Keeping Chickens: A Beginners Guide!

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Raising chickens is by far one of the easiest and most inexpensive hobbies one could acquire. In doing so, you would be providing a long lasting benefit of bug eaters, compost producers and edible eggs. (Or as my boys tactfully say- fresh butt nuggets AKA eggs.)

Rasining chickens is a great way for the whole family to begin homesteading and/or just work together to produce a great family product while learning responsibility.

Whatever your reason for raising chickens here are a few things to consider:

  • Choose a fitting BREED of Chickens– Chickens can be territorial. Breeds can vary by purpose. Climate can play a part in the best breed for your family. Same with size. If you have a little space and loads of eggs are not your priority, there are an abundance of bantam breeds that eat less and still lay a few eggs. While requiring very little space as well. So do some research based upon what you are looking for.
  • Space. Whichever breed you choose, make sure they have adiquite space. Happier chicken = healthier chickens= more productive chickens. A roomy coop allows you to grow your flock or keep them inside more during harsher weather. So, plan your space accordingly to your breed, climate and purpose for raising chickens.
  • Keep the coop clean. Determine how you will keep a clean coop. Shavings are a great way for keeping a “nice smelling” coop and make shoveling easier. Another method is dirt floor and some just rake or shovel out manure weekly. A method we have acquired with many more chickens now, is rotating the birds between two coops. A “main coop” that is rubber matted with shavings. Along with a secondary coop with dirt, shavings & natural composting layers. The rubber matting can easily be scooped out, then hosed off when weather permits. (We have enjoyed this method of prevention. Our birds seem healthier and free of diseases and illnesses in the overall flock.)
  • Make sure to keep flock safe from predators. Chickens, once accustomed to a “housing” will return to their roosts nightly if allowed free range. However, if not locked in, our flock is prone to be picked off by predators. (Fox, minks, weasels, wolverines, coyotes, raptors, etc.) Hardwire mesh is a great way to keep unwanted critters out. ** Do not forget the top. One night upon returning home, a giant snowy owl perched itself directly above the coop. Waiting and watching, we were relieved to know that we had covered the top with wire, netting and clear plastic.
  • Lastly, feed and water installation. Your flock will need fresh water and feed. Breed is a factor, along with seasons. But, most chickens eat about 1/4 lb. of feed a day AND drink about a pint of water a day. That will have to be considered when acquiring your flock. If you do not care to water or feed everyday, you could install hopper systems or water lines. Many options are on the market, be sure to check them out. None the less, be prepared for the time and expense.
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Once you have decided you are getting chickens and you have considered the points above, you will need to determine if you are getting pullets (hens) or rooster (male chicken) or both. You do not need a rooster for eggs unless you are planning to raise chicks and continue the flock. These things will also factor into the breed you choose. Keep in mind, some breeds are very aggressive and will attack your children! If you want your chickens to hatch their own eggs, that will greatly narrow your breeds down. So make a list of those points then get to it.

Will you look for started chicks a few months old? Already layers? Or do you really want to start your own flock with day old chicks. Each has it’s advantages and there is required equipment for young chicks. However, the advantage is they can be very tame. A few hand raised batches were so sweet with the kids, they would “pick a favorite” or be picked more or less. The hens would squat for the kids to pick them up and not be ugly during egg collection time because they were used to the children handling them. Take all of these things into consideration.

Although it may seem like a lot to consider, which any pet or animal can be, chickens are rather simple to care for and a great addition to any home.

Happy Homesteading!