The Ultimate Guide To Raising Chickens
Posted on September 3rd, 2015
- Starting From Scratch
There are a lot of things to take into consideration when debating on whether or not you want to start raising some chickens in your backyard. It can be a bigger task than most people realize, but it can also be very rewarding on the other side. Here are a few tips to think about before buying your first chicks:
- Remember that it takes 4-6 months from the time a chicken is hatched for her to start laying eggs.
- You will need some sort of shelter for your chickens. This shelter will not only give them a place to lay, it will also give them protection from the weather as well as any predators that might want them for lunch.
- The natural food of chickens is bugs. They need space to move around outside that includes grass so that they can dig and find food.
- Although chickens cannot fly they can use their wings to get over small fences, so make sure you build accordingly.
- You will want to have feeders and waterers ready to go when you bring your chicks home.
- Once the hens are ready to lay, you will want to have nesting boxes for them to lay their eggs in.
Biggest Benefits of Chickens
People love Chickens for the free eggs! Raising chickens is a great way for someone who wants to have a farm to start because it is relatively easy and can be very low cost. Another benefit is that you are getting eggs as they are and fresh…they have not been tampered with like many of the eggs you will find at your grocery store.
The smell. This is by far the biggest setback to those who may want to have chickens in their backyard. Chickens do not smell good. Another disadvantage to those who have close neighbors is that they may start to resent you for the noise that is coming from your house. Chickens can be loud, especially if you have a rooster. The most obvious setback is your time and energy. Although you will not have to do a lot, you will have to do more than if you just buy them at the store. Do you have the time to feed, water, and gather eggs?
Here is a great resource to help you make your decision to raise or not to raise chickens.
- Chicken choices
There are so many questions to answer when you finally decide to move forward with the chicken raising. How old will they be when I get them? What kind of chickens am I going to get? How many chickens do I want to have? Should I get a rooster? How many eggs will my type of chicken lay per day? The list goes on. Below are some resources to help you decide what type of chickens will best suite you and your environment.
- Building a Home
So you decided you want to raise chickens, and now you know what type you want to bring to your little farm. Now it is time to buy or make the coop. Although there are a lot of resources out there that help you build your own, there are kits that will help you do the same thing much quicker and it will save you some headaches along the way (Not to mention your chickens will thank you for doing it the right way). Here are some resources about chicken coops, as well as a shameless link to our store where you will find the best chicken coop kits out there.
- Raising chicks: The Beginning Stages
Finally, we have everything we need and we are ready to start raising our chickens. Now is not the time to get overwhelmed, because we are going to help you every step of the way here. The main three things you will need right now are a feeder, something to give them water, and a red brooder lamp. (Protection from predators is very important right now as well) Below are some extra tips to keep in mind in the beginning stages of your chicken career.
- Gathering the Eggs
It will be a long wait until your chicks will turn into hens, and your hens start to lay eggs…or at least you will think so. Like we said at the beginning, it usually takes around 4-6 months for chickens to start laying eggs. Because you are used to buying eggs at the store, you will have to learn what it takes to collect, clean, and store eggs that come from your backyard. (Don’t worry, though, it’s a pretty straightforward process.) Luckily, there are some helpful articles that talk in detail about this that were made just for you.
- The Full Circle
Unfortunately, chickens, just like humans, are not immortal. Everything is fresh and exciting until you get to this point in the road. We have to answer the hard questions like: “when will my chickens stop laying eggs?” What should I do when my chickens can no longer lay?” “How long do chickens live?” Every good chicken owner has to face these questions at some point in the process. Below you will find some answers to these questions and hopefully be able to help your chickens live and lay for years to come.
Now that you have the information, go and use it! Dragging your feet because you are scared that you don’t know enough is no longer a good excuse. If you have the time, money, and place to raise your own flock of chickens, (And a desire of course) then today is the day to make a trip to find some baby chicks. Trust me, you will be glad you did.
Having Chickens In Your Own Backyard
Posted on September 3rd, 2015
Yes, you read that right! While many people only think of chickens clucking their way around farms, more and more are choosing to raise their own backyard chickens. Chickens require relatively little space to thrive, and can be a rewarding experience for any family. Why might you want to raise chickens?
