Tips for Raising Chickens in Small Areas

Chickens require a surprisingly small amount of space to survive. This doesn’t mean that a lot of chickens should be crammed into a tiny area, however it does mean that people can have healthy chickens in a small space, if they are properly cared for.

Area

The word “small” is a subjective term. For clarity, a small area is one in which the chickens have room to move around. A three foot by eight foot area can support three to five medium sized chickens. It should be noted, however, that the smaller the space, the more care that is required to maintain health.

Food

Free range chickens only need to have their diet supplemented. They have access to plenty of insects and seeds. This isn’t usually true of those that are contained in small areas. In a small area, they are reliant on the owner to give them enough high-protein food to survive. This means having more than just cracked corn for them to eat. Quality poultry food is normally balanced with the protein and vitamins the chickens need.

Though some people may advise against it, don’t forget table scraps. There are few things that people will eat that a chicken will not. At times, they seem to relish those foods that have long outlived their usefulness for the people, including day old oatmeal mush, over ripe fruit, salad that is turning brown, and so forth. If a person has chickens, they should never throw away old food without thinking about the birds. These animals have an amazingly strong constitution. They are living garbage disposals.

Important note: The scraps should never take the place of good poultry food. The people food is in addition to, not instead of chicken food.

Grit

Chickens don’t have teeth. Many people understand this, but the point is that they can’t chew their food with their mouths. Instead, they have a craw or gizzard. When the bird eats, it also picks up fine rocks. These end up in this muscular organ. The craw is constantly churning, and the fine gravel grinds the food up into pieces small enough for the animal to absorb it.

Again, with open-range chickens, giving them enough grit is seldom a problem. The dirt supplies the grit naturally. The chickens may not get enough grit if they are confined to a small area, though. It is a good idea to purchase chicken grit, which is meant for this purpose, and to mix it with the food so the chickens have the means to grind the food.

Water

In a small area or in a large one, chickens need a supply of fresh, clean water. This can take effort, because they are good at making the water dirty, quickly. Emptying and refilling the water daily, at least, is an excellent idea.

Chickens can be successfully raised in a small area. Doing so simply involves a little more knowledge and effort. It might not seem to be worth it. However, as a family in Oregon related, “In a five by eight area, in city limits, our three hens produce between two and six eggs a day. These are healthy birds and at the price of eggs in the store, it is hard to understand why people who are able to wouldn’t have a few chickens.”

Sources:

Goodings Egg Farm, Klamath Falls, OR
Freda Helmers
Sherm Taylor