No Farm? No Problem!

Or how to keep happy, healthy chickens even with limited space!

We can’t all live on an acreage or farm, but keeping chickens is not difficult and many cities allow chicken keeping.

 If you are an urban farmer like I am you may not want or be able to let you chickens free range all the time or at all.

Some chicken keepers keep their chickens solely in a small coop with a tiny attached run area.

blog coop

An adorable coop with run space beneath.

COOP

This coop design is similar to mine but it is painted so cute and I love the screen door.

   If space permits it is best to give your chickens as much run space as possible.  Your goal is to get as close as possible to the happy, healthy life of a free range farm chicken.

A good  solution is to provide a ‘daytime’ pen.  This is simply a fenced in area that they are let out into during the day.  My daytime pen serves to keep them fenced away from my garden and flower beds and is not intended to be predator proof although someday I hope to upgrade it and make it more secure.

SECURE

My ‘daytime’ pen is just made of 5 ft stakes and wire fencing with no roof.  I would love a secure pen like this one,  only larger.  Isn’t it attractive with the vines growing on it?

 Some people have chicken ‘tractors’ which are simply portable coops that can be moved to different spots in the yard where there is fresh grass underneath:

Chicken Tractor

 Another option is the ‘chunnel’:

CHUNNEL

Late summer, fall and winter I open the gate to the daytime pen and let them spend as much time ‘free ranging’ the entire yard as possible.  Sure, they make a mess of my mulch and dig holes to dust bathe in.  But seeing them happily roaming around my yard makes me happy too and is worth the bit of clean up I have to do.

  (I wont mention cleaning chicken poop off my deck).

Brewondeck

My gals are kept penned up in spring and early summer because tender seedlings and shoots would be destroyed by their scratching, digging and nibbling.

Eggs are healthier if a chicken receives their natural diet of greens, bugs, and roots.  However, even if their run starts out with grass and plants growing it wont take long for it to be stripped down to bare earth.

Since I use no weed killers or chemicals in my garden,  I pull weeds by hand and pitch buckets of weeds into the pen almost daily.  The gals eagerly gobble them up. They enjoy scratching around in the piles of weeds and clippings I toss in, searching for favorite tidbits and any insects that may be clinging to the weeds. Brewster always looks for bugs, Riot loves tender grass shoots and Sally loves clover.

chickieivyandlily

Lily and Ivy picking through a weed pile!

 In the winter, when my weed supply runs out,  I buy them bags of inexpensive greens to supplement their diet.  The few dollars a week I spend is worth it to have healthier gals and therefore healthier eggs. I can pick up a couple large bags of spinach, kale or mustard greens and toss them a few handfuls each day for about $6.00 a week. No need to spend a bundle to get them some fresh greens!

One way to keep them happy while penned up is to give them a shallow container full of sand for taking dust baths.  The sand can be supplemented with cooled ashes from your firepit or fireplace.  Chickens love to take dust baths.  It keeps their feathers clean and bug free and is so much fun to watch!

dust bath

Room for one more?

Another thing mine like is when I put a couple flakes of straw in the run for them to ‘pull apart’.  What fun!  They can turn an entire straw bale into a fluffy shapeless pile of straw in about an hour!  But then they have countless more hours of fun playing in it.

I have read about hanging a cabbage from a rope so they are kept busy pecking at it.

bored

I have not tried this because my gals are not big fans of cabbage, but I have used the fruit and nut sprigs sold in pet departments for caged birds.  Just hang them up in the coop and the gals will peck at them, I think they enjoy having something ‘different’.

Perches, swings and ladders can also give them something to do to keep boredom from setting in.

SWING

Bored chickens may become irritable and start pecking at each other.

Just popping in for a visit with a treat like dried cranberries, a bit of corn or oats or whatever your gals like, plus some attention or even cuddles, will make their day.

chickiegrace

If the reason your flock must be kept penned up is because you are away all day perhaps you can hire someone to let them out a few hours before dusk and then secure them up again when they return to the coop at sunset.

Or invest in an automatic door for the coop:

http://www.automaticchickencoopdoor.com/shop/product-place-holder-1

Be sure to keep the pen clean.  When the flock is confined the poop will be concentrated in the smaller space, so a daily raking and clean up is a must.

A final caution:  If your situation is such that your chickens must be penned up all the time, be sure to resist chicken math.

DON’T OVERCROWD THEM!

If you are a busy person with limited space I would limit the flock to 3 or 4 hens.  That is enough to keep you well supplied with eggs, keep themselves company and warm on cold nights,  and still have enough room  to move about and not be crowded or wallowing in poop.

I think everyone should be able to have the joy of keeping chickens and the wonderful healthy eggs they provide.    With a little thought and planning,  a small flock can be kept happy and healthy,  even with limited space and time.

chicken love

I never get tired of seeing this!

 

NOW GO ON OUT AND ENJOY SOME CHICKENS!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara Faust
    Mar 27, 2016 @ 16:26:13

    You deserve a 5 STAR rating on your latest blog.

    I just hope all the baby peeps sold just to delight youngens on this Easter morning will receive the tender care you outlined in the blog…

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. slcriger
    Mar 27, 2016 @ 13:26:46

    very informative……I love it

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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