I used to have about 30 living in an old pickup truck camper shell and a 20' x 20' fenced in yard. If you're in the country you can let them free range, which is what mine do most of the time. I do have a fence so I can force them to start laying in the chicken house again when I can't find the eggs anymore. It's not real critical. For six birds, you could have stack some bales of straw and wire, or tie a piece of plywood on for the roof. 4' x 8' would be plenty big. I like a comminity box nest myself, but they lay anywhere they want anyway, so it doesn't do much good. Just throw some straw in and they will nest. The main thing is that the opening for the shelter is away from the prevailing storms and they have room to get out of the weather. It's nice if they are mostly closed up (can get in and out but not a lot of draft) in the winter if it's really cold. (around here that's 10 below or more) Also, you have to keep water thawed in the winter, which means either you have to take a pot of boiling water out and thaw their water twice a day when there isn't snow to eat, or you buy a waterer and heater. I have the heater now and wouldn't go back.
You can feed them scratch on the ground. And they turn garbage into eggs. There isn't anything that resembles food that a chicken won't eat. They CAN'T eat bones only because they can't chew them. No food is too rotten for them. They can eat spoiled food as well as fresh leftovers.
They are a lot of fun. If it was me, I'd buy a "rarest of rare" assortment from Murray McMurry. You'll have the fanciest chickens in the state.
There is something satisfying to the soul to see a few old biddies scratching around in the yard and hear them clucking, with the occasional bragging cackle when one has laid an egg. They are also the best tick converters you can find. If you have free-ranging chickens in your yard, you will never have another tick problem. Go for it!, they're fun.
Thanks for the encouraging words. I must say that your words are right on the mark. We live in tick epicenter, right near Lyme, as in Lyme disease, and with deers roaming the yard and mice all over in spite of a lazy cat ... but I must credit him with the fact that clearing 3 acres of mice would be a big feat. The problem is I have no fence around and the town laws here don't allow 2 or more animals of any sort because that turns the property into a farming venue (they have not yet discovered the 150,000 bees flying around !). So, I could have one chicken, one duck, one cow, one horse, one one one, and I'm OK. But not 2 of any, and the chickens are kind of loud. Go figure the logic! Maybe I'll do it anyway and keep them in a pen and enjoy the eggs, but the ticks will keep the rest of the farm ... I mean yard.
I have a friend who has a chicken hen and a white mallard drake in town. The two are romatically involved. I can never tell if a hen is happy about that or not, but the drake is. The problem with one chicken is they need some company.
Could you call a hen and a rooster two different animals!? Then you could have one of each and they would have company.
I have about 40 free range chickens. mixed varieties of bantams and a few rhode island red hens. We also have 4 guinea fowl, which are also supposed to eat ticks. Who knows how many they actually eat, but the dog and I each find ticks on us several times a week.
I just love it when other people pass laws to tell us how we have to live. That's why I live in a rural setting.
JCByler put his finger on what I wanted to mention, which is to get a guinea fowl to go with your chicken. They are diff species, so you are ok there, and you might investigate with a poultry supplier (like Campbell) whether there any other feathered species of which you can get one, which well help. Ducks also are great fun, and a personal favorite of mine. They are fantastic grasshopper converters as well. The India Runner ducks look somewhat like a mallard, but as the name implies, are more fleet of foot, and look fun as can be as they go squawking after a bunch of grasshoppers. Don't know if they are any help with the ticks, though. Try one and see. You must have a constant source of water for ducks, though, they need a lot of that
It occurred to me that I didn't answer your original question about sources of info on how to care for these critters. when you locate the feed store you will be getting supplies from, they may carry some beginners books on the subject, or else go to a large bookstore,and you are sure to find something. I know that Borders has a large section on this type of reading. Also try the search engines like google, etc. Type in chicken raising or something similar and hit the go button, and you are sure to come up with something which will help. Enjoy!
I have 7 chickens. They live in a sort of a wooden box which keeps the predators out. I open the door every morning and close it every night.
I ran an electric cord out there so that I could put in a heat lamp so their combs won't freeze in the winter. When the light is turned off every spring the birds all moult due to decreased daylight, which is annoying, but I feel they need the added heat midwinter. It gets -10 out here.
Or, leave the light off, and let them be. As long as they don't do something dumb like stand in their water, Chickens do OK all year around. As long as they can go inside and roost, or go somewhere dry, they don't need additional heat. Ours come out even when it is -20.
I've never actually used a heat lamp, but a light does keep them laying all winter. (sort of). I've had them in Eastern Nebraska, Western Nebraska, and Eastern Wyoming. Temperatures in Laramie were often -10 degrees Farenheit for weeks. And the wind! Let's not talk about the wind in Laramie. You'd have to go to Casper to get any worse wind.
I dunno, Michael. I spent some on a tractor out East of Rock Springs one Fall, and I swear that wind got it's start in some other galaxy. It was flat impossible to put on enough clothes to keep it out, and the heat in, and still be able to move. If God ever gives the world an enema, Rock Springs is where...