Naturally, one of the main reasons for raising your own chickens is the fresh, delicious, and nutritious eggs you’ll find right in your backyard. Many breeds lay an egg a day, so depending on how many chickens you have and how many eggs you eat, you could be sharing with friends and family! Because backyard chickens eat a healthier, balanced, and varied diet, their eggs are higher in nutrients than store-bought eggs. Crack open a backyard egg next to a store egg and you’ll notice the deep, rich orange color of the yolk—that’s better for you and your birds, and you’ll even notice a difference in the taste. Want to know another great fact about backyard eggs? Depending on the breed of your chickens, their eggs may be white, brown, blue, green, or even speckled! The shell color doesn’t affect the taste or nutrition of the egg, but there are as many colors of eggs as there are chickens, and it sure is fun!
Fewer Bugs, Better Soil
Remember that varied diet we were just talking about? Chickens love to eat bugs, and your yard has plenty of those. They’ll eat any kind of insect or bug they can get their beaks on, including ants, grasshoppers, beetles, slugs, crickets, weevils, and just about anything else. That means fewer bugs in your garden eating your precious vegetables, and fewer bugs on you.
Speaking of gardens, all the healthy chicken feed, insects, and kitchen scraps your chickens will eat have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is right back into the soil. By scratching around in the dirt and making their own compost, your chickens will turn the earth rich and dark with soil nutrients, which is every gardener’s dream.
Education and Entertainment
While chickens are easy to raise, there’s a lot to be learned from keeping them. You’ll learn what your chickens like to eat, how they behave, and what their eggs look and taste like under different circumstances and seasons. Children, especially, love to learn about where their food comes from, and if you have an animal-lover in your family (we hope you do, if you’re thinking of raising chickens!), you’ll have double the fun watching your chickens grow, peck and scratch, run around, and chase insects. Looking for a replacement for your afternoon TV episode? Cut a watermelon in half, scoop out the flesh, and enjoy your snack while you watch a hen climb and jump around in the empty rind and peck at what you’ve left her. Chickens can be real comedians!
Not everyone who raises chickens does so for meat, but pasture-raised (free-range, raised-on-grass) chickens are healthier for both you and the environment. Pastured chicken is richer in nutrients, won’t have chemicals, hormones, or steroids, and won’t be mistreated. Many chicken owners choose to cull their flock when the older hens stop laying. If you aren’t comfortable culling your own chickens, you can always find a local butcher to do it for you. If you just want to raise chickens for eggs and fun, that’s okay, too!
What Do Chickens Need?
Chickens will gladly roam a larger yard, but they only need a little bit of space to peck and scratch at the ground and look for bugs to eat. You might choose to keep your chickens corralled in a chicken run if you’d like them to stay out of the driveway, garage, garden, or anywhere else they might wander. However, many backyard chicken owners find that allowing their chickens to be free range (to wander freely without restrictions) helps to keep their gardens healthy, allows their chickens to search more widely for bugs to eat, and prevents the chickens from scratching too much in the same spot and turning it completely to soil.
Your chickens will also need a safe and comfortable place to sleep and lay their eggs. At night, they like to sleep in a coop, where they are safe from predators like foxes and other animals, where they can stay warm, and where they can protect their eggs. While some chickens don’t “roost” (make a nest to keep their eggs in), most hens like to lay their eggs in the same spot each day, and it’s best to provide them with nesting boxes filled with clean, soft bedding such as straw or wood shavings. You’ll need to clean and replace the bedding every so often to keep your flock healthy. Many chicken coops are set up with nesting boxes that are easily accessible, making egg-gathering quick and simple. Be careful, though, on your walk to the coop. Some hens will lay an egg right in the grass!
Backyard chickens will thrive and grow on a healthy diet of fruit and vegetable scraps, crushed eggshells (for calcium), bugs, and chicken feed specialized for laying hens. Your chickens will also happily eat oats or plain cooked rice, if you have them leftover! They are great composters. Give them your strawberry tops, corn cobs, and other scraps gone a little past their prime in the refrigerator, and they’ll happily much them up and return thm to the soil. You can find chicken feed for laying hens at your local feed store, and give it to your chickens according to the instructions.
What About Roosters?
Many chicken owners choose to keep hens only—you’ll have a quieter flock that way, certainly. But if you’d like to hatch your own chickens, you’ll need a rooster or two! Roosters can be slightly aggressive to people, which can be inconvenient when you need to collect eggs, but that also means they’ll protect your flock from predators.
What Are You Waiting For?
Raising backyard chickens is enjoyable and rewarding. While they’ll add a few extra chores to your list, you’ll find that caring for them is simple, fun, pays back in the form of delicious eggs, a healthy garden, and hours of endless fun. What are you waiting for? let’s get started!
If you want to learn more about raising your own chickens, check out the following helpful books and websites:
Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide by Rick and Gail Luttman
Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow