How to Keep Chickens: Supplies Needed for Keeping Chickens
The Chicken Coop
The chicken coop is the nighttime shelter for your chickens. Some people keep their chickens in the coop day and night, but they will be happiest (and healthier) if they can get out every day, be it into a small fenced yard, or free ranged.
The chicken coop should be slightly higher than the ground around it. This will prevent water coming into the coop. In the winter a raised coop will allow the door to be above the snow level, making it easier to open.
The coop can be as simple, or as complex, as you like it, as long as it allows enough space for your birds to lay their eggs, and roost. They need one nesting area per three hens, and enough roosting space at night for every bird. The nest boxes should be off the ground, and bedded with straw. They should have a lip a few inches high to make the birds feel like it is a “nest”. The roosts can be long branches, or wooden poles, nailed between two A-frame supports, or an old ladder. The roost is where the chickens sleep for the night.
The coop should be bedded with straw, or wood chips. The coop does not have to be a special building, it can be an old shed, or barn. It can be large enough to allow people to enter, or small, just enough for the birds. It must have access to allow for cleaning and collecting eggs. If too small and crowded it will get dirty fast, and the birds might have more stress related issues. If too big in relationship to the number of birds kept, the coop might be too cold in the winter – and should have additional bedding, however it will not require cleaning as often.
photo source - note you can see a silver feeder inside the coop
The chicken coop should be fenced to prevent predators from getting to the birds. Fencing allows the birds to be out of the coop without much worry. Even if birds are to be free ranged, having fencing around a small area near the coop is a good measure. Although “chicken wire” is the most common fencing, it is not nearly as durable as stucco wire. One of the best fences is 2 inch stucco wire, and if chicks are to be raised, a layer of chicken wire can also be used around the bottom portion of the fence.
The fence must go down to the ground. If digging predators are a concern (foxes) the fence should be attached to railway ties, or other landscape ties, that can be partially buried under the soil to hamper such an animal from digging its way into the chickens yard. Chickens can fly a bit, so a six foot fence, or fully covered one, is best.
Feeders and Watering Systems
There are many feeders for chickens, they should be raised off the ground to prevent mice, and chicken waste from getting into the feed.
There are also many watering systems, again, raised is best as the water stays cleaner. In bigger chicken establishments automated water systems are available but for the hobby farmer, homesteader, or smaller operation, chicken water containers are available.
photo source - chicken waterer - shy chickens!
Food and More
Your local livestock feed store will have different chicken feed according to the age, and purpose of the chickens you intend to keep, everything from chick starter, to growing ration, to layer ration. Chickens should also have chicken scratch, a few handfuls a day, sort of as a treat to keep them friendly, but it is also good for them.
Although not a “supply” as such, it is worth noting that chickens will also eat grass, insects, dandelions, and some kitchen left overs (raw fruits and vegetables).
Chickens should have grit, while they may find sand and such while free ranging, it is best for this to be provided for them in a bowl.
Oyster shell should be supplemented for laying hens.
Optional Supplies for Chickens
- Lousing Powder
- Candling Supplies
- Incubator, Brooder
- Cloth (for cleaning the eggs)
- Containers for Collected Eggs
- Containers to Store the Food in (large plastic containers with tight lids work best)
- Killing Cone