(ARA) - Fresh, healthy eggs. Natural fertilizer and pest control. A chance to teach your kids the value of growing their own food. These are just some of the reasons backyard chickens have moved from a novelty to a mainstream trend.
Whether you're a home chef, a gardener or a parent who believes in providing enriching experiences for your children, this spring might be the perfect time to consider jumping on the backyard chicken bandwagon. It's lucky that chicken coop and feed resources have made it easier than ever to get started.
If you're thinking of adding a coop to your backyard living space this year, here are some tips to consider.
Choose your chickens
Chickens come in many different shapes, sizes, colors and temperaments. When making your choice, research the breed's history and characteristics, making sure to find out how much space they'll require. The type of egg that is produced, including color of the shell, also depends on the breed. Araucana hens, for example, produce pastel eggs that resemble Easter eggs, while White Leghorns are known for their high production.
Once you've chosen the breed, consider whether you'd prefer to hatch your own chicks or purchase day-old chicks from a reputable hatchery or local feed store. Keep in mind that most hens do not begin laying until they are 18 weeks old.
And since roosters are not necessary for egg production, you don't have to worry about roosters crowing at dawn. You can just order hens.
Establish a (legal) living area
As chicken ownership continues to grow, more cities and suburbs are permitting coops in urban and suburban residences. But before you buy chicks, check with your city's zoning regulations to be sure your coop complies with local ordinances.
Now, it's time to build (or buy) a home for your new feathered family members. Chicken coops can be as simple or complex as owners want them to be. Some families turn old sheds or dog kennels into chicken coops, while others choose to build elaborate homes fit for the most discriminating bird. You can also buy a kit to get started.
However you acquire a chicken coop, there are a number of features it should have:
* Easy to clean
* Protection from the weather and predators, inside and out
* Good ventilation
* Adequate drainage
* Indoor nests for egg laying
* Room to roam - chickens should be able to spread their wings and move around in the coop
* Continuous access to clean water
Chicken feed: the ingredients for success
While space is vital to a chicken's health, nutrition is vital to successful egg production. Using packaged feed with a mix of natural ingredients is a convenient way for owners to provide chicks the nutrition they need for future laying. Feeds such as Purina Start & Grow SunFresh Recipe are backed by years of research, proven to help chicks grow into healthy hens. That expertise, combined with a network of educated feed retailers, helps families keep their backyard flocks in tip-top shape.
While a formulated feed will make up the majority of a chicken's diet, chickens can also be your clean-up crew by eating table scraps-provided that scraps make up no more than 10 percent of their diet. Leftover vegetables, meat and non-citrus fruits are all good to feed.
Now you know some of the basics of raising backyard chickens and the benefits they can bring to your family life. By adding chickens to your home, you gain nutritional food that is enjoyed by the entire family without making a trip to the grocery store.
For more information on backyard chickens, including a free guidebook offering more detailed instructions, visit www.Facebook.com/PurinaPoultry or visit your local Purina dealer.