Raising backyard chickens 101, tips for getting your flock of to a good start.
Have you wanted to get chickens, but are unsure if you have the time space or money to keep them? If so, this article is perfect for you! Learn the basics to raising backyard chickens.
Start raising backyard chickens today
Raising and having backyard chickens is one of the simple pleasures of living in a rural community, but really chickens will thrive in almost any backyard. City, country you name it chickens can thrive! Fresh eggs, excellent fertilizer for the garden and sweet feathered companionship are among the numerous benefits of raising and keeping your own flock. I like to start out with chicks from our local farm store but you can also order chicks or juvenile birds from places like Murray McMurray Hatchery among others.
Raising chickens can be very rewarding, but it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. Below are tips for raising and keeping a healthy flock.
Research chicken breeds
Consider backyard chicken breeds. Depending on where you live and climate of your region decide what the best breed of chicken for your area and your goals may be. Some chickens thrive in the extreme temps, others prefer mild climates. If you are hoping to have chickens that lay eggs with diverse colors you may want diversify by choosing several different breeds. Over the years I have refined my flock and really focused on adding in the breeds that really thrive and lay well in my area. My flock currently consists of Orpingtons, Auracanas, Astrolarps and Wellsummers, and I plan on adding a few more breeds this spring.
Plan for chickens
Make sure you have ample space for the amount of backyard chickens you want. In general each chicken needs one square foot of space minimum, but through experience I have learned the more space the better. That's not to discourage you if you have a small space, however crowding chickens can lead to stress which can decrease egg production and create an inhospitable environment for the birds. Happy birds are more productive healthy birds.
Create a safe place for your chickens to live
Create or buy a chicken coop with an indoor and outdoor area. I recommend going a step further and creating two outdoor spaces for the chickens. I like having a coop, a roofed run and larger unroofed run for my flock. This allows for shelter and safety from predators in the smaller run during the extremely hot or cold months but the ability to sun bathe and forage in the larger un roofed run when the weather permits as well. I realize that space may prohibit this and that’s okay, but do try to insure that your chickens will be able to sun bathe and forage naturally at times, I promise it will be reflected in the way the eggs taste!
Keep your chicken coop and run clean and fresh
Consider cleanliness. Keeping a clean environment for your chickens is crucial. I like to clean my coop everyone to two months depending on the season, but you can do it more or less often depending on your needs and preference. Between cleanings I like using a natural product that helps the chicken manure break down, this also helps mitigate odors, you can find it here. I have always used nesting pads for my chickens, some may think it’s frivolous but I assure you it helps keep your chickens laying in the nesting boxes and it also reduces egg breakage and keeps the eggs cleaner, I recommend these nesting pads. On occasion I will sprinkle herbs in the nesting boxes for my girls, I usually dry them from my garden but you can buy blends like this one as well.
Feed your chickens well
Research Quality food and incorporate kitchen scraps, garden waste and yard clippings (as long as you do not use any chemical fertilizers pesticides or herbicides in your yard or garden, Learn more about that here. I use this food and we love it (it’s much cheaper at our local feed store than the link provided), if it’s not available in your area, do your research and find a quality food for you chicks and grown chickens.
Recently I have found that some Costco stores sell organic chicken feed for a reasonable price. For new chicks I recommend supplementing their water with an electrolyte, I use this one. I also recommend using chick grit. Grit helps baby chicks and chickens digest food, without it they can have serious digestive problems that can lead to food impaction, and sometimes death. If you allow your chickens to free range they typically get this naturally, but if your chickens are primarily penned I recommend keeping grit available for them. We use this grit for our chicks.
Raising and keeping chickens can be so very rewarding! I recommend reading a few books on raising chickens, and keep them on hand as you may need them to reference as things come up. A few I recommend are Back Yard Chickens, and A Chicken in Every Yard. Before you know it you will be enjoying fresh eggs and the sweet company of feathered friends. Good luck!