While livestock animals must be kept as carefully as pet animals, it is important to keep in mind
that when these animals are kept as pets they can live up to 14 years or longer.
Will you have sufficient time to clean the coop on a weekly basis?
Are you willing to spend $10 to $15 twice a year for fecal examination?
Are you able to provide the birds with proper veterinary care and the vaccinations needed?
Chickens need to be tended to twice daily. Will you have a person ready to substitute for you when you have a reason to be absent?
Smooth, shiny and full plumage.
Intensely colored red comb and wattles.
Alert and shiny eyes,
Relatively firm, well formed; they must be clean; animals must be active, curious, busily picking or scratching for food; chickens should be actively dusting and preening their plumage; birds should be free of ectoparasites like mites, fleas or ticks.
Chickens require light, warmth and shelter from wind and drafts. The coop should be constructed with a southern exposure for the front (including a window and door); this will provide some heat and light to the coop. To protect the coop from winds, hedges, shrubs or bushes should be placed toward the northeast and western sections of the coop. Despite their love of warmth, chickens tolerate heat poorly, as they have no sweat glands to allow for perspiration. For summer heat you must provide access to shade.
   •   Space Requirements: If you plan to raise large breeds, at least four square feet will be needed for each bird. If the chickens will be confined to the coop for a great portion of the time, they will need more room: allow ten square feet for each bird, or six to eight square feet per bantam.
   •   Nesting Box: Some kind of nesting box will be needed in the coop. Supply one nest for every four hens.
   •   Perches/Roots: Perches or roosts will also be needed; a good rule of thumb is one per bird.
   •   Heat: You might consider running electricity to your coop. This is especially desirable if it tends to get very cold in the winter, as chickens are prone to frostbitten combs and wattles. A few properly placed heat lamps, kept burning at night, will keep chickens warm and may prevent their drinking water from freezing.
   •   Walls: Avoid building materials that permit absorption of moisture, as this will have a bad effect on the health of your chickens. Chemically treated wood is the most suitable building material for coops. Treatment of the wood should be done only with chemical compounds that are non-toxic to animals. A good compound with antifungal agents is good for humid areas. Clear varnish is also good. Everything should be treated or painted before it is assembled. Wooden structures should be built with double walls that have a one and one-half inch insulated layer between them. All bantams need warmer coop temperatures than larger chickens.
   •   Roofing: The coop roof should be made of a material that will not collect and hold heat. The roof surface should be covered with an insulating tar paper to protect from heavy rains. The roof should be slightly inclined to allow water to run off; if it overhangs at the front wall, it will protect from downpours. A few small openings along the eaves allow moisture to escape and provide fresh air.
   •   Floorings: The floor should be one that will not collect and hold moisture, is easy to clean, and that the chickens will not have trouble walking on. A dirt floor fulfills most to the essential demands, a concert floor is ideal, especially since it discourages rodents. A wood floor is adequate; provided it is at least on foot off the ground, insulated and sealed properly. It is a good idea to throw litter on the floor wherever the chickens will be to absorb moisture and facilitate cleaning.
How often the coop is cleaned depends on a lot of variables. If the chickens are kept inside, ideally droppings should be removed every day, but not less than every two to three days. Perches/roosts should get a quick wiping off at the same time. In a larger coop outdoors, once a week might be appropriate, but a major cleaning must be done twice annually: once in the spring and again in the fall. All of the litter must be removed, and all parts and accessories washed, scrubbed and thoroughly disinfected and dried before returning the birds to the coop.
It has been found that chickens, like people, need a variety of foods in order to remain healthy, and like people, suffer several nutritional disorders if certain things are missing for their diet. Prepared chicken feeds are designed to provide a perfectly balanced diet. Most prepared feeds contain such ingredients as meat and bone scraps, blood meal, bone meal, molasses, ground grains and grain meals. They also contain minerals and vitamins that chickens are known to need.
   •   Scratch: This is an old time favorite chicken feed and is a mixture of various whole grains and cracked corn. This feed goes over big with chickens, but is not complete dietary ration. Scratch mixtures with a high proportion of corn are not recommended. Some corn is fine, but as grains go, corn is lower in protein and higher in fat, and it tends to make the chickens obese.
   •   Grit: Chickens must have access to grit in order for their digestive systems to function properly. Since chickens do not have teeth, the grinding function is performed by their gizzards. The gizzards uses grit as a grinding agent, which may simply be pebbles and other small stones. The grit gradually gets ground up along with the grain so it must be continuously renewed.
   •   Greens: Chickens love fresh greens, salad scraps, weeds and surplus or overripe fruit and vegetables from the garden. These are an important part of feeding program for a backyard flock. Not only will it help keep down your feed bill, but it adds variety and needed vitamins and nutrients to their diet. When you feed scraps, sort out anything that has begun to rot as it might make the chickens sick.
An average bantam in confinement may consume 40 to 50 pounds of feed annually, while a larger breed may consume twice that amount. Chickens won't eat more then they need, so they should be allowed to eat as much as they want. Although feed should be continuously available, it is wise to feed them each day rather then put a lot of feed out every few days. Feeding troughs are more sanitary and economical then just throwing feed on the ground. Once a week you should clean out the feed troughs and dispose of any residue to help keep the feed fresh.
Fresh water must be available to the chickens at all times. This cannot be overemphasized. They must have clean water with their feed to be able to digest it properly. A chicken is more than 50% water. A large chicken will drink from one to two cups of water a day, depending on the weather. Chickens cannot drink much at one time, so they must drink often. Puddles of stagnant water from rain or leaky waters are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and other disease-causing organisms, and also tend to become fouled by the chickens’ excrement. Even if fresh water is available, puddles should be eliminated so the chickens do not have access to them for this reason.
If you are going to be keeping any roosters, you should know that it is a myth that they only crow at sunup. The truth is they crow anytime they feel like it, sometimes even at night. If complaints are received, your permit could be revoked.
You must provide protection from predators; raccoons, fox, mink and skunks all like chickens. Raccoons can open latches and reach through screens.
Gail Damerow, Your Chickens: A Kid’s Guide to Raising and Showing.
Barbara Kilarski, Keeping Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs and Other Small Spaces.
Andy Lee, Chicken Tractor, the Gardener’s Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil.
Leonard S. Mercia, Raising Poultry the Modern Way.
Jay Rossier, Living with Chickens.
Sue Weaver, Chickens, Tending a Small Scale Flock for Pleasure and Profit, Hobby Farms Book Series.
Raising Poultry Magazine
INTERNET SOURCES The American Livestock Breeds conservancy provides information on heritage breeds of poultry. A great place to research all breeds of poultry.
MPR's All Things Considered on urban chickens in the Twin Cities (with audio recording of the original broadcast) 8chikencoops/?rssource=l
(Ord. 11-06-01, passed 6-16-11)