scratch and feed on during the day. For these protection purposes and many others, you might want to take a look at the best hen house designs and blueprints so you can get an idea about how beautiful and effective of a chicken coop you can build.
Feeding your hens
Once you have provided a secure place for your chickens to live, knowing what to feed them is the next step in the chicken care process. If you have obtained hatch lings or chicks, you will want to start off by feeding them chick starter. The higher the protein count in the food, the better. Especially during their adolescent stage, in which they are doing all of their growing. A good way to feed them would be once early in the morning and once an hour or so before dark. Once the chickens have aged to approximately three months, you can consider adding random scraps to their everyday feed, such as, bread, fruit and vegetable scraps.
If your chickens are free-range, they will have already begun searching for insects and a variety of greenery. If your chickens are caged, however, you may want to consider finding these things for them and throwing it in their pen. Once chickens reach the age of six months you can change their feed to pellets, if you would like, instead of the crushed up starter. If you are raising chickens for egg laying, they have feed made especially for that, as well.
Also, be sure to allow them continual access to fresh water. Chickens can not swallow, so they have to lift their head back to allow the water to go down. Since this is the case, the best way to supply water for them would be in a specially made watering bucket, that can be placed up off of the ground approximately one foot high. Although it is not necessary to do so, it is recommended. If you do not have access to this type of watering device, a shallow pan will do; and it is still better to elevate it by setting it on top of a crate or box that is approximately one foot high.
A very important thing to remember is, since chickens do not have teeth, they need a way to grind up the food that they eat. The way free-range chickens do this is by eating small, crushed gravel or rocks. The rocks are a great way to grind up their food once they have ingested it. When raising caged chickens, you can purchase crushed oyster shells or rocks from your local feed store. Be sure to throw out a few handfuls every once in a while or when you notice there is no more left in their pen.
Depending on what breed of chicken you purchase, you may need to supply, either a fan or a heating lamp in their coop, if they are not able to tolerate extreme cold or hot weather conditions.
All in all, as with any pets, caring for them to the best of your ability is very important. Even chickens deserve a little love.