Keeping Chickens in the Garden: What to Keep in Mind

Keeping Chickens in the Garden: What to Keep in Mind

You can get a bit closer to the dream of self-sufficiency by keeping your own chickens in the garden. The thought sounds quite tempting, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t that be nice: a fresh egg from your own flock of chickens for breakfast every day! But how does that fit in with the garden?

Keeping chickens in the garden: Is it worth it?

A busy flock of chickens pecking around, watched over by the attentive, magnificently coloured rooster: pure country life! Perhaps this is one of the reasons why keeping chickens in the garden is currently all the rage? In any case, one thing is certain: your own flock of birds is guaranteed to provide uncontaminated, delicious and freshly laid eggs.

Since plots of land in many residential areas are quite small, you will hardly discover full-grown chicken yards there. Well, for a family of four, the egg blessing of four to five chickens is sufficient. And the chicken of today is emancipated: They don’t need a rooster to lay eggs. They lay as many and as large eggs as are typical for their breed. For the hen ladies, however, a male protector and peacemaker is an advantage: a good rooster keeps his “harem” in check and immediately intervenes in a hen war. And you can’t do without him if you want offspring. However, many a rooster has already occupied the courts. Even if the law allows up to 20 hens and one rooster in residential areas, neighbours should be made aware of any chicken plans in good time. Perhaps sceptics can be convinced with fresh eggs from your own production?

The right equipment to keep chickens in the garden

Chickens don’t need much to be happy: In order to be able to live out their love of pecking, scratching and dust-bathing, they should be allowed to enjoy “free range”. At this point at the latest, garden owners start to have concerns: Are free-range chickens compatible with an ornamental garden? How much do the chickens’ activities affect the plants? Generally speaking, chickens scratch everywhere, sparing nothing! But the larger the area and the smaller the number of chickens, the less damage. The solution: a fenced run, covered with close-meshed netting that prevents birds of prey from hunting and predators such as foxes and martens from entering. Some shrubs provide shady hiding places. For the run area, calculate about ten square metres per hen. Alternatively, “no-go zones” can be set up in the garden, whereby the fences must be high, dense and stable enough to actually keep the birds out.

What else do chickens need?

For sleeping and for bad weather, they need a bright coop without draughts with a dry carpet of wood shavings or chopped straw. For resting and sleeping, round-oval perches of about 5 cm diameter are ideal. A removable droppings board or a droppings pit under the roost is practical for easy cleaning of the coop. Laying nests help the chickens to lay their eggs where they can be easily collected. If they are accessible from the outside, nothing stands in the way of a comfortable egg harvest. In return, you provide fresh water and varied feed every day – either as a ready-made mix from the grocery store or put together yourself.

In the barn itself or in another covered place is the right place for a chicken wellness area, where the birds can bathe in sand or dust and thus care for their plumage. Adding wood ash or silica will help against pesky feather guests. As a rule of thumb for the coop size, please do not keep more than three normal-sized chickens per square metre in the coop!

A safe chicken house

The coop and enclosure should offer enough space for chicken and keeper: Then even adults can move around upright in it, so that feeding and cleaning can be done comfortably.  
With mobile chicken hotels, the run area can be changed. This protects the sward and prevents diseases. A discarded construction trailer can easily be converted for this purpose. In some places it is also possible to erect a mobile chicken coop.
Prefabricated wooden coops are delivered as pre-assembled side parts or elements. Many suppliers have different sizes and variants available. The wooden walls should be strong enough (at least 2 cm) and, if they are free-standing, they should be provided with a protective coating (e.g. a glaze). The following applies to the floor space: Three normal-sized chickens need about 10 m² of space.  
A chicken flap that opens and closes automatically by timer allows the flock of chickens free access regardless of your presence. Practical for holiday replacements and for long sleep-ins at the weekend!   

Chicken breeds for the garden

In addition to normal-sized chicken breeds, there are also “shrunken” varieties. These dwarf forms are often what make keeping chickens in the garden possible in the first place for today’s plot sizes: due to their small size, they manage with less space than their larger relatives. Quiet, robust feathered animals such as dwarf silkie chickens and amrocks are suitable for budding chicken keepers. They are frugal when it comes to aviary or free-range size and cope well with local winters.

Bantams can be divided into two groups: On the one hand, there are breed-refined chickens of which no large forms exist (such as Antwerp Bearded Dwarfs or Bantams), and on the other hand, there are bred miniatures of large breeds, such as Dwarf Hamburgers or Wyandottes. However, the two groups differ significantly when it comes to breakfast eggs: while the original dwarfs lay only 80 to 120 eggs a year, you can look forward to around 180 eggs from miniature hens.

The white-, green- or brown-shelled marvels of nature can weigh up to 65 grams – a remarkable achievement in relation to the animals’ stocky physique! As you can see: With a little planning and structural preparation, the dream of chickens – with or without a rooster – and fresh organic eggs delivered to your door can actually become reality.

Free-range chickens in the garden: this is how it’s done.

Chickens leave their mark in the garden, and so it is not uncommon for it to become necessary to protect the beloved flower beds. Perennials and bulb flowers can be protected with fences. Wicker fences and rattan mats have the disadvantage that they rot quickly. Barriers made of plastic-coated wire mesh are more durable and quite inconspicuous. Scuffed up lawn sections receive a reseeding with wire mesh protection. A vegetable patch, whose low picket fences are quickly ignored and flown over, can possibly be moved to another part of the garden and fenced in. Let your creativity run free. But also inform yourself about the respective building regulations in your federal state.

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