Do you dream of owning a farm? Do you wish you could grow and raise your own healthy, organic food? Do you want the homesteader life but just can’t make that jump yet?
If so, you should look into owning and raising backyard chickens! Backyard chickens are a great option for those that want to high-quality organic food without breaking the bank. They also make great companions and do wonders for your garden. Chickens allow you to take that initial step in becoming self-sufficient without changing your entire lifestyle.
If you’re interested in owning chickens, read below for the beginner’s guide on how to raise chickens!
Do Your Homework
The most important step in raising chickens is making sure you’re ready for the work and time involved with it. First and foremost, you need to make sure that backyard chickens are allowed in your community.
Check out your local regulations regarding chickens. While some urban areas allow backyard chickens, there may be a rule on how many you can have or where they must be kept on your property.
Next, you’ll need to make sure you have the time to take care of chickens. You will need to check on your chickens twice a day every single day of the week. They need food and water, and this cannot be skipped.
That means if you go out of town on vacation, you’ll need to be prepared to hire a chicken sitter. You’ll also need to devote time to cleaning the coop, fixing and repairing the coop, and working on any other projects related to them.
On top of time, you also need to make sure you have money to take care of chickens. The most expensive will be the initial costs in buying the chicks and building or buying a chicken coop. However, you also must plan to buy chicken food for the rest of their lives. Do your research and make sure you’re ready for this type of investment.
Build A Chicken Coop
Once you’ve decided to get chickens, you then must build a chicken coop. A chicken coop is the chicken’s home, and it’s important that it provides them shelter from water and shade from the sun. Wet chickens are more likely to get sick so it’s important to put the coop somewhere on your property where water won’t puddle.
Depending on how many chickens you plan to keep, your chicken coop will vary in size. There should be about 2 to 3 square feet of space for every chicken. If you plan to have 10 chickens, you should build a coop approximately 20 to 30 square feet.
Inside the coop, you will need to make sure there are nests and roosts for your chickens. Nests are private areas for hens to lay their eggs. You should have one nest for every three hens. Roosts are elevated perches for the chicken to sleep. Chickens need approximately 10 inches each for their roost, and it needs to be at least 2 feet above the ground.
In addition to the coop, you also need an outside chicken run. Chickens need to spend time outside every single day. You should build a fence that is at least 4 feet high to protest them from predators if you plan to keep them contained while outside.
If you do not want to build a chicken coop, you can also purchase one online or at a local pet supply store. They can vary in price but typically start at about $300.
Get Your Chicks
Once everything at home is ready for the chickens, it’s time for you to pick out your chicks! There are plenty of different options and breeds depending on your needs.
If you’re getting a backyard chicken mainly for eggs, you should look into finding an egg-laying breed. While all hens produce eggs, some breeds produce more. This includes White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and the Golden Comets.
If you’re looking into raising chickens for meat, you should check out meat breeds. These include Cornish, Australorp, and Orpington breeds. If you want a dual-purpose bird — one that produces eggs and is plump –—you should find out about hybrid chickens. These include the Black Sex Link and the Red Sex Link.
Once you’ve determined which type of chickens you want, you can finally buy your chicks. There are numerous places that you can buy them — from a local farm supply store to a local farmer. You can read about different buying options in this post. You can also even order chicks online and have them shipped.
Find out all the supplies you will need for you baby chicks here.
Once you have your chicks at home, they can’t quite go in the chicken coop yet. You need to provide them a safe and warm place until they’re old enough to move into the coop. The easiest option is to place them in a cardboard brooding box. Place chicken wire on the top of the box and then place a heating lamp on top of that.
In addition to warmth, you chicks will also need food and water. Baby chicks will need special starter food to ensure they’re developing until about 8 weeks.
How To Raise Chickens
Once your baby chicks are 8 weeks old, they’ll finally be ready to move to the chicken coop. Hopefully, you already built and set up your chicken coop, so it’ll be an easy transition.
In order to successfully raise these chickens for the next 10-15 years, you need to make sure they have food, water, and a clean environment. Chickens need a balanced diet so it’s important that you’re feeding them well. Check out this guide on chicken feed to make sure you’re giving your chickens exactly what they need.
You also need to make sure your chickens have water. Each chicken drinks approximately 1 to 2 cups a day. It’s important to have waterers set up inside the coop. You must also clean your waterers at least once a week to keep a hygienic environment for your chickens.
In addition to food and water, you need to check on your chickens at least twice a day. In the morning, you need to let them out of the coop into their chicken run. They need the space to run around as well as sun exposure. This is also a good time to check the nests for eggs.
In the evenings, you need to lock them back inside their chicken coop for the night to protect them from predators. Even in urban areas, you need to be cautious of other animals — including dogs — that can break into your yard and attack your chickens.
You will also need to make sure you keep your chicken coop clean. Many do basic cleanings once every 1-2 weeks and a deep clean twice a year. This is important to keep your chickens safe from disease.
- Step Aside, Old MacDonald: A Beginner’s Guide on How to Raise Chickens
- Complete Chicken Feed Guide
- 15 Things To know Before You Get Chickens
- 11 Reasons To Raise Backyard Chickens
- How Often Should You Collect Eggs?
Go Get Yourself Some Chicks
Now that you know everything there is to know on how to raise chickens, it’s time to start building your chicken coop! Backyard chickens can be great companions for your family while also providing your family with healthy and organic eggs. While they do require time and effort, they’re easy to take care and have so many benefits.
If you’re interested in learning more about raising chickens or the homestead life, please check out my blog here.