Get Real: You’ve Decided to Raise Chickens, Now What?
**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.
Last week Gudrun shared about the Pros and Cons of Having Backyard Chickens. Did it make you want to raise your own backyard chickens?
First, check the local city ordinances to make sure it is legal for you to raise chickens on your property. Unfortunately for me, our city laws do not allow for it. I’ve heard rumors of a group of chicken activists that are working on changing that, so I wait anxiously! Because chickens can be quite loud, a little messy, and yes, smelly, some cities do not allow for this type of urban farming. Please be sure to investigate your city’s laws before jumping into chicken farming!
There are so many different breeds, and different traits to consider. Do you want mild-mannered hens that will be good pets for children? Do you prefer chickens that are more beautiful, or maybe you prefer a specific egg color? Or some that are known for being quieter, or more reliable egg layers? Do your research and figure out which breed is right for you.
How many hens would you like to raise? Gudrun has four hens, and when they are in top production, she gets about 20 eggs in 7 days, as they lay an egg every 26-27 hours. Jill has six hens (barred rock because they are mild-mannered, and good pets for her children), and usually gets about 1 egg per day per hen. Jill lives in the desert, so when it gets too hot her hens’ egg production slows down.
Depending on the age of your chicks, you may need to keep them in a warm garage until they get big enough, and have enough feathers to stay warm outside. You may need a heat lamp if you live in a cooler climate. Hens will not start producing eggs until they are about 6-9 months old, so be prepared to wait if you start from the baby chick stage.
In case you’re curious, Jill purchased her hens at the feed store when they were three months old for $12 each. You may have a local feed store or hardware store that sells chicks, and other items you need for raising chickens. If you’re not sure where to find them, ask around at the farmer’s market or do some Googling and see what you find out.
What will you feed your hens? Be sure to research all the different options available. Do you prefer certified organic feed? Will you feed them your food scraps? Do some Googling to find out what is best for your breed of choice, and for your needs.
Jill says: You will need to build some sort of coop or enclosure. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, just somewhere the chickens can feel safe. I think sometimes people think it needs to be something big or expensive but really a few 2×4′s and chicken wire will work. You can go as fancy or simple as you like. In the coop area you will need a nesting box for them to lay eggs (can be any kind of box area), and since chickens like to sleep at the highest point, you will also need to build a perch. You’ll want the perch (can be as simple as a wooden pole or 2×4) to be the highest point in the coop. Mine is about waist high. Recycle wood to use in the coop. My roost is two old chairs I found in trash pick up in my neighborhood with a 2×4 screwed onto both sides.
Jill also says that raising chickens is not difficult. As long as they have water and food they are content. She loves that her children get the experience of raising chickens, collecting eggs, and caring for the chickens as pets. It is a rewarding feeling to step into her backyard, and between her garden and her chickens, have a full meal for her family from her little urban farm.
Above all, keep it simple. Instead of buying all the gadgets that are available, keep it cost effective. Use things that you already own for a chicken feeder or waterer.
Take a look at this post Jill wrote back in January of 2011 when she began her chicken farming adventure. What a great experience for her precious kiddos.
Will you attempt to farm backyard chickens? Why or why not?
- Explore the world of backyard chickens via the internet. Is it legal in your city or town? Are there any local groups of backyard chicken farmers? Educate yourself!
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