Tips for Raising Chickens: Everything You Need to Know
Are you thinking about getting chickens for your backyard? If so, you’re in for a lot of fun! Chickens are interesting creatures and can provide you with fresh eggs every day. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about keeping chickens, from setting up their home to keeping them healthy and happy. So whether you’re a first-time chicken owner or just looking for some tips for raising chickens, read on for all the information you need!
Is raising backyard chickens worth it?
If you aren’t sure about the benefits of raising chickens but are interested in a steady supply of eggs, the idea of raising chickens is something you should look into. Raising chickens is a rewarding experience. Chickens are easy to care for, they provide eggs and meat, and the right breeds can be great pets too. However, some people may find that chickens are not worth the investment.
The financial costs of buying a coop, equipment, feed, and veterinary care can be prohibitive for some people. The feed bill alone might be $40 per month for each chicken. Granted, most of these are start-up costs and one-time expenses.
If you are looking to raise chickens primarily for eggs, it might be worth considering getting a few hens and using an incubator or buying fertilized eggs from a local farmer. These days, you can buy a small incubator for about $100 and it will pay for itself in eggs after just a few months.
If you are looking at organic meat and eggs, this can be expensive. To save money, you should consider raising your own chickens. It is easy to do and you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself.
If you have the space and desire to raise backyard chickens, there is no reason why it should not be worth your time. It can be a great experience for everyone in the family!
Check Local Regulations
Some states and cities have restrictions on how many chickens can be kept. Some areas may require a permit, others may not allow roosters, or specify the number of hens that are allowed.
It is best to check out your specific local ordinances before you start investing in setting up your own backyard flock.
Choose the chicken breed
When choosing chicken breeds, there are many different options to choose from. However, the most popular breed is probably the Rhode Island Red because it produces a lot of eggs and meat per chicken.
If you are just planning to raise chickens for eggs, it is best to choose a breed that is known as being good layers. The most popular breeds include Rhode Island Red, Sussex, Plymouth Rock, and Leghorn. All these breeds have been bred specifically for their egg-laying abilities so they are a good choice if you are just starting out.
If you are looking for a chicken that is also good for meat, the Cornish Cross is a popular breed. These chickens grow very large and can provide about six pounds of meat each.
If you are interested in keeping pet chickens, there are many breeds to choose from including Bantam and Silkies. These smaller chickens are known to be very friendly and make great pets for children or adults who want an unusual pet!
You need to do a little research here into what breed would be best for you and what you are looking for out of your backyard flock.
How many chickens should you start with?
If you are new to raising chickens, it is a good idea to start out with just one or two. This will allow you time to learn about their behaviors and how they interact with each other.
The number of chickens that you need depends on what you want from them. If you want fresh eggs every day, you will need at least two chickens. If you want to butcher them for meat, you will need at least four or five.
Remember that the more chickens you have, the more feed they will consume. And if your hens are not productive layers, you will end up with a lot of eggs that go to waste.
Start with Chicks Instead of Incubating Eggs
The average chicken egg takes 21 days to hatch. If you want to save time, and the expense of an incubator, start with chicks instead of eggs. You will be harvesting those eggs before you know it!
Raising Chickens: The Basics
Let us get down to some of the basics that you need to consider for your birds. What things do chickens need?
Chickens need food and water. They can eat just about anything, but you will want to make sure that they are getting a balanced diet. You should feed them vegetables, fruit, grain, and other things like mealworms or crickets (which we will get into later).
What can I feed my backyard chickens?
Chickens are omnivores, so they’ll eat just about anything. There are lots of things that chickens will eat. They love fresh greens and treats like bread (whole grain), cheese, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal. They also love insects, so feeding them mealworms or crickets is a great way to give them a nutritional boost.
Here’s a list of some tasty foods you can feed your chickens:
Feed and Oyster shells are the obvious places to start. Chickens love bugs too – everything from beetles to ants. General weeds might surprise you – from dandelions to nettle. Then come the kitchen scraps! Everything from popped popcorn (no salt or butter) to cooked pasta, rice, and even eggs.
Then comes the items from the garden – pretty much any fruit or vegetable, just remove the pits or seeds from things like apples.
Chickens also love corn on the cob. Remove the silk from it first and make sure you feed your chickens a variety of treats, so they don’t get bored with their food. Try to feed them things that are high in protein or calcium to help keep their feathers and eggshells healthy.
Freeze Fruits and Vegetables In a Bundt Pan or Jello Mold
For a fun activity and tasty treat, freeze fruits and vegetables in a bundt pan or jello mold. This really helps them stay a little cooler on those hot summer days and your chickens will love them! Another great idea is to Freeze Corn in Ice Cube Trays for Snacks.
