Raising chickens in your backyard is becoming a national fad.
There has been a push to change land use codes to allow for small-scale poultry production in large cities and towns. More people want to raise their own chickens for eggs and meat.
However, raising poultry is not for everyone.
Before purchasing poultry, determine what county and city codes affect your property. Then, consider limiting the impact of poultry on your neighborhood. Poultry can bring unwanted smells and insects if improperly managed. Your yard needs a dry area to house the poultry.
Next, consider chick care. Baby chicks must be kept at around 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week. Decrease 5 degrees each week until they are more than 5 weeks old. These young birds also need special chick starter feed until they are 8 weeks old, when you can switch them to a chick grower feed.
Chicks must be 20 weeks old before they receive adult feeds. If your backyard flock is for laying eggs, separate the roosters and hens at 20 weeks. Roosters are really of no use if you just want laying hens. The hens must be fed a layer ration.
Chickens are vulnerable to parasites — like worms, mites and lice — and diseases. Put them in a clean, dry habitat. This will help decrease internal and external parasites and reduce the need to use pesticides to control them. Additionally, ask a local vet about diseases prevalent in your area.
We recently had a fowl pox outbreak, so I would recommend vaccinating against this disease.
Coops should have at least two solid sides and a roof that will protect chickens from the wind and rain. The structure can be fixed or mobile. A mobile coop makes sanitation easier by spreading manure around the yard so that it does not accumulate in one location.
Whether fixed or mobile, coops must be sturdy enough to keep out predators. Additionally, chickens need a minimum of three square feet of floor space per bird.
Finally, chicken manure is nitrogen-rich; you must fertilize less if using manure.
Jennifer Bearden is an agent at the Okaloosa County Extension office in Crestview. Call 689-5850 for more on this topic.