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Do It Yourself: How to Raise Chickens in Your Backyard

The Art of the Do-It-Yourself Backyard Chicken Coop


Spring is the time to clean up, organize and branch out. Shake last fall’s soil off your garden gloves, and transform your yard before summer arrives.

Chickens: Backyard Barnyard

From March to May, feed stores around Oregon will be animated with the sounds of cheepcheeping chicks. Enliven your household this spring with a flock of your own. No matter how small your yard, there is likely room for a few chickens. A chicken needs four square feet of indoor space per bird, plus an outdoor run. Purchase a coop such as the Reclaimed Cedar Chicken Coop (above) from Wright Design Office (wrightdesignoffice.com). Benefits? Fresh eggs, nitrogen-rich manure for your compost pile and one less item on the grocery list.

Plenty of omelets: a chicken can lay up to nine eggs in ten days.

Tips

• Check ordinances to be sure you are following all regulations.

• Keep only hens—roosters can be loud and aggressive.

• Hens need to rest in a structure at least one foot off the ground.

• Clean the coop once a week.

• Be sure to wire the new coop for artificial lighting if you want hens to lay eggs year-round. They will need 10 hours of manufactured light per day in winter.

Compost: Gardeners’ Gold

Compost is the best nourishment for any garden. Compost is also a great way to dispose of organic matter without dumping it in a landfill. Add a thin layer of compost (about two inches) to the top of your soil for a rich and healthy growing season. Key ingredients? Nitrogen- (grass clippings, coffee grounds) and carbon-rich (sawdust, dry leaves) items, aeration and water.

Basic Steps for Beginners

  1. Buy a compost tumbler from your local garden store. This method yields compost fastest and easiest.

  2. Add base layer of carbon-rich matter.

  3. Each day, add a layer of carbon-rich items, followed by a layer of nitrogen-rich items. Alternate adding layers of nitrogen- and carbon-rich items. Carbon or “green matter:” Add yesterday’s food scraps to the tumbler and turn the tumbler one turn. Nitrogen or “brown matter:” Clean up the debris that accumulated in your yard over the winter. Sticks and crunchy leaves are a great start to a compost pile. If you run out of debris, you can also add droppings from your chickens and/or sawdust from the local lumberyard.

  4. Finally, don’t forget to sprinkle some water in the tumbler frequently. The compost should have the moisture content of a wrung dish towel.

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