Have you ever thought about raising your own backyard chickens and having farm fresh eggs every morning? There is a reason they call it “chicken tv”; it’s because you will want to turn off your tv and hang out watching your feather friends scratch around instead. From someone who has a wide variety of livestock in her backyard, chickens are the easiest to maintain.
Let’s Jump Right In
Before you get your backyard chickens, you have to figure out why you are getting them. Are they for eggs, meat, or maybe just for fun?
Where will they live?
Are you ready to take care of them and clean out their coop weekly?
Are you allowed or zoned for chickens in your neighborhood and if you are, find out how many you can have? Most of my surrounding cities let you have around 3-5 chickens.
Now, let’s talk shelter. A chicken coop doesn’t need to be complicated. Chickens will need basic shelter requirements, adequate amount of space, roosts, nesting boxes, security, and areas to get away from extreme weather.
Picking Out Chickens
Some options are to get an incubator and hatch fertile eggs.
To buy chicks from local farms or feed stores.
Order chicks online from a hatchery and have them delivered to the post office.
Check out neighborhood backyard chicken groups for anyone who needs to rehome entire flocks.
Did you know that there are over a hundred different chicken breeds to consider. Personally, I started with the adorable silkie and frizzle chickens from a local breeder. They were so beautiful and lived up to their name “the golden retrievers of chickens”. I love silkies so much that I bred them for a couple seasons. I also love their tiny cute eggs. With my silkies, I have a wide variety in my coop along with a couple turkeys. My reasons for choosing multiple breeds in my backyard flock are simply for egg production and for their different egg colors. It brings a smile to my face collecting blue, green, white, brown, tan, and red eggs every morning.
Egg Layers and Meat Breeds.
All hens lay eggs. Some breeds will lay more than other breeds. Leghorns are large white eggs that you typically see in the stores. That breed is going to give you about 24 dozen eggs per year, however they are not super friendly by nature unless you really spend a lot of time with them. Good layers are typically scrawny, that is because they put all their energy into making eggs instead of fattening up for meat. Some of my personal favorite laying hens are easter-eggers, olive-eggers, blue plymouth rock, and rhode island reds.
If you are considering raising chickens for meat look into cross-cornish, australorp, or orpintons. I will do an entirely different post about raising meat birds for your family.
Preparing For Backyard Chicks
If you decide to hatch eggs you will need an incubator, a candle light, and an additional temperature and humidifier reader. The reason being is, it’s important to get the internal temperature to what the chicks need, you will need to drop the temp and maintain humidity throughout the incubation process. Once they hatch you will need a brooder. That can be anything from a cardboard box to a livestock trough. You will need a heat plate or lamp, a waterer, a feeder, bedding, and a cover to keep them safe.
Chicks require lots of warmth, they do not get their true feathers until they are about 7-8 weeks old. There are so many options when it comes to their feed/crumbles so do your own research. The general idea is 0-8 weeks is around 20% starter feed crumbles. 8-14 weeks 18% starter- grower. 15-18 weeks 16% finisher and 18 and up 16%-layer feed.
Another note is to remember that chicks are messy; they will scratch their food all over, so it is important to check their food and water daily. If your chicks are days old, it’s a good thing to add rocks in their water feeders for a week or so; you don’t want them to drown or fall in. Once they start eating greens such as short grass or dandelions, they will need a small dish of chick grit to help their digestion and make sure they don’t get an impacted crop.
First Aid Care
Once you get your chickens you will, without a doubt, learn as you go just like the rest of us. You will step up and treat your chickens when they need it, you’ll heal wounds, take care of mites, and most likely have a chicken living in your bathtub from time to time. It can be unrealistic to call out a vet for your $10 chicken when you can be prepared for anything at home.
I really believe every poultry owner should have the following in their first aid kit because with chickens, things happen fast and when you least expect it. Number one, Vet RX, Hen Healer ointment, apple cider vinegar, food grade diatomaceous earth or first saturday lime, electrolytes, nutri-drench, and Epsom salt. A few common health issues you could face are respiratory issues, pasty butt, coccidiosis, and brooder pneumonia.
If you keep your chickens warm, dry, and away from predators, feed them properly, and make sure they always have clean water, chances are they’ll thrive and grow. Remember, chickens are omnivores. It’s important for their health to eat grubs, mealworms, and meat if they do not get a chance to free range and find it themselves.
XOXO Farmer Jen
RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE CHICKEN TREATS:
Ingredients: scratch grains, black oil sunflower seeds, bird seed, flax seeds, mealworms, coconut oil, bacon grease or lard. Warm the fat until it starts to liquify. It should be thick but still liquid. Pour the fat over about a cup each of the ingredient list and mix thoroughly with a big spoon. Scoop them into a muffin tin and place them into the fridge for about 10 mins.
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