A beginner’s guide to raising chickens
It may be hard to believe, but it’s only been in the last few years that raising chickens has become popular. There’s a lot of ways to get started, regardless if you have a farm or want to raise backyard chickens.
And with so many new people getting into poultry, there are inevitably a lot of questions about how to get started. After all, raising chickens is not the same as owning a goldfish or hamster.
Chickens need to be treated differently and cared for in a way that ensures they live long and healthy lives. Given this, you’re probably wondering: How do I get started with raising chickens?
Well, we have the answers you’re looking for. We’ve put together this simple guide to help you get started and make sure that your chickens live a long and good life.
Why should you consider raising chickens?
When I hear raising chickens I think of them as farm animals, do I really have enough room for raising backyard chickens? You got to get into the mood of seeing this as your backyard chicken adventure!
You may not have a farm, but that doesn’t mean you can’t raise backyard chickens. In fact, there are many benefits to raising your own private flock.
For one thing, it’s generally better for the environment. Just think of how much waste comes from producing eggs in factory farms as opposed to small coops and backyards. You don’t have to worry about if they were treated well or not. Oh, and what’s better than farm fresh eggs for breakfast?
Plus there are so many other benefits to raising your own chickens. They can provide you with fertilizer, entertainment, and meat. It may take time before you start enjoying the goodness of their eggs, but it’s definitely worth the wait. Raising chickens is really fun, especially when you get to know their personalities.
Things to consider before getting Chickens
There are a few things you need to consider before getting chickens. First, you need to make sure you have enough space for them.
Chickens need at least 10 square feet each, and that’s only if they’re going to be free-range chickens. If you’re going to keep them in a coop, then they’ll need even more space.
Another thing to consider is your climate. Chickens can’t handle cold weather very well, so you’ll need to make sure they have a warm place to sleep at night. And finally, you need to think about whether you’re going to be able to take care of them.
Chickens need fresh food and fresh water every day, and they also need to be cleaned regularly. If you’re not able to do this, then raising chickens may not be for you.
Pick your breed and buy your chicks
Before you get started with raising chickens, it’s a good idea to pick the breed that you’re going to have. This is important because different breeds have certain needs when they grow up.
Some of them don’t need a lot of extra care, while others need a little more attention. And of course, you’ll need to think about whether they’re going to get along with your existing pets.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not you’re going to be buying chickens or raising chicks. You’ll either need an incubator or some fertile eggs if you plan on having baby chicks.
The top 5 breeds of laying chicken breeds
- Leghorn. These chickens are surprisingly small, even though they’re one of the best egg-layers around. They lay around 260 eggs a year and usually don’t need much extra care.
- Wyandottes. These birds were first bred in America and they come in several different varieties. They can be pretty large, some as big as 10 pounds. They usually lay around 260 eggs a year.
- Rhode Island Red. These birds were first bred in Rhode Island and their hens are known to be one of the best egg-layers out there. They lay about 290 eggs a year, which is pretty impressive for their size.
- Plymouth Rock. These birds were actually first bred in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They can be pretty big, growing up to 10 pounds. But they’re also really calm and friendly animals.
- Australorps. These are some of the biggest chickens you can raise at around 9 pounds each. They might not be the best egg-layers out there with only about 280 eggs per year, but
What should I look out for when picking out my chickens?
All birds should have clear, bright eyes. If you notice any crustiness or a wonky shape, then something’s wrong. Also look for discoloured combs and wattles. They shouldn’t have any signs of bruising, either.
When you’re picking out your bird, make sure to pick them up. You should be able to feel whether they have heavy bones or not. They should feel like they weigh about as much as a can of beans. You shouldn’t be able to easily feel their ribs and it’s also important that they’re not too fat or skinny.
Chickens can come in lots of different colours, but you should avoid any with starkly contrasting patches. Also try to pick chickens that don’t have any bald spots.
How to build a Chicken Coop
If you’re going to have chickens, then you need a place for them to sleep at night. Not only will this keep your birds safe but it’ll also prevent other animals from bothering them. Before you build any chicken coops, though, make sure to have some warm bedding ready so the birds can actually stay warm at night.
First, decide where you want your coop to be. You’ll need a flat spot for it, preferably with full sun exposure. Then, use a shovel to dig out the base of the structure and make sure that the ground is level all around.
Next, you should frame up the coop using 2x4s and end nails. Make sure that all corners are square and that the roofing is flush with the walls.
