Keeping chickens in the garden: tips for beginners

If you want to keep chickens in your backyard, there are a few important points to keep in mind. Here is what you need to know about keeping chickens privately.

Chickens in the garden

Chickens in your own garden are an experience for young and old alike

  • Can I keep chickens in my garden?
  • How much space you need to keep chickens?
  • How many chickens should you keep?
  • Do you need a building permit for the chicken coop??
  • How should the chicken coop look like?
  • How to protect chickens in the garden?
  • How much work is required to keep chickens?
  • What kind of feed is suitable for chickens?
  • Which chicken breeds are suitable?
  • Where can I buy chickens?
  • Do you need a rooster for keeping chickens?
  • How can you tell if a chicken is healthy??
  • Can I keep chickens in my garden?
  • How much space is needed for keeping chickens?
  • How many chickens should one keep?
  • Do you need a building permit for the chicken coop?
  • How should the chicken coop look like?
  • How to protect chickens in the garden?
  • How much work is required for keeping chickens?
  • What food is suitable for chickens?
  • Which chicken breeds are suitable?
  • Where can I buy chickens?
  • Do you need a rooster to keep chickens??
  • How can you tell if a chicken is healthy??

Chickens can be kept in your own garden without much effort – as long as some conditions are met. Important for private chicken keeping in the garden are a fenced area and a dry chicken coop. But how to keep chickens species-appropriate? How much work is behind it? And do you need a rooster? In answering the most important questions, we were able to incorporate the knowledge of agricultural engineer Ralf Muller. The expert develops mobile chicken houses suitable for the species.

Talk to the landlord and neighbors first if you plan to keep chickens. Two chickens in a green run need about 100 square meters of space. For the egg supply of a family one calculates with two to six chickens. It is recommended to use a mobile chicken coop in order to avoid damage to the soil. Pay attention to hygiene and protection from animal enemies.

Can I keep chickens in my garden??

It is best to find out from your municipality if keeping small animals like chickens is allowed on your property. If you want to keep chickens in your garden, you should ask your landlord first. Possibly there is also already a regulation in the lease contract for this. In addition, it is advisable to talk to the neighbors beforehand. Not only the strong smell of chicken manure and the clucking of the chickens can cause trouble. If one wants to acquire a rooster, crowing in the morning hours can be considered a big source of disturbance.

How much space is needed for keeping chickens?

In order for the animals to move freely, plan enough space for keeping chickens in the garden: For the green run one calculates with at least 30, better 50 square meters per animal. Alternatively, an enclosure is also possible – the run then consists of a fenced aviary. Also with a firmly installed enclosure one calculates per animal with at least 10 to 15 square meters. To protect the chickens, it is also recommended to use a wire mesh fence about 250 centimeters high, 40 centimeters deep in the ground and fencing the area with the chicken coop.

Healthy chickens in a meadow

Vital and healthy chickens are always on the move

How many chickens should you keep?

For the egg supply of a family one calculates with two to six chickens. Since the animals need company, however, there should be at least three to four.

Do you need a building permit for the chicken coop??

If a permanent building is to be erected for the private keeping of chickens, a building permit may be required. This depends mainly on the size and local building regulations. Instead of a fixed chicken house, you can also use a mobile chicken house. Since the chickens like to scratch around the coop, the floor will quickly deteriorate in a permanently installed coop. Mobile chicken houses, on the other hand, can be placed in different places in the garden. Special chicken wire is then used to fence off the areas around the coop – the chickens can literally graze the respective area. Before bald spots and depressions in the ground occur, chicken coop and run simply move on.

How should the chicken coop look like?

Basically, it is important that the chicken coop is draught-free and dry. If troughs and perches can be removed, the coop is easier to clean and also mites have hardly a chance. The walls of the coop should be smooth, without cracks and easily washable. Also make sure that the ground is paved, dry and littered. It is also good if the chicken coop is insulated and has a few windows. If the chickens have a run during the day, the brightness in the coop is not so relevant – but some natural light should always fall into it. The laying nest, which is normally sufficient for up to five hens, is placed in such a way that it is not exposed to direct sunlight. To avoid attracting mice and birds, it is better not to offer feed in open containers.

How to protect chickens in the garden?

Red fox in the forest

The red fox is a notorious chicken thief. It locates the slightest sounds in its environment and its sense of smell is many times finer than that of humans. Its cat-like eyes are specialized to hunt in the dark

If foxes and martens have already been spotted in the vicinity, you can protect the chickens with a pasture fence with electricity – this is placed directly on the chicken wire. In case of possible problems with birds of prey, a good rooster can provide relief. He usually watches the airspace and warns the hens when danger is imminent. It is also important to have a shelter where the chickens can seek safety in case of danger.

