Everything you need to know about having your own chickens!
Also check out: URBAN HOMESTEADING PART 1: GROWING YOUR OWN VEGGIES
by Lindsey Mills| staff writer for The Snap Mom
Feature Image: growlocalstx.com
Backyard poultry raising has definitely become more mainstream in the past few years. I still get many crazy looks when I tell people we have pet chickens though. My kids love them, and so do I. My husband tolerates them… haha!
Here is everything you need to know if you are thinking chickens may be for you.
THEY ARE GREAT PETS
Sounds weird right? If you raise them from chicks, they are so tame and some even want to be held. We have Bantam Cochins, which are known to be a very docile, small breed. They are a good backyard choice. Some other breeds recommended for kids are Orpington, Australorps, Wyandottes, Plymouth Rocks, Sex Links, Delawares, Faverolles, and Sussex.
CHICKENS NEED A FORT KNOX
Be prepared to fight off many predators. Hawks, owls, cats, and even possums, rats and raccoons have been known to take down a full size chicken. If you are making your own coop instead of purchasing one, make sure the chicken wire goes into the dirt, and line the outside with pavers or blocks to keep anything from digging under to get at the birds. I let my girls (chickens, that is) roam free during the day. I have lost some in the past to hawks, but usually they are just fine. We used a chain link dog kennel and lined it with chicken wire. It’s pretty secure! You also need to give them a place to stay dry or warm, and a clean place to lay eggs.
MAKE SURE YOUR COUNTY/CITY ALLOWS CHICKENS
Mine allows 5 hens, no roosters. Check with your county extension office for the regulations in your area.
CHICKS ARE VERY NEEDY
Be prepared to have your chicks inside until fully feathered, 4-8 weeks depending on the breed. They will need to be in a box or bin with a wire top, and they need a heat lamp that they can move away from if too warm. A good rule of thumb is half the chicks should be close to the light and half away…if they are all huddled by the light it’s too cold, if they are all huddled away it’s too hot!
Approximate Heat Needs by Age:
Week 1 90 – 95°
Week 2 85 – 90°
Week 3 80 – 85°
Week 4 75 – 80°
Weeks 5-7 70 – 75°
Week 8 65 – 70°
Free Rangers will lay the most nutritious eggs, but most people’s yards don’t have all the plants and bugs they require! We supplement with layers pellets. My girls free range about 8 hours a day and are omnivorous. They eat herbs, grass, and insects. They really don’t eat too much chicken feed. We also feed them all our fruit and veggie scraps, and they LOVE that.
WHERE DO I GET CHICKS?
Local feed stores can order them for you, but they won’t always have the best breed options. Breeders are usually on Craigslist. Some states have Facebook groups for local breeders! Another option is mail order chicks. You buy online, and they ship them! There is always a minimum chick count so they keep each other warm, so keep that in mind.
The delicious fruits of their (and your!) labor. Chickens start laying eggs at different ages depending on the breed. Most start around 4 months, some take longer. Usually a chicken will lay 6 out of 7 days a week! They are pretty efficient little machines.
Things to have on hand before getting chickens:
Food and water containers
Diatomaceous Earth (for them to dust bathe in, it kills mites!)
Chick Start or Chicken Feed
Secure box for chicks or outdoor coop for grown birds
I would be happy to answer questions or help you get set up! Happy homesteading!
About the author:
Lindsey is a scrunchy wife and mom to two adorable girls. She is also the salon owner of Southern Roots and works part time doing hair. She loves animals, gardening, and is very involved in her home church.