People seem to want to become more self-sufficient these days and they want to become healthier. Raising chickens seems to be a way to help people get both. There are some things to know before you start so you can decide if you can handle it.
Planning ahead is important. You can’t just go buy a few live chickens and bring them home. You have to prepare a place for them to live. You have to keep them safe from predators and feed them everyday.
Always get your supplies before you bring your chickens home. If you are putting the chickens in your backyard, here are a few supplies you are going to need to get started:
You have to have some place for the chickens to call home. They must have a place to lay eggs, get out of the weather and to roost at night. If you have baby chicks, they are going to need a heat source for a little while so you will have to house them in a different spot.
The hardest part about keeping chickens is keeping the predators away. Dogs are infamous for getting into chicken pens. Possums and raccoons may even tunnel their way under the chicken wire to get to the chickens. Weasels and chicken hawks will always try to get to them, too.
Instead of using chicken wire, use hardware cloth instead. Although more expensive, it’s harder for animals to get through. To keep predators from burrowing under the coop, bury the hardware cloth at least one foot around the entire perimeter of the coop.
Building a solid floor in the coop will deter many predators. If you have outdoor cats, build the chicken coop at least a foot off the ground so the cats can get under there to eliminate any rodents. You might also try an electric wire close to the ground on the bottom of the coop.
- Nesting boxes
- Chicken feed
- Storage containers for the feed
You can visit your local feed store and compare prices. The type of food you get depends on the chicken’s age. You will use different feed for baby chicks. It’s important to try to get organic food for the most delicious eggs.
One of the best things about keeping chickens is going out each morning and gathering the eggs. Until you’ve eaten a fresh egg, you won’t know what you’re missing. The yolks from a fresh egg have a much richer flavor.
Helpful Tips for Keeping Chickens
A chicken will usually lay only one egg each day. So a dozen chickens will yield a dozen eggs per week.
Did you know that chickens have to use small pebbles or crushed stones so they are able to grind up their food? They don’t have teeth so you must throw some grit into their pen. They will collect it and it will go to their gizzards to break down the food.
If you want to know what color eggs a chicken will lay, just look at the skin behind their ears. A hen with brown ears will lay brown eggs and one with white ears will lay white eggs.
If you have only a small area to raise chickens in, you should get a movable coop. You will need at least 1 1/2 square feet for each chicken. Five chickens would need a minimum of seven and a half square feet.
Chickens are a social animal and do better in groups. Don’t get less than three.
Chickens love searching for bugs in the grass, so you can move the coop around your yard otherwise, you will have a bare patch where they peck.
For the most part, chickens can be around younger children but you have to make sure your chickens always have enough to eat. If not, they could become aggressive and try to peck at a child.
One chicken will eat about five pounds of feed each month plus grass and bugs. You could add table scraps but don’t use processed foods and unhealthy snacks. You can add fish to their food which will help with omega 3s. Use an oyster shell supplement to add extra calcium for thicker eggs shells.
You can store eggs for up to 90 days at a temperature of 44 degrees. Eggs have a natural coating, so eggs don’t need washed.
If you see any blood spots in an egg after cracking, be sure to throw it out.
Because chickens like to sleep high on a roost, add a dowel or branch inside the coop.
Chickens lose their feather two times a year. This is called molting. They don’t lay eggs during this period either.
Start Raising Your Own Backyard Chickens
Chickens need attention each and every day. You will need to clean the coop regularly as they can be very dirty animals. If the taste of fresh eggs is worth it to you, go ahead and try raising chickens. It will take some work but may be well worth it to you.