Having the ability to raise your own chickens is a sure way to obtain a great protein source and can make for a ton of savings at the grocery store. Whether you are looking to raise chickens for meat or eggs, our chicken raising tips below will help you get started.
Check Ordinances – First things first: Check the rules in your area to make sure you can have chickens where you live. Many populated areas allow urban chicken coops, but some areas and homeowners' associations have laws against having backyard chickens. Be sure to talk to your neighbors about it also, especially if you plan to get roosters, as they are known for being the [often unwanted] alarm clock for the neighborhood. If you are a renter, you should also talk to the property owner about any restrictions he or she may have.
Select Your Chickens – You can choose to buy hens or chicks, or even incubate your own eggs. However, it can be tough to determine the age of adult hens, and their egg supply begins to diminish around two years old. With eggs, accurate determination of the sex of the chicken is impossible. Our choice method is to select day-old chicks from the local market (females are called pullets). Having a variety of types of chickens makes for a colorful variety of eggs – some chickens even lay blue eggs!
Note: If you have decided to purchase adult hens, you can proceed to step 5!
Prepare Your Brooder – It's important to complete this step before bringing your chickens home.
- You will want to be sure that the space is cozy and warm. There are quality brooders available online in a variety of sizes, or you can also prep your own using a cardboard box and heat lamp . Be sure to pick up a thermometer and keep the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) to begin.
- Provide a soft surface using materials you have on hand – straw, hay, grass clippings, pine shavings, cedar shavings and even recycled paper clippings will do the trick.
- Purchase a feeder and waterer that is the appropriate size for small chicks.
- Pick up chick starter feed from your local store, as this is what they will eat for the first several months.
- When you first bring chicks home, dip their beaks in the water; they often need to be shown how to drink.
- Maintain Appropriate Temperature – Chicks like for it to be extra warm – 95 degrees when they are first born. You will want to move your heat lamp gradually farther away every week for the first eight weeks, decreasing the temperature by 5 degrees each week until you reach 65 degrees. The following week, the heat lamp can be removed.
Prepare Your Chicken Coop – You should allow at least 2 feet of living space for each chicken and also ensure the chickens have yard space to roam in. Hens will share a nesting box, so you don’t need to take up too much space by having a box for each hen. There are also nesting box options that are stacked, allowing for more floor space within the coop. Make sure they have feeders stocked with chicken feed from your local store, along with a waterer that will need to be cleaned regularly.
Move the Chickens Outside – At two to four months, you’ll notice that your cute little chicks aren’t so little anymore – it’s time to move them outside when the weather permits.
Allow Free-Range Time – Healthy chickens maintain a balanced diet by ranging in the yard and collecting bugs and seeds. However, it is always a good idea to ensure they are supervised when out of their coop since chickens have many predators. Be sure they are safely in their coop by nightfall.
Supplement Their Diet – This is especially important if your chickens don’t get enough free-range time. Chicken crumbles, grass, healthy food scraps like grains and veggies, yard bugs and corn – all of this is great for your hens! Varied foods make better eggs. Cracked corn is essential to a chicken’s diet in cold winter months to keep its body temperature up.
Get Ready for Eggs! – Placing a fake egg in the nesting box will help your chickens to understand where they need to lay and avoid eggs being scattered. Collect eggs daily and clean them. Family, neighbors and friends will be delighted if you should decide to gift them with eggs! Pick up containers for safe transportation.