Let me start off by saying that I love chickens. The eggs, the entertainment, the poop! What is NOT to love about chickens. So I encourage everyone to get their own backyard flock. However I am blessed with a GREAT deal of shade in my backyard. Every time I have another homesteader come over, they have shade envy, which is funny to me because for so many years I thought it was a curse. I couldn’t grow anything! Not even grass! Turned out the cup is half full and the backyard is half full of animals. Chickens and rabbits and hoping for goats. Shhh! Don’t tell my hubby. He thinks I am kidding when I say that I am going to get goats. I am soo NOT kidding! He is on a long walk about with the boys just now so will probably miss this post. Shhh!
Now I grow in my front yard! If you are new to all this see my front yard garden here.
So I sit here in my backyard shade and want a wee flock of chickens for everyone. But what if you don’t have shade? What if you have a back yard that is FULL sun, but you want chickens. Well pay attention, this post is for you.
Until recently I thought a chicken tractor would be a great way to go. In fact they are marketed and sold in the city of Dallas as a great way to have a sweet little back yard flock. You will pay a good deal of money to buy a small chicken tractor/coop to house your birds in. I, myself, have often thought of building one.
A chicken tractor is basically a chicken coop on wheels. The idea is that you move it about your yard with your chickens aerating your lawn, laying eggs. Great for everyone, or so I thought. Let me tell you a little eye opening chicken story.
Someone had a small flock of chickens in Plano Texas. A “well meaning” neighbor heard the clucking one day and called the city. Oh the horror! Chickens in the city? They thought;” We simply can’t have that!” or maybe, They thought, “Why can they have that, when we can’t have that?” Either way you slice it, the city of Plano swooped down and warned the family that the chickens had to go. After all it is against the law. Really, City of Plano, get with the times. This is 4 chickens we are talking about. Dogs make more noise and poop. They bark loudly, bite people from time to time and on top of that produce nothing for their owner except unconditional love, which you can’t eat! You all know where I stand on this issue.
So in comes the Smith Family to the rescue, just so happens their son has always wanted chickens. O.K. let me just stop here and say that when a teenage boy wants chickens. Well let me just do a happy dance and say yoo hoo! Jessie, you are one of the coolest teens I know, which is probably a distinction you NEVER wanted or thought you would get from your friend’s mom. Maybe from the cute girl down the street, but not from the middle aged mom of your friend. I can’t help it, so cool! He is on the walk about with my boys, so we’re good. Chances are he won’t see this. Moving on; So the Smith family, of course, had very little notice of the incoming flock of chickens, because, after all, a flock of 4 chickens is akin to nuclear waste. YOU MUST GET IT OUT OF YOUR CITY AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE! CHICKENS, OH THE HORROR! I can’t help it, it is sooo ridiculous to me.
The Smith family worked all day preparing for their little flock, building a chicken coop of sorts. Love it when people re-purpose materials. You guessed it pallets and a large moving crate. Ingenious! Everyone was going to have to get used to this new addition to their family including 2 Australian Shepherds. I know, let me allow that to sink in for a moment. It wasn’t as if the chickens could roam freely throughout the yard, because they have two dogs, who at the very least need to poop, worst case scenario want to chase/maybe eat chicken. Because of these circumstances these chickens were limited to their coop, which provided them shade, food and plenty of fresh water. Everything they would need, right? Except we live in Texas and it is in the middle of summer. I think you are probably guessing what happened next. One chicken sadly died, due to the heat and another had to be nursed back from the brink of heat stroke. Lesson learned; Chickens need a big enough area that they can move with the shade. An area that will allow them to hunker down under bushes ect. to find the cool spot. A chicken tractor in the summer, in Texas, I am afraid, would mean certain death. Once you have worked out an area that they can move with the shade, then provide a cooling off wading pool of sorts. This can be as complicated as; a kiddie pool with stones complete with a water filter or as simple as a shallow bird bath placed on the ground.
The Smith family got a heavy duty storage bin filled with water with a concrete cinder block in the middle.
