Back yard chickens are becoming more and more popular. More big cities have been changing the laws to allow a few hens about the yard. Producing your own food is getting more and more desired. What better way then with cute and useful chickens.
If you don't have a large secure yard, you can make or buy a “chicken tractor” This is a hen pen that is easily moved around the yard. Allow the birds to forage in the grass and fertilize along the way.
The eggs from free range and foraging hens are more nutritious and have more flavor.
The average family only needs 3 hens, because if you choose breeds wisely they can lay up to one egg a day for the first 3 years, with production dropping after that.
Provide shelter from wind and rain, appropriate feed, and fresh water. If you start with chicks you will need to keep them very warm until they are feathered out, using a heat lamp and brooder. 90 degrees for day old chicks and tapering it off as they grow, while allowing a cooler side if they desire.
You do not need a rooster in order for a hen to produce eggs, they ovulate all on their own!
Chickens are very hardy and rarely get sick if well taken care of. Some of the more common things they can be prone to are, egg binding, bumblefoot, and mereks disease.
They come in a huge variety of breeds for any purpose. There are egg laying machines, meat making crosses, and duel purpose breeds that lay better then meat types but have more meat then layer breeds.
Some of the more popular and best choices for eggs are the “sex linked” crosses that hatcheries have created. They are known for excellent size and quantity of eggs. You may find them labeled as red or black stars, as sex-linked, or by a hatchery name.
Leghorns, Rhode islands, and easter eggers are also good choices if you like all different colors of eggs such as white, brown, green and blue.
For meat nothing beats the “cornish rock cross”. This frankenchicken has been selectively bred to reach market size in 8 weeks! They cant be beat for meat production but don't get too attached, as if they aren't butchered they don't typically live very long. They grow so fast that once they mature their leg bones and heart cant support their large mass. So keep that in mind if you aren't sure you can butcher your own birds.
Duel purpose breeds while they dont lay as well as a strictly egg laying breed, they still lay pretty well and the extra males can be butchered for a modest sized meal. Some examples include, Plymouth Rocks, New Hampshires, Austrolorps, and Brahmas.
While they are generally very hardy, Animal Hospitals own Dr Dennis has treated chickens with bite wounds, illnesses and more. She has even treated bumblefoot with the help of laser therapy!