Overflowing with excitement, I cannot contain the fact that it’s chick season!!! I do believe chickens are the favorite “farm animal” amongst our children and our home. Do not get me wrong, all the animals are important, good companions or intrigue us with their fascinating behaviors. Yet, chick season is so much fun!
We can go to our local Supply Store and spot a new breed we should try every time they arrive. (Even if we have a flock at home and 25 new babies. LOL) It seems we can not get enough of our feathered friends and always have room for more.
Have you raised chickens before?
Are you limited on space?
Do you have predators or a lot of loose neighbor dogs?
What is the purpose of them? Meat ? Eggs? or Meat and Eggs?
What will you feed them? Do you want only free range?
How many eggs will you use a day?
All of these are egg-cellent questions (I’m corny I know) and will help determine your set up, breed and the number of chickens you are actually looking to supply your need for eggs. (Perhaps a few extra for fun!)
I have to warn you though…
They are addicting!
STEP 1: IF you haven’t already, and you are in town- check your ordinances. Some states have a farm act, that states no “farm animals in town” BUT a local ordinance will allow you to petition if following specific guidelines. For example- if you just want a few eggs, you can commit to not having roosters and show them your set up, etc. It really varies on your location (group cul-de-sac’s especially) or if you live in a “community or have a neighborhood ordinance too”. If this is not an issue- skip this step. Then, look at the yard or buildings you already have. Chickens do not require a fancy set up, it can be very simple and possibly less of an expense than you think. However, I have seen some really cute chicken coops that add beauty and color– or just some heavily pampered pets with wings. 🙂
STEP 2: Come up with a plan. Answer the questions above and pin point what kind/s of chickens you would like.
Generally laying hens are smaller bodied birds than your muscular meat breeds. Purebred hens or commercial strains are your next question. The commercial hens are so much more efficient on your feed to egg ratio, but most will not set their own clutch. You also have the choice of 2 different groups. The Bantam (smaller- 1/4 the size) or large breeds.
If you are going for a dual -purpose breed, they are larger, more hardy and self reliant. Are your birds going to be around kids? Are you looking for a gentle pet type bird or a “wilder” fierce bird that’s more self sufficient. (Foragers and safer from predators.)
Next, you have your meat breeds also known as broilers or fryers. Not a lot different- shelter needed without a nest box, some water and continue to feed them until butchering age. Harvest, and enjoy freezer fresh meat year round. (Take note they do eat a considerable amount more feed though. However, it’s delicious and delicious home-grown meat!)
Okay for the EGGS:
Fresh eggs are so delicious looking and tasting. Those beautiful yolks will NOT disappoint. My kids tell everyone, store eggs have NO flavor after you eat home raised eggs all the time. I agree, once you eat a fresh picked egg, you’ll have a hard time going back to store bought eggs. The taste is so wonderful, the yolks are so much brighter, AND to top it off – you know what you are feeding them and that they are FRESH!
The typical laying breed will lay 250-280 eggs a year, starting at about 18 weeks of age. (20 for heavy breeds).
Something to consider is the space per bird confined is 10sq. ft. per heavy breed and 7 sq. ft. per lightweight breed, 2 sq. ft per bantam. Plus roosts. If you are letting them forage or have an outdoor run, you can get by with about half that space per bird.
STEP 3: Get out that trusty pen and paper. (or IPAD..shh.. I won’t tell). By now you may have picked out what breed/s of chickens you’d like. OR at least narrowed down the selection based on purposes. Then figure out what things will be needed.
- A Chicken Coop (if keeping the chicks in the basement, porch, etc you may have some time leeway on this. (Nests, cages, run, roosts, etc.)
- Chicken brooder- these are a bit expense, homemade works great (metal dog crate or a heavy card board box with a heat lamp and red heat lamp bulbs will work)
- Chick Starter
- Chick Feeder/s
- Chick Waterer
- Bedding of some sort
- Extension cord/s (optional)
Now you could get these all when you buy your chicks, but it does help to have it set up first.
Your local feed mill, feed store, or tractor supply store will have these items. Or you can order them online if you purchase your chicks online. Here are a few hatcheries:
There are other hatcheries too. If you work, own, or would like to share one; leave the name in the comments section with a link for others to see as well. Thanks.
STEP 4: Figure out where you are going to purchase your chicks and set up your chick brooder area.
STEP 5: Add your chicks.
In the mean time, GET YOUR OWN EGGS!