Anything that will allow your egg laying divas to stand in a bit of water, because cool feet means a happy bird or at least an egg laying, live one. If you don’t provide your chickens with a shallow pool of water, they will instinctively try to find one, which might mean; they will stand huddled in the drainage from your air conditioner , which happens to be RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR BACK DOOR. Factor in the poop and there you have it; a big ,stinky mosquito producing mess for everyone to enjoy RIGHT OUTSIDE YOUR BACK DOOR. Thank goodness this is easily alleviated by providing them with their own wading pool. Of course it has to be refreshed from time to time. Every morning for me, whether I like it or not. If you change it less often, putting in bt mosquito dunks will keep it from becoming a breeding ground for those blood sucking insects. You can buy bt dunks at any home improvement store. Don’t worry they won’t hurt your chickens.
So if you are thinking about a small coop or a chicken tractor and you live in Texas, you might want to rethink that. No one wants their new adventure of chickens to end up as roasted chicken, literally, especially when little kids are involved. Your girls are going to need a place to stay for safety during the night however. A tractor or small coop would be fine for that, but you had better be there to let them out in the morning! Your chickens could be in a chicken tractor during the coolish Spring and Fall months with the freedom to roam in the heat of summer. Don’t worry, they will go to roost as the light wanes in the evening. Basically you just have to go out and latch the door.
Take it from me you want to bring a flash light with you. Read the story of how I once shut a possum in for the night with my chickens here. My sweet family, who know me soo well, gave me a thoughtful gift for Christmas. It would be a total understatement to call this a flashlight; I call it my “Mini-sun”. Every homesteader/want to be farm girl/chicken raising girl, should have one. If you want one or want to buy one for your spouse for Christmas here is a link:here.
Speaking of possums that was the second hurtle the Smith’s had to jump. My sweet friend sent me a message; “Do possums eat chickens?” The answer is, YES! I would say, that is the greatest threat to city chickens other that the heat of course. Let me just shout out a thank you to my chicken defenders, who will rise out of a dead sleep, climb up on the roof and defend the flock. Shhh! BB gun use is so totally against the law in the city. I know because my kids had a very eye opening ride in the back of a squad car, which they enjoyed WAY too much, for using BB guns at the community garden! I was on my knees that night praying; “Lord, please let that be the last time they ride in the back of a police car and REALLY did couldn’t you have made it a bit more unpleasant for them, just say’in .” (I now realize I have neglected to tell the story of the, surrounded by police cars, hands up and drop your weapons incident at the community garden. I will have to tell you that story. It is a good one!)When I thinking of this story, I am, of course, thinking of that wild eyed, risk taking,out of the box thinking, coloring outside the lines, drum playing, courageous,tree climbing, crazy funny, deep loving son of mine who wants to be a missionary in Africa. I told him the other day; “Son, please don’t let the reason you go to Africa be because you are running from the law.” I kind of wish I could say I was making this up, but this is the super zany, we all have a purpose in God’s kingdom, reality that I live in the midst of. Lest you think we are perfect, some days I think it could go either way! Comment with a smiley face and a thumbs up if you have one of those kids! Any hoo, back to chickens!
Needless to say; a safe night roost is essential.
This is my set up; I have fenced off a side area of my yard. The old trampoline and the house provide constant shade and I have a wading pool of sorts(bird bath) for my girls. To beat the very intense heat(days over 100) I run the sprinkler in their yard to keep things cool. Added bonus; my girls can run under the trampoline if they spy a hawk. Boy, those girls can move fast if threatened. But then I guess we all can!
I do have a friend that is using a fan and mister to keep her chickens cool, but at some point the scale tips to create a VERY expensive egg. We all have to find a balance we can live with.
Hoping chickens are in your future and that this will help your experience be a positive one!
This post contains an affiliate link. I only recommend things that I have tried out myself and really like, for your convenience. If you click on the link and buy something, even if it is not the thing I recommended, I get a small compensation at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting this blog!