Before you add anything else, you should line your coop with 2x4s on the inside to keep everything in place. Then add some pine shavings for bedding and your birds will be comfortable when they sleep at night.
You can make a door for the coop using 1x3s and hinges so you can go inside. And don’t forget to add some hardware cloth under an overhang if rodents are a problem where you live. You should also install a wire mesh along the bottom edge of your coop’s walls to keep snakes away from your birds.
The basic shelter requirement
Your chickens need a roof and four walls. However, there are many ways to customize and improve your coop based on your needs. For example, if you live in a cold climate, you might want to add insulation to the roof and walls of your coop.
You might need a heat lamp in the coop as well. And if you’re dealing with pests like raccoons or skunks, then you’ll definitely want to add a wire mesh around the entire coop.
For ventilation, you can install a small window in the side of your coop or even put up a fan. Just make sure that there’s always a way for fresh air to circulate inside.
Allow for enough space
Your chickens need plenty of space to move around and scratch in. They should also have a roosting bar to sleep on at night.
The general rule of thumb is that your coop should be at least 8 square feet per bird. So, if you have 4 birds, then your coop should be 32 square feet.
Control the temperature of your chicken coop
If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to take steps to make sure your chickens are warm enough during the winter. One way to do this is to install a heat lamp in the coop.
You can also add insulation to the roof and walls of the coop. And if you have a lot of snow, then you might want to clear a path so your chickens can get to their food and water.
In hot weather, you’ll need to take steps to keep your chickens cool. One way to do this is to install a fan in the coop. You can also add awnings or shades over the windows and doors of the coop.
And make sure to keep a plentiful supply of fresh water available to your chickens at all times.
Chickens like to lay their eggs in privacy, so it’s a good idea to provide them a nesting box. You can make your own nesting boxes out of scrap lumber or buy them pre-made.
Just make sure that they’re big enough for your chickens to comfortably get in and out of.
Another thing that chickens like is roosting bars. These are horizontal crossbars on which your chickens will sleep at night. Just make sure the roosts are high enough off the ground and sturdy enough to hold your weight, or they’ll break.
You should line the coop floor with bedding material before you let your birds in for the night. This will make sure that they are warm and comfortable when they go to sleep.
And don’t forget to clean out the coop every couple of months so your birds always have a fresh, clean place to stay.
Outside space for roaming/pen
If you have enough room, it’s a good idea to provide your chickens with some outside space to roam around in. This can be as simple as a fenced-in area or even just a large patch of grass.
Just make sure that there are no predators lurking around who might want to snatch your chickens up which brings us to the next section below.
Keep your chickens safe!
Chickens are prey to many different animals, so you must take steps to protect them. This could be in the form of an electric fence around their outside pen or securing their coop at night with a lock.
You should also make sure that any trees in your chicken’s area don’t have low-hanging limbs which birds of prey could perch on to snatch up your chickens.
Tips for keeping a happy Chicken Coop
By following these simple tips, you’ll have a happy and healthy coop which will keep your chickens safe from predators and well as comfortable in their home.
The best way to ensure a happy and healthy chicken coop is to provide your chickens with plenty of space to roam around, a place to sleep, and plenty of fresh food and water.
You should also make sure that the coop is well-ventilated and that the temperature is controlled in both hot and cold weather.
Decide on feeding and ranging
Chickens need a place to range where they can scratch and peck for food. If you have the space, it’s best to provide them with both an outdoor ranging area as well as an indoor feeding area. You could also consider getting an automatic chicken feeder, it’ll save you time!
If you have a small backyard, however, it’s okay to just provide them with an outdoor ranging area.
How to raise chickens: flock size, spacing, and starting costs
When it comes to raising chickens, there are a few things you’ll need to take into consideration before getting started. One of the most important is the size of your flock. This will determine how much space you’ll need for their coop as well as how much food and water you’ll need to provide them.
How many chickens will I need to get started?
For the first year, you’ll need to plan on getting at least three chickens. You’ll need two hens and one rooster so you can produce fertilized eggs for hatching.
How far apart should I space my coop?
Your coop should be spaced about 5-7 feet from your neighbors’ coop if possible. Chickens can spread diseases and parasites, so it’s important that you try to maintain a good distance from your neighbors.
What should I start off with in terms of starting costs?
