Raising chickens can be rewarding, trying, lucrative and enriching all at once! Much like adopting a pet or having a baby, raising chickens involves a lot of practical learning that comes from experience and getting into the job. That’s not to say that you can’t imbibe some basic guiding rules to backyard farming at the very onset that help you get your foundation right. From choosing the right breed to choosing the right spot in your backyard, a lot goes into making your backyard poultry farming exercise a success. If you’re wondering where to pick up the cues from, we’ve got good news for you! Here’s everything you need to know as a beginner to backyard poultry farming! Start on the right foot to make sure you raise happy and healthy chickens!
Choosing The Right Breed
Most laymen would actually be unaware, but there are over a hundred breeds of chickens to choose from before you set out multiplying them. While you may have access to dozens, it’s important to make the right breed choice based on several factors. Your reason to breed chickens (eggs, meat or pleasure) will largely govern your choice. Aside from that, ease of raising a breed, its diet, suitability to the weather conditions where you reside and lifespans are likely determinants of your choice.
If eggs are on your mind, the leghorns or Australorps are good breeds to reckon with. For the meat trade, breeds that tend to grow quickly and are ready for slaughter in a matter of weeks should be the ones you choose. The convenience of raising a certain breed of chickens is also a strong determinant, especially if you are a first-timer at poultry farming. Weigh the pros and cons carefully and go with the right chicken feed to start off poultry farming.
Choosing The Right Coop
The coop you choose will have a strong impact on the success of your poultry farming endeavour. Start with ensuring your chickens have enough space to move about in the coop you choose. In fact, even account for some extra space if they multiply or fatten up soon for meat trade. Ensure the roosting area is away from the Nesting boxes and at a considerable height to allow chickens to roost in their natural manner. Nesting boxes need to be warm, dark and quiet to give them the best possible environment to get the job done.
Providing ventilation in the coop is imperative. Chicken coops are generally warm, humid and cosy areas that can be an easy breeding ground for germs and illness. Ensure there’s enough supply of fresh air for your chickens to remain in good health. The location of a coop should be such that chickens get their daily dose of sunlight, while at the same time aren’t baked in the sun. A healthy balance of sunlight and pleasant shade is necessary. Most coops come with attached open spaces that are covered in mesh. This gives chickens enough space to walk about and explore, as they are active creatures by nature. A basic requirement in a coop is a provision for entry and exit points for humans to be able to replace water, food and clean the area as necessary.
Behaviour That Spell Warning Signs
Many newbie poultry farmers take on a crash course in raising chickens from an expert before setting off on their own. This helps them understand the behaviour of chickens and provide the right food, water and sunlight. It also helps identify any warning signs in behaviour that can indicate an imminent health problem. There also many who set out simply by apprising themselves of the necessary information online.
Basic cues that chickens exhibit that could spell a problem start with lethargy and lack of curiosity. Any chicken who is reluctant to move or is sleeping excessively should be kept away from the others lest it has a contagious health problem. Also, watch out for any chicken that is hunched in the shape of a ball or produces any discharge in the eyes. Chickens are active and exploratory creatures, so any sudden dullness in behaviour can be an indication of trouble. Any sharp reduction in the number of eggs hatched by chickens may also require careful observation over the coming days, as it is a sign that they are unwell. Chickens may also break into fights often, which you need to be quick to pick up and break off. Healthy and happy chickens are key to egg production or meat farming, so taking care of their behavioural cues is important for your poultry farming to be a success.
Maintaining Good Hygiene
Cleanliness is imperative for chickens to thrive, lay eggs and be in good health. Start by ensuring your chickens are always given clean water and clean food that’s replaced every day. Keep their roosting, feeding and brooding area away from each other. It is the roosting area that sees the maximum amount of droppings and it is close to their water source can pose a risk to their health.
Just as you replace their water every day, so should you clean out their poop daily. Chicken poop is usually wet in nature, and in the summer season, it can become a quick breeding ground for bacteria. Lay out sheets to collect their droppings so they can be removed swiftly every day. On days that you are down and out, you could also use pet chicken diapers (yes, they exist) for some pampering on both ends!
Eliminating External Hazards
Investing in a secure coop is no guarantee of the safety of your chickens. There are hawks, owls, raccoons and snakes that find their way into the most secure coops to attack chickens. These predators approach chickens from the ground-up, hence is important to build your chicken coop a few feet above ground to eliminate the possibility of them surfacing in the coop. Cover the coop with air bound predators with a mesh and a tarp sheet for added security.
A simple hack to ensuring the security of your chickens is to cut off any thick bushes or trees around the coop that could serve as an ideal hiding spot for the predators to hide, waiting for an ideal moment to attack. What’s more, never forget to lock the coop at night, as some predators are cunning enough to get their way in through any small open spaces. Many predators aren’t after your chickens as much as they’re after the eggs. Collect the eggs every day to eliminate the risk of predators attacking the chickens in a bid to get to the eggs. Having a couple of guard dogs around can help protect the chicken from some, if not all, predators. If you’re particularly concerned about their safety and are in an area notorious for such predators, you could even consider investing in an electric fence further up from the coop so your chickens aren’t at risk of electrocution.
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