Backyard Poultry – Keeping a Few Poultry
Keeping a few chickens in your backyard can be an enjoyable experience that also rewards you with a few eggs. Chickens are easy to keep but must be fed, and housed properly and kept safe from predators.
Cities all over the country are increasingly relaxing zoning rules to permit residents to keep a few chickens but usually by issued permit only. They do not allow keeping roosters however as who ever said that roosters only crow when the sun comes up, forgot to mention other 23 hours in the day that they crow as well.
Chickens usually start laying eggs around 20 weeks of age. Often times, the prospective poultry owner has to raise the birds from the chick stage. So let us start with a few selection basics. Chicks are often sold as “straight run” or “sexed.” Straight run means they have not been sexed and you may very likely being buying males and females. This will not work when you have no-rooster limitations. You will not know you have a rooster(s) until it is way too late! Make sure you by “sexed” birds to ensure getting females.
These birds must be properly brooded (raised) to keep them healthy. They need to be fed diets that meet their nutritional needs, not necessarily what the owner thinks they need. Depending on the time of year, you may also need to provide a heat source to keep them warm until they “feather-out.” When providing heat, use a round containment structure to keep the chicks from getting trapped in corners from the other birds. They can easily suffocate when trapped.
If you would like to learn about keeping poultry as a hobby, attend a basic poultry keeping class and satisfy the class attendance requirements, classes are offered throughout the year in Florida by UF/IFAS Extension Agents. Contact you local county Extension office for more information regarding class scheduling. Not all offices may offer the training but they often will know which UF/IFAS Extension offices do!