Though you can scrimp on chicken-care costs, some things are non-negotiable, including safe housing, protection from predators and access to adequate nutrition and hydration. While each of these is a requirement for quality chicken care, a bit of ingenuity and a “give it a try” attitude can help keep your costs down when keeping chickens.
Reimagine a Chicken Coop
Chicken housing has few requirements other than it be sturdy, safe, spacious (a rule of thumb for standard-sized chickens is 3- to 5-square-feet of space per bird) and well ventilated.
After that, all bets are off!
Look at what you may already own: Kids’ playhouses (plastic or wood), potting sheds, old corn cribs and even lean-tos can be modified into a safe haven for your feathered friends.
If nothing springs to mind, don’t fret: If you’re on a farm of any size, there’s most likely materials that can be cobbled together into a stellar chicken abode. Pallets, salvaged lumber, old cabinets and more (even trampolines, satellite dishes and old cars!) have all been successfully made into chicken coops.
If you don’t have any building materials lying around, plan a trip to a local construction surplus store (such as Habitat for Humanity ReStores) to look for building materials you can repurpose. And don’t stop at the frame! Your coop can be an extension of your home, put your decorating stamp on it.
If you want to build something from the ground up, find free plans online and spend some time on Facebook Marketplace or sifting through garage-sale finds to create your dream coop on the cheap. oranguta007/Adobe Stock
Grow a Garden for Supplemental Nutrition
Quality feed can be one of the most expensive, ongoing costs of chicken care. Though not something to scrimp on, you can stretch your feed-bill budget. If you already plant a garden, consider adding (or planting more of) some chicken-friendly options, including:
- sweet potatoes
Here’s a bonus: Hens that eat dark, leafy veggies lay eggs with richer yolks!
If you don’t have room for a full-fledged garden, consider an herb garden: Chickens love basil, cilantro, dill, lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, tarragon and thyme.
An added nutritional boost can come from the garden. While you’re weeding, thinning and watering, pick off Japanese beetles and June bugs, throw them in a bucket of water and then give them to your flock as a tasty treat.
Consider making your own chicken treats, too, using grains, suet and lard. If you’re the more-adventurous type, try raising your own grubs or meal worms.
Free-Range Your Flock
Free-ranging your flock offers a plethora of nutritional options while encouraging the natural foraging and feeding behaviors. Chickens will nibble weeds and grass, as well as insects, lizards and mice. They’re especially helpful in pastures where…