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What Do Chickens Need?

What do chickens need in terms of space and food
(Or, just how much are these chickens gonna cost me?)
And WHAT will YOU get in return??

It's a common sent of questions people ask when they're contemplating adding chickens to their list of responsibilities. What do chickens need in terms of food, care, attention? What about housing--how big does it need to be? Does a coop have to include a run? Are there hidden costs to raising chickens? And, with all that time, trouble and money, how many eggs will I get in return?

These are fair questions and every future chicken owner or chicken owner wanna-be should ask these or similar questions. The answers aren't totally scientific, but thre are some generalities that will help you calculate the needs of your chickens and whether or not you can provide them.

What do Chickens Need in a Coop?

Here's a simple formula to keep in mind:

One chicken needs approximately 3-4 square feet of space in the hen house. This means, if you plan on raising 5 chickens, your chicken coop should be 15-20 square feet (Of course, you can ALWAYS give them more. These numbers represent their basic need.)

In addition, chickens need room outside for some fresh air and room to roam (safely) in a chicken run. Each chicken needs approximately 4 square feet of room in the run. So, if you're still planning on those 5 chickens, you will need an additional 20 square feet of fenced area for them to be in.

What Do Chickens Need for Food?

A safe approximation is this: One chicken needs about 1/2 cup of chicken feed per day. They will also need 1.5-2.5 cups of water per day. For our 5 chicken example, this means 2.5-3 cups of food per day, and 10 cups of water. They'll eat more and drink less in the winter, and eat less and drink more on hot summer days.

But that's not all. Your chickens will also need grit to help them digest their food. And calcium for their health and the health of the eggs they're laying. Their body will tell them when they need these things, so keeping a small dish of each in the coop should satisfy their requirements. A small bag of both grit and oyster shell will last for several months.

Oh, and don't forget cracked corn! (Okay, they don't really need the corn, but they think they do and they will love you if you give them tiny amounts as treats occassionally.)

You can also feed your chickens organic table scraps--your fruit and vegetable peels and cooked grains. Really, you can feed your chicken almost ANYTHING...but there are exceptions. There are some things your chickens SHOULD NOT eat.

How many eggs will your chickens lay?

That all depends...on the age of your chicken (they won't lay eggs until they're 5-6 months old and as they get older, their egg production slows down--the first two years of production are the best), the breed of your chicken (some breeds lay more than others), the health of your chicken (healthy, happy chickens do better), the time of year (the lighter the better for egg laying--a chicken needs 14 hours of daylight for egg laying), etc....

BUT, having said all of that, under good conditions, you can resonably expect a active, healthy, not-too-old chicken to lay 3-7 eggs per week (I only have one chicken out of 10 that lays 6-7 days a week, the others lay approximately every other day).

What do Chickens NEED?
Really, they aren't too needy.

The super amazing mathmatical formulation
( that is NOT pure science):

One chicken
+ 4 square feet of hen house
+ 4 square feet of chicken run
+ 1/2 Cup Food
+ 2 Cups water
+ Sunshine, happiness and health
+ a sprinkling of chicken scratch, calcium, corn and misc scraps and bugs and stuff
______________________
= 1 egg per day or so

OR

5 chickens
+ 20 square feet of hen house (or larger)
+ 20 square feet of chicken run (or larger)
+ 21 cups food
+ 70 cups water
+sunshine, happiness and health
+ a sprinkling of chicken scratch, calcium, corn and misc scraps and bugs and stuff
_______________________
=2-3 dozen eggs per week

Would you like more information on Keeping Chickens? Or more information about chicken eggs?

 

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