The most common reasons for raising chickens is for fun (e.g. hobby farms), fresh eggs, fresh poultry meat and for gardening purposes (e.g. chicken manure and fertilizer and weed/pest control).
The reason you’re raising chickens may influence, to a certain degree, what you need to get started in this fun hobby. Of course, all chickens have general husbandry requirements regardless of the reason they’re being raised. All chickens need a chicken coop or house to protect them from predators and the weather; clean water and fresh food; and adequate space. However, your individual purpose for raising chickens may affect how you go about building the chicken coop or what type of chicken feed you give them.
The purposes for which you’re raising chickens has the greatest influence on what type of chicken breed you get. If you want to raise chickens for fresh eggs, it’d be best to go with a dual-purpose breed like the Rhode Island Red, or a commercial egg-laying strain such as the White Leghorn. If you’re raising chickens for meat, you’ll want a fast-growing breed that converts feed into body weight efficiently, such as the Cornish Cross. And if you’re raising chickens just for fun–well, the possibilities are practically endless!
Raising Chickens for Beginners
Starting the Process
First, consider how you want to start your backyard chicken flock. Most beginners start their first chicken flock using chicks purchased from commercial hatcheries like Murray McMurray Hatchery (poultryOne.com offers user reviews of chicken hatcheries). You can also purchase chicks from your local feed store.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and don’t mind taking afew moments to educate yourself on the matter, you can also start yourflock using fertilized eggs and incubating them yourself. This takes alittle more time, but it is a great experience and will be especiallyeducational for children.
Regardless of how you start your chicken project, you’ll needto put the new chicks in a brooder to keep them warm. Place thebrooder in an area that is free from drafts (which can be deadly forlittle chicks!) and protected from predators (especially littlechildren or family pets). Chicks need a temperature of approximately 95degrees F for the first seven days; this is slowly lowered untilthey’re completely feathered out.
Give your chicks easy access to fresh, clean water and food. Feed chicks chick starter, a term for poultry feed with a high amount of protein that is essential for their proper growth and development. If you purchased your chicks through a commercial hatchery, they may be a bit stressed out from being mailed cross-country. If you think it will help, purchase a chick vitamin-mix and add it to their water to help boost their immune system.
Housing Your Chickens
As your chicks become older, you’ll need to take them out of the brooder and place them in a chicken coop. A good coop will protect your backyard flock from the weather, give them adequate space, provide roosts, and (if they’relayers) allocate some room for nesting boxes. Learn More About Building Chicken Coops
If I Am Raising Layers, Do I Need A Rooster?
That is a common question that we feel must be answered right here:No! We receive a lot of questions from people wondering if they needroosters to get their hens to lay. Thankfully, you don’t! In fact, ifyou’re raising layers you are probably better of not having a roosterto begin with.
Building A Chicken Yard/Run:
Your chickens would love to be able to play outside, where they’llhave access to sunshine, fresh air, and maybe some plants and bugs. Anoutside chicken yard or chicken run should be protected with a strongfence, and provide a small lean-to or shelter of some sort. You mightalso want to consider a portable run that can be moved around youryard so that your chickens can always have fresh ground to roam on.
The days of true “free ranging” are practically over. Cars and your neighbor’s pets are dangerous foes, as well as natural predators like hawks and raccoons. A chicken yard is a happy compromise between the freedom of “free ranging” and the confines of a chicken coop. If you’re able to, we strongly encourage you to give your chickens some sort of outdoor enclosure where they can enjoy nature without the risk of being harmed.
What Do I Feed My Chickens?
We’ve got a great article on feeding chickens which has beenespecially useful to beginners. Feed comes in several forms, includingpellets, mash, and crumbles. Pellets are the easiest to feed, and thechickens can see them easier so that there is less wasted. However,experiment with the different kinds and see which works best foryou.
You will also want to give your chickens grit. Grit is basically small pebbles and stones that the chicken stores in his gizzard. Because chickens do not have teeth, the grit is used to grind up their food. For chicks, grit is only needed if the chicks are eating grain or other foodstuffs. Chicks fed mash or crumbles do not need it. If you are feeding your chicks grit, do not give chicks oystershell. The extra calcium in oystershell will causebone development problems in young birds (although it is highly beneficial for layers!).
Raising Chickens Is Fun!
There is a lot more to learn about this fantastic hobby. This article is merely a launching point to give you a few pointers about raising chickens. As you raise these fun birds, you will need to learn how top revent diseases, eradicate parasites, and deal with problems like egg eating and feather picking. But, with the resources from mybackachers.com and help from other hobbyists in our free online poultry community, raising your own chickens will be a success!