Have you ever considered raising your own backyard chickens? They are very self-reliant animals and once they have settled into your backyard don’t require much of your time or effort. In this article we share with you 6 simple steps to raising chickens.
Step 1: Choosing Your Breed
Once you have established that raising chickens in your local neighborhood is legal, you should start by thinking about why you want chickens; this will severely implicate the breed of chicken which you will get. There are three main ‘categories’ of chicken breeds:
- Egg Layers
- Hybrids (these are a combination of egg layers and meat birds)
- Meat Birds
So if you want to get chickens for eggs you should make sure you pick a breed that falls in that category. You’re going to be disappointed if you choose a meat bird and was intending to get lots of eggs from your chickens!
Step 2: Eggs, Chicks or Pullets?
In general you have three choices when getting chickens:
- You can get fertilized eggs and incubate and hatch your own chicks.
- You can buy day old chicks and raise them.
- You can buy pullets; these are 18-20 week old chickens that are just about to start laying.
While the thought of hatching your own eggs is very exciting, it is also the most difficult and I wouldn’t recommend this for beginners. The other downside is you might end up with Roosters which generally aren’t permitted in lots of towns.
I would recommend that those who are raising chickens for the first time buy pullets for two main reasons. Firstly by this age they are very hardy and require much less knowledge and experience to keep safe. Secondly, you can order only hens so you won’t violate any local ordinances.
Step 3: Preparing Their Coop
Once you have ordered your pullets, you need to start preparing their home; they will need a coop and a run.
As for the coop you can either buy a prebuilt chicken coop or build your own. Don’t be afraid to build your own. Chickens don’t need a palace they just need somewhere that is dry; they won’t be disappointed if the walls aren’t straight!
In terms of space:
- Bantam chickens need 2 square foot of coop space per chicken.
- Normal sized hens need 3 square foot of coop space per chicken.
- Larger hens need 4 square foot of coop space per chicken.
As for the run/pen area you should give your chickens at least 15 square foot each. If you live in an area known for predators you should consider using hardware mesh around the perimeter of your run to keep your hens safe.
Step 4: Feed and Water
Once your hens have moved in you will start to realize just how hardy and self-sufficient they really are. In general you will just need to provide them with feed and water.
The water is the simple part; just make sure each morning to give them fresh, clean water. The only time this gets tricky is during winter when the water can freeze. If it does just make sure to break the ice up and replace it with fresh water.
Now onto feed. In general the core of their diet should be a layer’s pellet. In addition to the pellet you can give them the occasional treat.
Step 5: Perform Routing Health Checks
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than the cure. When raising chickens, you should be proactively looking after your flock, not reactively.
The best way to do this is to spend time with them.
As you spend time with your hens you will start to learn what their normal behavior is. So when they stop acting ‘normal’ you will know that something is up with them.
In addition to keeping a general doting eye on them, I recommend performing a quick weekly health check. This can be as simple as checking them over visually and looking for mites and lice.
Step 6: Find Other People that Like Raising Chickens!
As previously mentioned, chickens are very hardy and self-reliant animals.
However, on occasion they can get sick and you will need someone to help treat them. When I first started raising chickens I was fortunate enough to have my parents on hand.
So I would recommend finding an experienced chicken keeper who can help you. They don’t even have to be in your neighborhood, you can use forums or Facebook groups. Just make sure to find somewhere that you can get help from should the need arise.
So there you have it, 6 simple steps to raising chickens. I hope this has made the idea of raising backyard chickens very simple for you. I wish you all the best on your journey and be sure to leave a comment below letting me know how you’re doing with this new and exciting hobby.