Basic Chicken Care and Requirements
Chickens can take as much time and money as you care to spend, but you need to recognize the minimum time and space commitments required to keep chickens.
When we speak about time here, we’re referring to the daily care-taking chores. Naturally, getting housing set up for your birds will take some time. If you’re building a chicken coop, give yourself plenty of time to finish before you acquire the birds. You will have to judge how much time that will be depending on the scope of the project, your building skills, and how much time each day you can devote to it.
Count on a minimum of 15 minutes in the morning and evening to care for chickens in a small flock, if you don’t spend a lot of time just observing their antics. Even if you install automatic feeders and waterers, the good chicken-keeper should check on his flock twice a day. If you have laying hens, eggs should be collected once a day, which shouldn’t take long.
Try to attend to your chickens’ needs before they go to bed for the night and after they are up in the morning. Chickens ideally should have 14 hours of light and 10 hours of darkness. In the winter you can adjust artificial lighting so that it accommodates your schedule. Turning on lights to do chores after chickens are sleeping is very stressful for them.
You will need additional time once a week for basic cleaning chores. If you have just a few chickens, this could be less than an hour. It will include such things as removing manure, adding clean litter, scrubbing water containers, and refilling feed bins. Depending on your chicken-keeping methods, additional time could be needed every few months for more intensive cleaning chores.
More chickens doesn’t necessarily mean more daily time spent on them until you get to very large numbers. A pen full of 25 meat birds may only increase your care-taking time a few minutes versus a pen of four laying hens. But how you keep chickens can increase the time needed to care for them. If you keep chickens for showing and you house them in individual cages, feeding and watering them will take at least five to ten minutes per cage.
Each adult full-sized chicken needs at least 2 square feet of floor space for shelter and another 3 square feet in outside run space if it isn’t going to be running loose much. So a chicken shelter for four hens should be about 2 feet by 4 feet and the outside pen another 2 feet by 6 feet so that your total space used would be 2 feet by 10 feet (these dimensions don’t have to be exact).
For more chickens you would need more space, and you need a little space to store feed and maybe a place to store the used litter and manure. Of course, more space for the chickens is always better.
As far as height goes, the chicken coop doesn’t have to be more than 3 feet high. But you may want a bigger coop to be tall enough so that you can walk upright inside it.
Besides the actual size of the space, you need to think about location, location, location. You probably want your space somewhere other than the front yard, and you probably want the chicken coop to be as far from your neighbours as possible to lessen the chance that they might complain.