Chickens need a lot of space and food when they’re growing up in order to stay healthy. If you’re raising meat chickens, then they’ll need even more room to grow.
If you plan on raising chickens for eggs, then the only thing you’ll really need is a place for them to lay their eggs and some food. If you don’t want to buy an expensive laying box, then you can simply provide your hens with a cardboard box lined with hay or straw instead.
How much space will my chickens need?
Your chickens will need at least 4 square feet of space each inside the coop and an additional 8-10 square feet of outdoor space per chicken. So, if you have a flock of 10 chickens, you’ll need a coop that’s at least 40 square feet and an outdoor area that’s at least 80 square feet.
What are the cost involved with keeping chickens?
Chickens are generally inexpensive pets to keep. The biggest initial cost will be purchasing the chickens themselves (if you don’t want to hatch them yourself), feed, and bedding for their coop.
The average cost of chickens ranges from $2-$5 per bird, and you can expect to pay around $10-15 per month for feed. Chicken bedding can be purchased for around $10 per bag.
So, if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get started in backyard farming, chickens are a great option!
Raising baby chicks
If you’re just starting out in chicken raising, one of the best things you can do is start off by hatching your own chicks. This is a fun project that can be done with children and it teaches them about the life cycle of a chicken. So, what do I need to hatch my own chicks?
First, you’ll need an incubator. This can be purchased for around $60-70. You’ll also need a set of chicken eggs to hatch and you can purchase these for around $2 per dozen.
How do I hatch my own chicks?
Once you have your incubator and eggs, it’s time to get started! Here are the steps to hatching your own chicks:
- Set up your incubator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Place a layer of dampened paper towels in the bottom of the incubator.
- Place the eggs in the incubator, making sure that they’re not touching each other.
- Close the incubator and turn it on.
- 5. Make sure to keep the incubator at a consistent temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wait 21 days and then open the incubator to see if your chicks have hatched!
If all goes well, you should have a batch of healthy baby chicks!
Move your chickens into their coop and wait for eggs!
Now that you’ve picked your chicken breed and bought your chickens and got your chicken coop, it’s ready to move your chickens in!
You’ll need to wait until your chickens are around 8-12 weeks old before they start laying eggs. Make sure your coop is secure before moving them in, and also make sure it’s comfortable for them with insulation, nesting boxes, food and water dishes, perches, etc.
Once you bring the chickens home, put them in their coop and give them some time to get used to their new surroundings. Within a few weeks, you should start seeing eggs coming out of your coop! Congratulations, you are now a chicken farmer!
Collecting, cleaning, and storing chicken eggs
Once your hens start laying, you’ll need to collect their eggs every morning. Use a container like this one for collecting the eggs and make sure that it’s clean before you use it each day.
To be on the safe side, wash the eggs in water with vinegar or an antibacterial soap before storing them. Eggs can get dirty when they’re being stored in the nests, so either store them in your fridge or wash them before doing so.
To clean your eggs, simply fill a container with water and add two tablespoons of vinegar or antibacterial soap. Swirl this around to make sure every part of the egg is cleaned off. Then, rinse the eggs thoroughly under running water.
Make sure your eggs are completely dry before you store them in the fridge, which should be at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
When to collect eggs?
It’s recommended that you collect eggs at least twice per day. This ensures that your chickens are laying enough eggs for you to keep up with, but it also prevents the eggs from sitting out too long which can cause them to spoil.
The first rule of thumb is to take any egg that has a crack in it or smells bad and discard it. Eggs that are dirty, stained, or have a spotty appearance should also be discarded.
The best way to tell if an egg is fresh is to spin it on its end. If the egg wobbles, it’s not fresh and should not be eaten. If the egg stands up straight, it’s fresh.
How often do chickens lay eggs?
A good rule of thumb is approximately five eggs per chicken, per week. This will vary depending on the breed and age of your chickens. Larger breeds like to Buff Orpingtons tend to lay more than smaller breeds like Silkies.
Also, if you give your chickens treats or feed them kitchen scraps, this can decrease the number of eggs they lay. On the other hand, if your chickens have plenty of room to roam and plenty of food to eat, they will likely lay more eggs.
Why are my chickens eating eggs?!
When you first start raising chickens, one of the most common problems people face is their chickens eating eggs. This behavior can be rooted in a few different things.
First, if your coop doesn’t have enough room for all of your chickens to sleep inside at night, then they might feel that it’s necessary to take an egg or two to eat in order to survive.
