Raising chickens is a rewarding pastime. It’s a great way to raise food, both eggs and meat. Chickens are great for aerating your soil, fertilizing your lawn and garden, devouring pesky insect populations, and for teaching children about animal husbandry and compassion for living things. They are also simple to care for and hearty in most climates. Whether you’d like to order your first chicks in the near future or are researching raising chickens for some far-off-in-the-future date, there are a few things you should consider.
First Things First
Before you pick up chicks from your local farmer’s supply store or order them from a supplier, it’s time to do your research. What breeds best suit your needs? Some are easier to care for than others. Some are good layers, some good broilers, some are great for both (aptly named duel-purpose chickens). Certain breeds fare better in cold climates than others. Some breeds are not good choices for beginners at all.
Next, consider the amount of space you have to work with. The Dollar Hen: The Classic Guide to American Free-Range Egg Farming by Milo M. Hastings recommends no more than 50 hens per acre. That is a lot of hens. Considering the average chicken lays around 260 eggs per year, a flock of 50 chickens would produce around 13,000 eggs per year! Chances are that’s far too many for your needs. Consider how many chickens you can sustain on your property and how many eggs your family will reasonably consume. If you’re buying broilers, consider how many chickens your family will likely eat in the course of a year as well as how many birds can live healthily on your land.
Make sure that your chicken coop meets all local regulations and, if needed, acquire necessary permits. Check with your local ordinances and your homeowner’s association before building or buying anything. This will save you a lot of headaches! Legal matters settled, it’s time to choose your blueprint, buy your supplies, and start building. Make sure that your chicken coop, run, and all necessary supplies are ready before bringing home your birds.
Buying Your First Chickens
There are several possibilities when it comes to chicken acquisition. One can purchase fertilized eggs and incubate them at home. This is a great science project for kids! Or, one can purchase day old chicks. If you don’t care to raise chickens from chicks, local classified ads often list adult chickens for sale too. Do your research so you know how to care for your chickens no matter which stage of life they may be currently enjoying. Did you know, for example, that young chicks must be kept under a heat lamp with food and water at all times, that the temperature must be kept near 95 degrees for the first week of life, or that baby chicks can drown themselves in their watering bowl? They require a lot of supervision and care.
Caring For Your Birds
Chicken feed comes in a variety of forms, including chicken scratch, pellets, homemade food, and scraps such as vegetables and bread. Chickens are also big fans of bugs. The amount of feed required is variable, depending on the breed, whether the chickens are growing or laying, the weather, the types of feeders you have, and more. Still, a medium sized bird will eat about ¼ lb of feed daily.
Enjoy Your New Hobby
Keep your chickens fed, protect them from predators, provide them with bedding, and clean their coop. Allow them lots of sunshine, exercise, and fresh air. Raising chickens can be a rewarding hobby enjoyed by people of all ages. Do you research before buying, talk to others who have successfully raised chickens, and be prepared for an interesting and educational journey.
Photo by: thedabblist