How much work is needed to keep chickens?

The cleaning effort depends on the type of chicken keeping, the size of the coop and the number of chickens. A mobile chicken house, in which five chickens live, should be cleaned about every two to three weeks – this takes about 45 minutes. Every three weeks it is also important to adjust the flexible chicken wire and move the coop to prevent damage to the floor. The amount of work involved is about one hour. Once or twice a year, it is also advisable to completely empty the chicken house and clean it intensively with a high-pressure cleaner and soapy water. Not to forget regular activities like refilling water into the water tank, refilling food into the feeder, taking out the eggs, and engaging with the animals. If an automatic gate opener is available, the animals can also be left alone for up to four days. At dusk they go into the coop by themselves.

A hen with her chick

Hygiene in the chicken coop is important – especially when the hens have offspring

What feed is suitable for chickens?

Chickens are usually fed only with wheat, the other part of the food they look for themselves in their run. To increase egg production, laying meal is recommended as a complete feed: For a good laying performance of the chicken, everything is present in it, so you do not need to add anything more. Also feed from organic cultivation is available in the trade. Alternatively, you can feed your chickens with your own feed mixes. They like to eat, for example, curd or whey. However, with an unbalanced feed mixture, there is a risk that the chickens will quickly become fat and lay fewer eggs. Since they need a lot of calcium for the production of eggs, you can offer them crushed eggshells and broken shells for free intake. For vitamin supply in autumn and winter cabbage leaves and other vegetable scraps from the garden are suitable. Especially in winter, you should also offer apples, beets, beet or hay in the coop. With a large run, vitamin supplements and additives are usually not necessary.

Which chicken breeds are suitable?

For newcomers, it is recommended to start with low-maintenance hybrid chickens. They are bought at the age of 22 weeks as ready to lay hens. They are vaccinated, usually healthy and lay many eggs – however, they usually have no brooding instinct anymore. Once you have gained experience in keeping these chickens, you can switch to more demanding breeds. In Germany there are about 180 chicken breeds, many of which are threatened with extinction. Compared to hybrid chickens, they usually lay fewer eggs, but they are visually more interesting and are usually suitable for breeding without a brooder, natural brooding. Especially for children the rearing of the chicks is a great experience. As good breeders are considered, for example, Brahma, a very large breed of chickens from North America.

Girl feeds chicken

Having your own chickens is valuable in introducing young children to nature and the subject of self-sufficiency

Where can I buy chickens?

A good place to start are poultry breeding clubs. They gladly accept new members and can inform about which breeder which chicken breeds are available from. There you can often buy cheap chickens that do not meet the desired breeding goals and are therefore not suitable for breeding. The expert Ralf Muller also recommends newcomers to contact the local clubs before buying, because the old breeders can often help better than veterinarians with problems. A visit to poultry shows can also be worthwhile: There you can talk to breeders, buy animals or learn about characteristics and peculiarities of different chicken breeds. Hybrid chickens are mostly offered by large breeding farms – mainly for professional egg producers, but often also for hobby farmers. Depending on the supplier, they are even delivered free to the door.

Do you need a rooster for keeping chickens?

Colorful rooster on a pile of manure

You don’t need a rooster for egg production – but you do for offspring

Hens lay eggs without a rooster, so it is not needed for egg production. However, the rooster fulfills important tasks in the harem in which the chickens live. Besides reproduction, keeping social peace among the hens is one of its most important tasks. If there is a rooster in the flock, there are usually fewer disputes and pecking among the hens. Its tasks also include the protection and guarding of the flock. For example, when a bird of prey appears in the sky, the rooster often lets out a scream, causing all the hens to run for cover. To protect their hens, roosters can also attack people. You can also observe that the rooster likes to leave the best delicacies to his hens or helps them to find a place to lay the eggs.

How to tell if a chicken is healthy?

Vital and healthy hens are always on the move: foraging for food, taking sand baths, sunbathing, scratching in the ground or preening their feathers. The expert Ralf Muller advises: Look under the plumage to check the animals for an infestation with parasites. It should be nicely formed and not damaged. Around the cloaca it must also always be clean, the chicken droppings in the coop or enclosure should be firm and partially white-yellowish. In healthy adults that are not breeding or molting, the comb and head lobes are usually well perfused and therefore red. Pale combs, on the other hand, can indicate poor condition. The eyes of the chickens must be clear and the plumage should be shiny and tightly fitting. When you lift a chicken, the body should feel firm to the touch. If you can feel the sternum, the animal is usually too lean. The beak should also not be docked – this is usually done with battery hens to avoid feather pecking. However, all this applies only to adult chickens. Half-grown, brooding or molting hens often look pale and disheveled, even though they are healthy.

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