Second, hens are omnivores, meaning they will eat both plants and animals to get their nutrients. If you’re giving your chickens scraps of food that are high in protein like meat or fish, then they might think that eggs are an acceptable meal too.
Third, if your chickens aren’t well fed, they might start to eat eggs simply because they’re hungry.
Lastly, you should know that chickens will eat the shells of eggs too, not just the insides. They sometimes do this if their calcium levels are low or if they want something crunchy to eat.
Hatching Chicken Eggs
If you have a rooster, then your hens might try to create their own eggs. Hens are only able to lay one egg per day at most, but they can actually produce multiple fertilized eggs all on their own by laying an egg and getting some sperm from the rooster involved.
This is known as “going broody” and if your hen does this, you’ll need to take the eggs away so she doesn’t try to hatch them. Hatching chicken eggs is a lot of work and it’s not always successful, so unless you’re prepared for that kind of commitment, you’ll want to remove the eggs immediately.
If you do want to hatch your own eggs, you can buy an incubator or set up a broody coop to help increase your chances of success.
What to do when your Chickens stop laying eggs
If your chickens suddenly stop laying eggs, there are a few things you can do to try and get them started again.
First, make sure your chickens are getting enough food and water. If they’re not getting the nutrition they need, then their egg production might decrease.
Second, make sure your coop is clean and dry. A wet, muddy coop can lead to infections which decrease the number of eggs your chickens lay.
Finally, check for signs of illness or disease. Some common illnesses are Marek’s Disease, Newcastle Disease, infectious bronchitis, and egg drop syndrome. If you notice changes in behavior or decreased laying from your chickens, take them to the veterinarian right away.
5 Common Chicken Health Problems
Just like with any other pet, chickens can get sick and require treatment. Here are five of the most common chicken health problems:
- Marek’s Disease. A viral disease that affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis or death.
- Newcastle Disease. A highly contagious respiratory disease that can kill chickens within 48 hours.
- Infectious Bronchitis. A virus that causes respiratory problems and can lead to death.
- Egg Drop Syndrome. A condition that leads to eggs that are soft, misshapen, or have no yolk.
- Salmonella. A bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps in humans who come into contact with it.
Getting your Chickens check for disease
If you want to make sure that your chickens are healthy, then you should have them checked by a veterinarian at least once per year. You can also take the opportunity to talk openly about what has been happening with your chickens so they can catch any potential problems early on.
Many veterinarians offer chicken-specific services, so be sure to ask around in your area. You might also want to join a chicken owner’s forum online or check out some chicken raising books from your local library to get more information on how to keep your chickens healthy.
Raising chickens can be a difficult process, but it doesn’t have to be. Chickens need both plants and animals to get their nutrients. If you’re giving your chickens scraps of food that are high in protein like meat or fish, then they might think eggs are an acceptable meal too. Third, if your chickens aren’t well fed, they might start eating eggs simply because they’re hungry.
Lastly, you should know that chickens will eat the shells of eggs too not just the insides – this is normal behavior for them when their calcium levels are low or if they want something crunchy to eat! Hatching chicken egg themselves isn’t always successful so unless you’re prepared for that kind of commitment take away all fertilized eggs as soon as the hen goes broody.
If you do want to hatch your own eggs, you can buy an incubator or set up a broody coop to help increase your chances of success.
If your chickens suddenly stop laying eggs, there are a few things you can do to try and get them started again: first make sure your chickens are getting enough food and water, if they’re not getting the nutrition they need then their egg production might decrease; secondly make sure your coop is clean and dry, a wet, muddy coop can lead to infections which decrease the number of eggs your chickens lay; and finally check for signs of illness or disease.
FAQ on getting started with raising chickens
It’s best for beginners to start with 3-5 chickens, but no more than 5.
You’ll need a coop, some feed, water containers, and chicken wire to start.
It’ll cost you around $300 to start.
Most hens will give you their first egg anywhere from 16-20 weeks, with 18 being the average.
You’ll need to feed and water your chickens, collect eggs, and clean the coop. It’s important to also check for signs of illness or disease in order to keep your flock healthy.
If you buy chicks from a hatchery, they will usually be between $6-10 each.
Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, Buff Orpington, New Hampshire, and Plymouth Rock.
Rhode Island Red is one of the best breeds to start with because it’s calm and easy to care for.