Keeping Chickens

Different colored chicken running around in the garden.
Keeping chickens is not difficult.

Chickens can be kept with very different objectives. Starting with the use as farm animals for the supply with eggs and meat, over as a hobby, up to the professional use in the trade. Chicken farming at home can be very diverse.

In this article, chicken farming is described as a hobby, i.e. in the non-commercial sector. This introduction is intended to give all interested parties an initial overview of the topic and corresponding decision-making aids. Of course, practical tips and tricks are also offered as a supplement.

We would also like to pass on the conspicuous features of our own research. There are sometimes very big differences between the theory of chicken husbandry and life in practice. We would like to impart this knowledge to all beginners, so that they can form their own judgement about their desired form of chicken husbandry on this basis.

Three things to keep in mind:

  • always provide fresh water and feed
  • roughly clean the stable once a week
  • run regular, simpel health checks

Keeping Chickens is a Question of Objective…

To define your own path regarding chicken keeping, it is important to clarify your personal goals first. Often, one is introduced into guide books with the these question: 

Why do you want to keep chickens? 
Would you rather have meat, eggs or chickens to decorate and keep the breed?

From our experience, this question cannot yet be clearly answered, especially at the beginning of chicken husbandry. Usually, the reason lies in a mixture of the interest in the chickens themselves, their contribution to the own living space and everyday life, as well as the beautiful feeling of preserving hen’s eggs, which were produced according to own standards for healthy living and species-appropriate keeping.

In addition, there are many advantages for animals and the environment. No usage of avoidable drugs for chicken and eggs, no dioxin, no factory farming, no unnecessary transport routes. Instead, a coexistence of humans and animals, a species-appropriate environment with healthy food for the animals.

Hen is standing on a branch, other chickens in the background.
Chickens love to run around on different surfaces.

In order to get a good start with your own chickens, it is really important to answer two essential questions honestly, since chickens are, after all, living beings:

Can I take care of the animals sufficiently?
Is my environment suitable for keeping chickens
(run-out area, neighbourhood)?

If these two questions can be answered with ‚Yes‘, the rest is relatively simple. We want to help by making the knowledge and information available for the clarification on questions and for the later keeping of the animals.

Can I Take Care of the Chickens Sufficiently?

The keeping of chickens in a small flock with maximum approximately 6 animals is clearly simpler than having a dog. You have to look after the chickens in the mornings and evenings. The animals need fresh food and water, have to be let in and out of the barn. Looking for the eggs and removing the excrement from the manure board are two of the daily tasks, which make the work of cleaning the barn easier. With an effort of 10-15 minutes per day the animals are supplied with their basic needs.

It is important to be able to apply this time regularly, as with any other animal. If this is not possible, help or technical support is needed. Once a day it must be checked that everything is in order.

Is My Environment Suitable for Keeping Chickens?

All those who have a large garden with more than 100 sqm in the country can consider themselves lucky. Here you will find a nice place for your own chickens. For those with a smaller garden or in more densely populated areas, this may be a little more difficult.

Considering the chicken run, conditions should be checked in advance.

Brown hen and white cock outside, picking on the ground.
Chickens are undemanding, but all animals love space.

Space Requirement – Barn and Run

Important for the space requirement is the selection of the chicken breed and the planned number of animals. A few square metres of garden space are perfectly suitable for small chicken species. 1-2 sqm for the stable and a permanent outlet of 20-30 sqm are sufficient.
As chickens are social animals, the minimum group size of three animals should not be undercut over a longer period of time. Three animals of a dwarf breed can already be kept on a small area, especially if a “jacked up” hen house is used, which offers an additional area under the actual barn. If you add 2-3 sqm of fenced area in front of the barn, the smallest possible area required can be set to just under 5 square meters.
Optimal for normal size chickens is a run of 20-30 sqm per chicken. If you divide this area and give the meadow time to recover, the turf is preserved and you can enjoy real garden chickens in species-appropriate keeping.

Perhaps it is interesting to know that originally the chickens were not kept in the garden. Often the kitchen garden was the only fenced and separated area in which the chickens were not allowed to stay. Otherwise the animals moved freely in the yard or on the adjoining green areas.

Unfortunately, not all holders will be able to provide such an extensive area. Nevertheless, it may make more sense for nature and the animals to live in a small enclosure with a regulated run than the use of eggs and meat from factory farming.

The Neighbourhood and Chicken Farming

In addition to the own area for poultry husbandry, the local regulations and the impact on the neighbours must be clarified. In principle, the keeping of small animals is permitted in even a solely residential area. There are no restrictions, whether these are dogs, cats or chickens. The construction of outbuildings for keeping the animals is also provided for by law.

In the interests of good neighbourliness, it is advisable to talk to the neighbours in advance and to clarify their views on the project. Few animals without a cock should generally not pose a problem. For a noise-sensitive environment, a soundproof hen house can be built in which the rooster can crow early in the morning without disturbing the sleep of the neighbour or even your own sleep.

White and brown chicken eggs in different colored Boxes
Donated chicken eggs can appease your neighbours.

What Legal Issues do I Have to Consider?

With regard to legal issues, you may want to contact your local regulating body to clarify the laws for your area. Laws are often stricter in a residential area of the city than in rural areas. Commonly, there are restrictions either on free ranging chickens or having roosters.
Some types of coops may require a building permit depending on their construction type. What size are you planning on while constructing? How close is it to other buildings and the property line? What type of foundation is needed? These are all questions you may need to consider. 
Mobile chicken coops are excluded in this case.

Another factor for the approval of keeping chickens in a residential area is that the chickens are kept as a hobby and not for professional farming. This depends on the number of chickens and also on the issue of commercial use. For example, promotion and sale of breeding animals may be considered commercial use.

Vaccination and Registration of Chickens

In the USA it is compulsory to vaccinate the poultry against Newcastle Disease or Avian Influenza (Control of Newcastle Disease by Vaccination). The virus is spread with the drinking water, and it may be very contagious. A local veterinarian with chicken experience may have information about vaccination and be able to explain all possible issues that may arise. Here, you will find more information about chicken diseases.
In the USA chickens should be registered; the registration procedure depends on the state. You may need to register them even if they are only a hobby. Here is an example of a state registration form: The Maryland Poultry Registration Form.

The Chicken-Egg Problem: Where Do I Get My Chickens?

Light and dark chicks in the undergrowth between nettles.
When chicks become chickens.

The best tip is to contact a local breeder or animal breeding club. They can either be used to obtain the desired chickens directly or to make recommendations for dealers or breeders.

At the shelter, too, it sometimes happens that chickens have been handed in.

To support the preservation of rare breeds, it is recommended, for example, to check the website of a society for this topic The Poultry Club or to ask in an open-air museum with chicken husbandry.

Young chickens are already available for less than 20 Euro each. Animals not suitable for breeding are also available for less than 10 Euros.

It is important that the run area and the barn are prepared when the animals arrive. Nothing to rush here.

Further Information Sources

You can get a lot of information about chicken keeping by navigating through our website. Sometimes, however, it makes sense to speak to an experienced chicken farmer in person. For this you can, for example, also contact a local club as a beginner without any problems.

The Most Important in an Eggshell

  • If you have enough time and a suitable plot of land, keeping chickens is relatively easy.
  • The right stable and run are important. Appropriate planning is necessary here. The time to gather comprehensive information on the subject in advance is well invested.
  • The effects on the neighbours in terms of smell and noise must always be taken into account. Small breeds in small numbers without a cock are usually well feasible and enrich life as well.
  • Chickens must be registered and vaccinated. Neither is costly and easy to achieve.

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