Keeping chickens in the back garden (or other small area) is becoming more and more popular in Europe and the United States.

As people want to do more to protect animal welfare, know more about the origin of their food, and get closer to nature, back garden chicken farming is a great way to do all three of these. If you’re thinking of joining this trend and getting a few chickens of your own, one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is choosing the best housing for your new flock. After all, your chickens will be spending most of their lives there.

If you want to have contented, healthy birds and be rewarded with that daily egg for breakfast, it’s important to provide your chickens with everything they need. There are so many different sizes, shapes, materials, and designs that housing choices can seem overwhelming.

Your choice will be probably be influenced by cost, available land, and the number of chickens you plan to keep. While these are important criteria, it’s important to remember just how important good housing is to your flock’s overall health.

The government formed a body called Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) in the UK to review the welfare of farm animals. Their framework is called – The five Freedoms. It gives a logical basis for the welfare of animals.

It is a great help for any would be chicken keeper to make right decisions based on the council’s recommendation. The five points are.

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst. You should have ready access to fresh water. See if the feed containers are properly suspended. Check up whether you and your chicken have access to uncontaminated and fresh water.

2. Freedom from discomfort. Is the environment and shelter proper? Is there enough space? Is the house where they are sheltered free from dangerous elements? Is it water and wind proof? Are there proper nests and boxes? If the house is made of wood, is the wood treated periodically? Are there harmful fixtures in the house?

3. Freedom from pain injury and disease. You should treat the bird’s sickness quick. Can you clean the bird and the house quick? Is the height proper? Can you take away a bird without hurting it? Is it safe from thieves? Is the floor smooth and is there proper ventilation?

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour. Have you given enough space? Proper company and adequate rooms and boxes and perches are important. Birds should be able to explore, peck and dig.

5. Freedom from fear and distress. You must ensure conditions and treatment which will avoid mental stress.

Safeguarding your chickens from predators is serious business. You need to be certain that any coop or barn in which you let the birds nest will prevent predators from gaining access. You may also want to consider putting the chicken housing in a quiet area of the garden or yard. The fowl is, of course, wholly reliant on the responsibility of the owner to keep them protected and watch out for their welfare. Housing your chickens may be the most important task you have when you keep a flock.

Article by Jack Corrigan.
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