Feed Chickens Their Egg Shells to Help Them Produce More
If you are looking at raising chickens to lay eggs, this will help you increase your egg production with your layers. Eggshells have calcium and protein, both help your birds. Make sure the shells are dry and grind them up to add to their feed.
Waterer and Feeder
You will need to get a feeder and waterer for your chickens. These are typically made of plastic or metal, depending on the model you purchase. Depending on how many hens you have, this could be anything from small pots with lids (for just one chicken), up to larger trough-like containers which can hold several days’ worth of feed.
You might want to Install a feeder
There is no need to get an expensive item here, you can easily make them. We found this great article with three different ways to Create an Easy Feeder System. Having a chicken feeder will help with the cleanliness of your coop, it keeps the food off the ground which means fewer bugs and insects will be attracted to your chicken’s food.
You can also use a feeder to separate the chickens that are not getting along, this will help keep them from fighting over food and possibly hurting each other.
What is a good starter feed?
The best starter feeds for your chickens will depend on the age of your chicks. There are different types of feed available, with varying levels of protein and nutrients that are suitable for a specific age range.
You might also want to consider adding a probiotic to your chickens’ diet. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and support digestion and immunity. They come in both liquid and powder form, and you just add them to the feed.
I would suggest you look at chicken feed at your local feed store if you are new chicken owners and trying to figure out what is best for your backyard coop.
Install a waterer
Chickens need water to survive, so make sure you have installed a water dispenser in their coop. These are inexpensive and easy to install yourself if you don’t want to buy one already made for chickens. You can either use an automatic waterer or a manual one where they have to pull a lever or push down on a float valve in order to get water out.
It is important that the water dispenser is not too close to their feed dish so they don’t contaminate it with any bacteria from their feet when they drink, which could make them sick. The best way around this problem is by using an automatic waterer.
You can also use an old bucket with holes in it that is filled with water, but this will require more work and maintenance on your part as you will have to clean the container regularly. If you do decide to go this route, make sure there are no sharp edges on anything where birds may get cut or hurt themselves while drinking.
Chickens will not drink dirty water, so it is important to keep their water source clean. Chickens should be able to drink without standing in clean water so a waterer will come in handy for many reasons. You need to make sure it is large enough to accommodate all the chicken’s needs, and it should allow you to be a little hands-off on the constant supervision of the water supply.
Provide your hens with fresh water every day. They will drink about one cup for each chicken per day, so keep that in mind when deciding on the size of your waterer.
We just suggest that you keep the food and water away from the area where the chicken waste seems to accumulate.
A Place to Sleep
Chickens need a place to live or coop as it is commonly known. This can be anything from an old shed that has been converted into one by adding some roosts and nesting boxes, or something more elaborate like a chicken tractor that moves around with the chickens inside so they can have a fresh patch of grass to eat every day.
Chickens need a place to get out of the sun, wind, and rain. If you are providing a coop for them, make sure it is big enough for them to all fit inside and has some sort of roof to protect them from the elements. You can also provide an umbrella or shade cloth to put over the coop during extreme weather conditions.
Check out our articles on chicken coops here: The Complete Guide To Your Next Chicken Coop.
A coop does not need to be large but should provide the chickens with enough room to move around and stand up comfortably. It is also important that it has some ventilation as chickens produce a lot of ammonia from their droppings which can cause respiratory problems if it is not allowed to dissipate into the air.
Chickens will not sleep outside, they need to be in a coop where they feel safe and protected from predators such as raccoons or hawks. A chicken needs at least two square feet of space per pound of bodyweight inside its coop when roosting (or sleeping). If you have more than six chickens you will need more than one coop.
There are many ways to look at building a chicken coop or roost. I have even seen a repurposed dog house! There are tons of free plans out there, just keep the size of your flock in mind and what you are going to use your birds for.
You will need a larger space if you have to include nesting boxes for egg-laying, etc. This is where your local Dollar Tree can be your best friend – lots of bargain-priced plastic bins that you can use.
Chickens like to lay their eggs in a dark, secluded spot where they feel safe. This is why it is important to provide your hens with nesting boxes inside the coop. You can make them out of old crates or barrels, or buy them ready-made from any pet store.
You need to have a minimum of two nesting boxes per hen in order for them all to lay their eggs comfortably without having fights over who gets which one first! The best way to tell if they are happy with the setup is by observing how much time they spend in there and whether or not there are any fights over who gets which one.
The nesting boxes should be made of wood or plastic so that they can easily be cleaned out and disinfected after each use (the eggs will not stick to these materials).
Who knew that it was important to provide an area for your birds to do this? I had no idea until I started with chickens! I have seen pictures of ducks doing this, but never chickens. Dust baths are pretty darned important to keeping them clean and parasite free.
