Raising chickens seems like a daunting, time and resource-consuming task, but is it really that complicated? Let us take a quick look at all the factors you should consider before getting chickens!
We compiled all the basic information you need to start raising chickens in your backyard!
Raising Chickens for Beginners
- Chickens, Chicks, or Pullets?
- Types of Breeds
- Number Of Chickens To Start With
- Chicken Coop
- Chicken Run
- Feeding Frequency
- Chicken Smell
- Disease Concerns
- Rules and Regulations
- Egg Production
- Tools Required
- Chicken Math
- Fun facts
1. Chickens, Chicks, or Pullets?
The choice between chicks, chickens, or pullets depends on your preferences, time availability, budget, and the desire for immediate egg production. If you have the time and patience, raising chicks can be a rewarding experience. However, if you're looking for immediate egg production and want to skip the early stages, acquiring juvenile chickens or pullets might be a better option.
Chicks(1 to 15 weeks old):
- Cost: Chicks are typically less expensive compared to pullets or hens.
- Bonding: Raising chicks allows for a closer bond to be formed between the chicken and the owner.
- Time and Patience: Raising chicks requires time and effort. You'll need to provide them with proper care, including warmth, specialized feed, and monitoring their development.
- Delayed Egg Production: Chicks take around 4 to 6 months before they start laying eggs.
Pullets (15 to 22 weeks old):Pros:
- Immediate Egg Production: Pullets are typically between 4 and 6 months old and are close to or already at the point of lay.
- Reduced Effort: Since pullets are mature enough to lay eggs, there is less effort involved in their care.
- Higher Cost: Pullets are generally more expensive than chicks or juvenile chickens because they are closer to the point of lay.
- Limited Bonding: Unlike chicks, pullets may not develop as strong of a bond with their owners if they were not raised from a young age.
Chickens(22+ weeks old):Pros:
- Time-Saving: Chickens are ready to be moved to the coop and lay eggs.
- Earlier Egg Production: Chickens lay eggs almost immediately.
- Higher Cost: Chickens are generally more expensive than chicks.
- Established Habits: If you acquire chickens from another source, they may already have established behaviors or may need some time to adjust to their new environment.
2. Types of Breeds
Gold Laced Wyandotte:
Gold Laced Wyandottes are friendly and docile birds known for their beautiful golden feathering with black lacing and produce around 200 to 220 brown eggs per year.
Active and energetic birds, capable of producing around 280 to 320 white eggs per year. Leghorns require standard chicken care, but they may be more prone to flightiness and are adept at flying. They have a life expectancy of 4 to 8 years.
This crossbreed is often bred for its high egg production or meat quality. Hybrids can lay around 280 to 320 eggs per year, depending on the specific cross.
They are known for their exceptional egg-laying abilities, producing around 250 to 300 brown eggs per year. They have a docile temperament and glossy black feathers and can withstand low temperatures.
A hybrid breed resulting from crossing an Australorp with a White Leghorn can produce around 250 to 300 brown eggs per year.
Also known as Barred Rocks, they are a popular breed known for their hardiness, friendly demeanor, and attractive barred black and white feathers. They lay around 200 to 280 brown eggs per year and can acclimatize to cold temperatures.
A gentle and docile breed with beautiful buff-colored feathers that can lay around 180 to 200 brown eggs per year.
Well known for their distinctive large white earlobes and can lay around 200 to 250 white eggs per year.
Not a specific breed but a mix that carries the blue egg-laying gene. Easter Eggers require standard chicken care, and their health and susceptibility to diseases may vary based on the breeds involved.
They are known for their attractive crests and ability to lay blue or green eggs. They produce around 180 to 200 colored eggs per year.
Rhode Island Red:
This popular breed known for its hardiness, productivity, and friendly nature. They are good layers, producing around 200 to 300 brown eggs per year.
3. Number Of Chickens To Start With
It's generally recommended to start with a small flock of 3 to 5 chickens. This way you can manage them effectively and have a good balance for social interactions.
4. Chicken Coop
Chickens should have a minimum of 4 sqft of space per bird in the coop. The more space they have, the happier and healthier they'll be.
Chickens naturally roost in thick perches or roosting bars in the chicken coop.
The floor needs to be covered with 5 to 6 inches of pine and wood shavings.
As a rule of thumb, you need two nest boxes for every 5 chickens.
5. Chicken Run
The chicken run space is separate from the chicken coop. The chicken run must be 8-10 square feet per bird. The chicken run must have dust baths. It also needs some logs and places for the chickens to fly and access to both sun and shade.
Chicks have a different diet than chickens and pullets. Chickens and pullets eat a quarter pound of feed per day. Chickens are omnivores, eating primarily a combination of commercial chicken feed, grains, and kitchen scraps. You can also supplement their diet with fresh vegetables, fruits, and insects. Remember that there are foods that you shouldn't feed to your chickens: Chicken meat, avocado pits, and shells, chocolate, candy or junk food, lemons, oranges or other citrus fruits, dry uncooked beans, pasta, rice, spoiled food, and nightshade crops like eggplant and tomatoes.
7. Feeding Frequency
Chickens should be fed once or twice a day. The exact amount of feed depends on the size and age of the chickens, so you should follow the recommendations on the feed package.Chickens can have access to feed throughout the day since they will eat intuitively.
8. Chicken Smell
Proper management and cleanliness can help control the smell associated with chickens. Regularly clean their coop, remove droppings, and provide adequate ventilation. Composting the manure can be an effective way to manage odor and create fertilizer for your garden.
9. Disease Concerns
Chickens can carry diseases such as salmonella, but with proper care and hygiene, the risk can be minimized. Practice good biosecurity measures, such as washing hands after handling chickens. A clean, spacious, and well-ventilated coop can prevent chickens from developing mites, molts, and bumblefoot. Chickens can also become egg-bound, where they have trouble releasing an egg, or become broody and hoard a nest box.
10. Rules and Regulations
Remember to check your local regulations and any restrictions regarding raising chickens in your area.
11. Egg Production
The number of eggs a chicken lays per week can vary depending on breed, age, and other factors. On average, a healthy hen will lay about 4 to 6 eggs per week. Keep in mind that egg production may decrease during winter or if they are molting.
12. Tools Required
To keep chickens, you will need some essential tools such as a sturdy chicken coop, nesting boxes for egg-laying, feeders, waterers, bedding material (such as straw, pine or wood shavings), and basic cleaning supplies (rake, shovel, and broom). Additionally, a fence or some form of predator protection is necessary to keep them safe in the chicken run.
13. Chicken Math
There are people who spend thousands on the best technology, resources, and breeds, and then there are chickens raised on a small budget. It all depends on how much time and resources you're willing to invest.
14. Fun FactsChickens live between 6 and 8 years.
You don't need roosters to produce eggs.
Egg production slows down as chickens get older.
Eggs that come straight from the coop don't need to be refrigerated.
Chickens can tolerate high and low temperatures.
Chicken manure makes good compost.
Chickens don't lay much in the winter because they lack light.
One chicken is never enough!