Backyard chickens are becoming very popular across the country. Many households are adding feathered friends to their family. This fast-growing hobby is becoming common in Central Oregon. The city of Bend allows residents to have up to four chickens in the city limits if they reside on a 5,000 square foot lot or larger. Redmond also allows residents to have chickens; one chicken is allowed for every 500 square feet of property. Roosters are not allowed in the city limits. Before deciding to start a flock of your own, it is important to do your own research to determine if you are ready to take on the extra responsibility of raising your own backyard chickens.
Why are backyard chickens so popular?
- Having your own source of nutritious and fresh eggs is definitely appealing. The convenience of not having to run to the supermarket every time you need to restock on eggs is one of the most common reasons for adopting a backyard flock of chickens. A healthy female hen typically starts laying eggs at about 18 weeks of age and is expected to lay about 250 eggs per year. Egg production usually slows down in the fall (when chickens typically molt) and as a hen begins to age.
- Great pets
- Some people are surprised to learn that chickens make great pets. They are very intelligent creatures that can be taught tricks. They have the ability to recognize faces and also develop their own unique personalities. Chickens are also social by nature so they often enjoy spending time near their people.
- Lawn care
- Chickens feces is rich with nitrogen. It also contains phosphorus and potassium. This combination makes their poo a great natural fertilizer for soil. Chickens also love insects (including ticks) so they are a great natural insecticide for your yard.
- What should I feed my chicken?
- Nutrition is essential for chickens to live happy, healthy, productive lives. It is important to note that chicks require a higher protein diet than adults. Laying hens need more calcium in their diets than non-laying hens. Chickens should be fed a high-quality poultry specific pellet (containing a combination of wheat, maize, and oats). Fresh fruits, vegetables, and insects are an important component to a chicken’s diet. A chicken’s diet should never contain fatty foods, overly salty foods, citric fruits (oranges, limes, or lemons), or raw green peels (including potatoes). Supplementing the diet with a small amount oyster shells can be helpful for egg shell production. Chickens should be fed in troughs or dishes off of the ground to maintain cleanliness and sanitation.
- Chickens need access to fresh, clean water at all times. In the winter, water should be checked frequently to make sure it is not frozen.
- What type of enclosure should my chicken have?
Secure enclosures are a vital part of having a backyard flock. Enclosures should be made of a thick, heavy wire (not just chicken wire as it is not secure enough to protect from predators) and contain three to four walls. Enclosures should have a roof and proper ventilation. Nesting boxes and roosting perches are essential. Chickens needs ample space to move around and exercise. If free range is not an option, enclosures should include an outside run with a minimum of 10 square feet of ground space per resident chicken. Chickens typically do well in cold temperatures, but care should be taken to make sure they are protected from the elements.
- Do chickens get sick?
- Chickens are not immune to disease, illness, or accidents. They are prey for many predators (dogs, cats, birds of prey, raccoons, and other wildlife) and often receive wounds from attacks. A few common health problems chickens may experience include: reproductive problems, prolapse, chicken parasites (like mites or lice), respiratory disease, sour crop, and bumble foot are just a few.
- Chicken owners should be aware that many health concerns they are seeing with their chickens may require immediate medical care by a trained veterinarian. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, give East Bend Animal Hospital a call to see if one of our veterinarians is able to help.