Texas Living

I Want to Have Chickens in My Backyard

By Peter Simek 2.21.18

In recent years, chickens have gone from farmyard staple to urban chick — er, chic. Who can argue with the appeal of raising backyard chickens? Chickens are cute and playful, they’ll supply your breakfast every day, and they offer a host of other less obvious benefits.

A backyard chicken coop can help with pest and weed control, provide free fertilizer when decomposed correctly, cut down on waste, and educate your family about caring for life and the natural world. Plus, raising chickens is fun — and not as difficult or expensive as you might think. Here’s a look at what it would take.

Get up to Code

Prior to buying chicks or building a coop, the best thing to do before you start your backyard chicken adventure is check with your local ordinances. While cities are generally loosening up on their chicken laws, there can still be restrictions on coop size, ranging, and other aspects of chicken-rearing. So make sure you’re legal!

Buy Your Chicks

The easiest way to start is to purchase chicks from a local farm, hatchery, or online hatchery. If you want to hatch your chicks, you’ll need to build a brooder — an enclosed, warmed area that provides your little birdies with a place to grow.

Choose Your Breeds

When you’re choosing your chicken options, decide what breed best suits you. Some breeds have a reputation for temperamental personalities, while others are noted for high-yield egg laying. Speckled Sussex, Rhode Island Reds (the lapdog of the chicken world), or Cuckoo Marans are all safe bets. Just make sure you buy hens and not roosters!

Build a Coop

Chickens are pretty good at taking care of themselves as long as they have a nice home to live in. You can buy pre-made chicken coops, but issues of cost, available space, and customization may make you decide to build your own. Don’t worry. It’s not terribly difficult, and you can find relatively simple plans online.

The key when designing your coop is size. Make sure you have enough space for the following considerations:

  • You’ll need one nest box for every three hens.
  • It should be large enough for you to stand in to get at the eggs and shovel manure.
  • Each bird should have about 3 to 4 square feet of space in addition to outdoor space they can roam in.
  • Crowding your birds could lead to disease or feather picking, so don’t skimp!

Get Supplies

Your chicken coop will need a feeder, water containers, and a nest box.

Build a Run

Chickens are sociable animals, and they like to get out and stretch their legs. Ideally, a chicken run — a portion of your yard adjacent to the coop and fenced in with chicken wire — should allow the birds a 20-by-5-foot area, depending on the number of birds, to prance and strut.

Care for Your Birds

Taking care of your chickens isn’t too difficult. Their diet consists of protein-heavy chicken feed, as well as grain and seed — and you can scatter grass clippings and vegetable scraps as a treat.

Allowing them time to roam outside also allows them to search for bugs in the grass. That’s extra protein for them, and pest control for you!

Be sure to provide ample water and keep an eye on their bottles. And clean up that free fertilizer regularly!

Reap the Rewards

Finally, collect your eggs! Hens will lay regularly through the spring, summer, and fall as long as they have 12 to 14 hours of daylight. That means you could be collecting eggs once or twice a day. You’ll have plenty to use and some to share with friends.

For more ways to bring the outdoors to your backyard, follow this field guide to Texas birds.

© 2018 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance