Welcome to part #8 of our Raising Backyard Chickens series. Urban chicken raising is easier than you think! You can raise backyard chickens for eggs in a rural yard, suburb and even the city! Not to mention, it is a fun project for the whole family and a very rewarding one when you can enjoy farm fresh eggs – as fresh as possible! This is part of a series that will walk you through Raising Backyard Chickens step-by-step. Next up…how to help your chickens survive their first winter!
I am pleased to tell you that chicken care will seem to magically become much easier once you make it through your first year, so congratulations! You’ve muddled through and raised your first batch of chicks, and now you’ve got fresh eggs and beautiful hens strutting through your yard. So here are a few things to remember for the years to come:
Don’t start slacking on anti-predator security just because nothing’s gotten your chickens yet. Predators are out there, even if you never see them thanks to fences/deterrents, and they will not hesitate to take advantage of your sloppiness in order to grab a drumstick or two. 🙂
Clean, cold water is important to chickens, even if it’s a pain in the neck to do during the summer. (Note: Keeping water clean is pretty easy with chickens, but nearly impossible with ducks, so don’t sweat it if your water gets a little muddy if you own ducks as well as chickens.)
After They Are Done Laying
Your hens will most likely lay productively for five to seven years with proper care. There are several things you can do with them after that point.
1. Keep them. If you are not too restricted by zoning, just go ahead and keep your elderly hens! Most likely you will have grown attached to them by this time, and it’s much easier to introduce chicks to an established flock than it is to start all over.
2. Eat them. Older hens will no longer be in their prime for butchering, but you can still make a pretty good stew. Just make sure you choose a humane method of butchering and follow your local laws on this subject.
3. Give them to a farm. Some farms will take older chickens if they have plenty of space, especially farms that allow guests. A few more hens are not usually a big drain on a place that already handles lots of chickens.
Also, something to consider, when your hens’ productivity begins to dwindle, you have the option to expose them to a rooster and allow them to hatch out chicks to be your next generation. This is the most natural and easiest way to keep your flock going, but could be a problem if your zoning doesn’t allow roosters.
Chances are, once a number of years have gone by, your coop will have sustained some damage. Good news is, most damages are an easy fix. Here is a list of common problems and my solutions:
1. Roof caving. This is often a problem if you’ve been putting straw on top of the coop to keep it warm in the winter. This can best be fixed by measuring for a new roof and getting Home Depot or some other place like that to do the cutting. Then it can easily be secured with a few nails, and waterproofed with a tarp or shower curtain. And if you can, try not to pile too much right around the middle of the roof to prevent this in the future.
2. Door wear and tear. Doors on chicken coops somehow never seem to last long, do they? The problem I’ve noticed is that the hinges rust. There are a couple ways to deal with this problem. One: Just use something else for a door. If you’re lazy like me and you have access to a garage full of slowly accumulated boards and other things, chances are you can find something that will work. As long as it blocks the door and you can lean something against it to get it to stay, it should be fine. I’ve used, to date, straw bales, Rubbermaid lids, pieces of plywood, old wire cages, and many other things. They’ve all worked just fine except the straw bales, those turned out to only be a temporary solution. 😉 Two: Get new hinges. Most likely, your door is intact, but the hinges are messed up beyond repair or the screws are stripped. It is very easy to install new hinges, and there are plenty of tutorials online.
3. Wire separating from wood. For me, this happens ALL THE TIME. Thankfully it’s an easy fix, as long as you own or can borrow a staple gun. (I would very much recommend owning a staple gun if you own chickens, it comes in handy for this and several other small repair jobs.) Just staple the wire right back into the wood.
4. Wire rusted away or damaged. This is where keeping spare chicken wire really comes in handy. Just cut yourself a piece or several pieces of the right size, cut the edges open and twist the ends together to the damaged portion. Perfect patch. Just be sure there aren’t any sharp edges. If you don’t have any spare chicken wire, it’s not too expensive.
And then there’s another trouble that comes with chicken runs: Wasp nests. Now, I have an irrational fear of wasps, so if you’re like me, one glance at these horrifying, upside-down umbrella shaped nests full of holes will send you running inside, never wanting to step into your backyard again and leaving your chickens as a sacrifice to the evil, unstoppable occupants of the nest. Just look at the things:
I dare you not to be terrified. Anyway, unfortunately you do have to do something about them if you ever want to gather eggs from inside your run again. These instructions will be assuming you hate wasps as much as I do and you do NOT want to be stung, so if you think you can handle it, feel free to tone down the instructions. In other words, the following instructions can be titled Wasp Removal For People Who Are Ridiculously Afraid Of Wasps. Take that as you will.
DISCLAIMER: I cannot take responsibility if you are stung while attempting to deal with wasps. I am presenting the safest solution available, but I cannot guarantee you will not be stung, so PLEASE test for an allergy to wasp stings before you try anything. If you are allergic, get someone else to deal with it!
But here’s the method:
• Wait for a cool evening when the wasps are not active. Do NOT attempt this during the day.
• Get a can of Raid or another pesticide designed for wasps, and a long-handled broom.
• Lock your chickens away from the area you will be spraying and ensure that they won’t escape until you let them out.
• Wear protective clothing. Boots, gloves, long sleeves and long pants, a scarf wrapped around the lower part of your face and protective goggles is what I would recommend, feel free to wear as much as it takes for you to feel protected.
• Go out to where the nest is. You don’t have to get close, just close enough to aim and fire at the nest accurately enough to not get Raid all over your coop. How close that is depends on how accurate your aim is.
• Spray the nest, soaking it with the pesticide.
• Knock the nest down with the broom. This will prevent them from coming back.
• Now look around. Are there any wasps still alive? If so, just go inside for a few hours and wait for them to leave if you are not comfortable swatting them. (I know I’m not!)
• After there are no more wasps left near the nest, pick up anything that got sprayed with the Raid and put it somewhere that your chickens can’t get to it. This means replacing straw, wiping down wire and wood, and taking out and washing anything else that got hit.
• Pick up the nest. Try not to panic, any wasps still inside will be dead. Wear your gloves, pick up the nest and put it in the trash.
• And you’re done! Congratulations!
And with that, I think we’re done! I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and enjoy your chickens! Here’s a picture of mine. 🙂
This article was written by Erin, a pro at raising her own chickens and eggs in her family’s backyard! She’s just a teen, but loves animals of all kinds and wants to be a veterinarian and is studying to do so. In addition to raising chickens, she raises ducks, geese and bunnies in her family’s urban backyard!
Be sure to check out the entire Egg Page with lots of tips on eggs (including raising the chickens for your own and the rest of this series!)