Keeping chickens is simple and very rewarding. The easiest way to get started on a small scale is to build a chicken ark. These are the triangular shaped coops that can be moved around (which is why they’re sometimes called chicken tractors).
In just one weekend you could get set up with a chicken ark and three laying hens – who will start lying eggs soon after they are settled in. Chicken arks are straightforward to build, even if you haven’t got advanced woodworking skills, if you have a good set of plans and instructions.
Building a chicken ark is a great project to do with your kids – they can come with you to get the materials, read the instructions, do some of the construction – or even make the whole thing themselves. Imagine how proud they’d be!
We found loads of plans on the Internet – but most of them were pretty sketchy. It was well worth buying plans that were clear and complete with good illustrations. We found some chicken ark plans that not only have good instructions on how to make an ark, but also for two bigger chicken coops as well.
Another plus was a complete guide to keeping chickens, which were just right for us as beginners. We feed them on vegetables scraps, a small amount of chicken feed and grit, and of course they forage on weeds, insects and grubs. The three girls are thriving and have been laying an egg an day each.
We do like to treat them though. Once a week we make up a mix of porridge oats with some milk plus a tin of cat food and some of our meat scraps – they love it and come to us to be fed.
Chickens also love to take dust baths, and the dust helps prevent parasites on their feathers and skin.
We particularly like the chicken ark design because we can just move it to a dry spot and the chickens can roll over, flap about and cover themselves in dust.
Our first three chickens are laying now – beautiful eggs, completely different from supermarket ones, and they’ll go on laying beautiful eggs for at least three years. Not bad for one weekend’s work.
Next spring we’re planning to build the bigger hen house and get a few more chickens – and then we’ll even have enough eggs to sell some to our neighbors.