The dust keeps their feathers clean and absorbs excess moisture and oil buried in their skin. Think of it like the dry shampoo we use for ourselves. That fine coating also blocks the breathing pores of the parasites that may be attached to a chicken’s skin, causing them to suffocate.
You can make a dust bath area with garden soil or even sand, just make sure to blend a little permethrin dusting powder into it to help with that potential parasite control. This will help you have healthy birds.
So, let us face it. You will have chicken poop to deal with. It is a natural byproduct of keeping chickens. However, there are ways to deal with it that don’t involve you getting down on your hands and knees (or worse) to clean it up.
One way is to use the deep litter method where you just let the manure accumulate until it gets an inch or two thick, then remove it all in one go. This needs to be done about every four months or so, just depends on how many chickens you have and how much poop they make.
There is also the option to compost it. You will need a bin, some brown organic material like leaves or straw, and some water. The composting process will take about two months.
Whichever way you choose, composting your chicken manure is the best way to use it as a natural fertilizer for your garden. It also helps to reduce the smell that comes along with having chickens!
Chicken manure makes an excellent fertilizer for your garden! Not only does it contain high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – the three main ingredients in most commercial fertilizers – but it also has a low pH that helps to acidify the soil. This is great news if you are trying to grow vegetables like tomatoes or blueberries which prefer acidic soils.
What’s even better is that you can use the manure in your compost pile and then spread it around as needed throughout the season without needing to worry about burning anything up with too much nitrogen at once because most of the nutrients will have been released during decomposition prior to application time anyway!
The first egg from a pullet (a young hen that has not yet started laying) is usually quite small, but by late summer or early fall, she should be producing large eggs with dark yellow yolks. Some hens never get around to laying those large eggs, but they all produce at least some eggs that are larger than the store-bought variety.
The color of the eggshell is determined by the breed of chicken and can range from white to shades of brown, blue, or green. Chickens that are allowed to roam free outdoors will lay eggs with darker shells than those kept indoors where sunlight does not reach them.
Just be aware that the egg color has nothing to do with taste or nutrition, and everything to do with genetics! Some people think brown eggs are better than white ones because they have more flavor but this is simply not true!
The chicken feed you give your birds will determine the yolk’s color. Feed that is high in protein will produce a darker yolk, while feed that is low in protein will result in a lighter yolk.
The number one problem for any chicken is a dirty environment. That includes the coop, run, and even the dust bath area. If a chicken gets stuck in its own poop it can get pretty nasty and cause an infection or worse.
Keeping their environment clean is a big part of keeping your chickens healthy. This means cleaning the coop and chicken run at least once a week (more often if it is really dirty) and keeping the dust bath area clean as well.
You can use a hose, brooms, shovels, or even a leaf blower to clean up your chicken yard – just make sure you do it on a regular basis!
Be Ready to Doctor Your Chickens
Chickens can get sick just like any other animal. They are susceptible to several diseases and parasites, both internal and external, which can be fatal if left untreated or improperly treated with over-the-counter medications from your local pet store (or even worse – something you found on the internet).
Some of these include coccidiosis (an intestinal disease caused by a parasite), Newcastle disease (a respiratory virus that causes severe symptoms such as coughing and sneezing), salmonella poisoning from eating raw eggs, or meat contaminated with this bacteria.
It could get expensive if you find yourself running to your local veterinarian for every little thing – so do your homework and create your own first aid section for your birds. What books might you need, what basic medical supplies, and what supplements all depend on what breed of bird you pick and what your flock is being used for.
Get our FREE Flock Medial Log
Chickens get sick. It’s a fact of life, but you can do some things to help prevent illness and know what to do when your chickens are ill. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced chicken keeper, it’s important to know what signs of illness mean and how to treat them.
The first thing to do when your chickens get sick is to quarantine them from the others. This is important because if they have a contagious illness, it can spread quickly and kill all of them! It’s best not to wait until you notice symptoms before taking measures against disease in your flock. Separate any bird that shows signs for at least two weeks in order to see if they get better on their own or need medical treatment.
The second thing you want to do is change the bedding and clean out the coop before putting any new chickens into it. A diseased bird can contaminate an entire flock by just living there for a few days, so make sure that everything has been properly disinfected.
Network with Others
One of the best tips we can give you is to connect with other like-minded people! Check your local library for clubs or find backyard chicken groups on Facebook. You might connect with fairly local people and be able to do a group buy-in on baby chicks, or qualify for a bulk discount on feed. They would also have a better idea of what you are dealing with for local weather and health issues for your birds.
A quick search can help you identify groups and personally, I would join all you find until you figure out which particular groups are the most helpful for you. Before you know it, you will be one of the local poultry experts who knows the secrets to a healthy flock.