Backyard Chickens

One of the latest trends in gardening is raising backyard chickens. Many people appreciate having fresh, locally grown eggs. And gardeners like chickens because they can help manage insect pests and aerate the soil in vegetable gardens.
Many cities allow residents to keep only a certain number of hens, and often exclude roosters, so be sure to check your local laws.

You can buy chicks in the spring at most feed and seed stores or from mail order sources. You’ll need to build a coop and an enclosed run to protect your chickens from predators and bad weather. During cold snaps, provide a heat lamp to keep them warm. Feed your chickens a well-balanced commercial feed, and be sure to give them access to clean water.

Chicken Tractors

While the term “chicken tractor” might conjure up strange images, it’s basically just a mobile coop for backyard chickens.

A chicken tractor at an organic farm. Photo by Jessica Reeder; some rights reserved (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Much like us, chickens benefit from fresh air and exercise. A chicken tractor lets the birds enjoy these benefits while still keeping them safe from predators. You can move these floorless coops around the garden, allowing your chickens to scratch for insects. The chickens will also incorporate their waste into the soil, serving as a natural fertilizer.

Build your chicken tractor using one of many plans available online. Most have a wooden framework and wire-mesh walls, and they often include wheels to make moving the tractor easier. Be sure to pick a design that’s the right size for your flock. You’ll need at least three square feet per chicken.

Learn More

EDIS has several publications on Backyard Flocks.

The University of Guam Cooperative Extension Service has an excellent publication on Chicken Tractors (pdf).