Chickens can be a great addition to your outdoor space. They provide fresh eggs, pest control, and entertainment. But it’s important that you know how to care for chickens before you make the commitment.
So, this beginner’s guide to raising backyard chickens shares what you need to know.
In this article, we’ll explore the essential choices you need to make when raising chickens and the ongoing care and maintenance tasks required to keep them healthy and happy.
Read more below to find the most important tips about raising chickens at home.
CONTENTS – In this article, you will learn how to care for chickens and raise them at home, including;
- How To Raise Your Own Chickens At Home
- 1. Choosing Your Chickens
- 2. Building a Coop and Run
- 3. Feeding Your Birds
- 4. Looking After Their Health
- 5. Collecting Eggs
- Final Thoughts on How to Care for Chickens
- Next Steps
How To Raise Your Own Chickens At Home
Chickens can make great alternative outdoor pets.
Keeping chickens gives you access to fresh eggs to use at home or sell. These birds are also a good form of outdoor pest control (they love to eat bugs) and they can also eat all kinds of food waste.
On top of this, they can be fun and rewarding animals to look after.
Of course, as with all animals, raising chickens requires doing your research.
While they are relatively easy animals to look after, there are a few important choices you need to make upfront and there are various care and maintenance tasks to keep on top of.
This guide goes into more detail as to exactly what you need to know when raising chickens.
1. Choosing Your Chickens
Before choosing chickens, the first thing to consider is the sex of the chickens.
Most chicken owners choose solely hens because they produce eggs and don’t make as much noise.
Roosters are useful for protecting hens from predators and are necessary if you want to breed chicks.
But their crowing can be an issue – not all neighborhoods permit residents to keep roosters because they can be noisy. And, even if your neighborhood does permit roosters, you could find that neighbors complain.
All in all, talk to your neighbors before you get a rooster.
You can raise chickens from chicks, or you can buy pullets that are ready to lay.
Many people buy chicks because they are (so!) cute, cheaper to buy and rewarding to raise. However they do require a lot of monitoring.
Adult chickens may be a better option for first-time chicken owners as they don’t require as much work initially.
Plus, you get instant access to eggs.
You’ll discover there are many different breeds of chicken that you can select from. Depending on the size of your backyard and the climate, you may find that certain breeds are better suited than others.
Appearance and personality can vary a lot.
Some grow bigger, have softer feathers and may be more docile.
Egg-laying capabilities can also vary.
All in all, it’s good to do your research into breeds before you buy. This post lists some of the most popular and best suited chicken breeds for backyards.
2. Building a Coop and Run
A coop is a wooden shelter when chickens can sleep, lay eggs and take refuge from predators/harsh weather.
You can build your own coop from scratch or from a kit, or you can pay someone to build a coop for you.
Aim to provide at least 4 square feet per bird. So, if you plan to own 6 chickens, you’ll therefore need a 24-square foot coop.
Chickens also need a fair amount of space to run. Plan to give them about 8 square foot per bird.
Consequently, chicken enclosures are often better for larger backyards.
An enclosed run isn’t always necessary and you can let chickens run free. However you’ll need to make sure that your backyard is free of hazards and secure to stop them escaping.
In fact, secure fences aren’t just needed to prevent escapes, but also to stop predators getting to your chickens.
This could be particularly important in rural areas where coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks and even neighborhood dogs off-leash can pose a very real threat to your free-range chickens.
Keeping your birds safe from predators is truly one of the most important points when you’re learning how to care for chickens.
3. Feeding Your Birds
Chickens are omnivores, which means they eat pretty much everything.
However, like humans, if they eat too many of the wrong things, they can get overweight or develop health problems.
It’s therefore important to carefully control what they eat and drink.
Bags of high-quality chicken feed are worth buying to give your birds all the nutrients they need. Most chickens can survive off of this alone.
That said, other foods like blueberries, strawberries, lettuce leaves, sliced carrots and mealworms all make tasty treats.
You can also give general food scraps to chickens, but you should avoid giving them too much too regularly so they don’t gain too much weight.
Food like rhubarb, chocolate, onions and garlic are toxic to chickens and should be avoided. Don’t make this dangerous mistake when you’re learning how to care for chickens!
You can feed chickens using a chicken feeder and waterer. Most chickens need to be fed twice per day to keep them healthy.
Make sure to regularly replace the water and regularly clean feeders and waterers. This helps keep your chickens from getting exposed to bacteria and fungus.
Also, food should not be left outdoors for too long a period as it can get wet and develop mold.
4. Looking After Their Health
As with any pet, you need to look out for your chickens’ health.
By taking measures against food/water contamination and by providing a balanced diet, you can prevent many health problems from developing.
However, there are still other measures that need to be taken to keep your chickens healthy.
And maintaining their ongoing health is an important consideration when learning how to care for chickens.
This includes cleaning your chickens’ coop regularly and looking out for lice.
You can clean out your chickens’ coop using a mixture of water and vinegar in a bucket.
Poultry mite and lice powder can meanwhile be used to get rid of lice by dehydrating them. You can read a guide here to getting rid of chicken lice.
Chickens may peck each other, but will generally not seriously harm each other.
Still, it is worth looking out for injuries. Roosters are more likely to fight one another and require more attention than hens.
To make sure your chickens are healthy, schedule regular health checks with a qualified vet.
Your local everyday vet may not have experience with chickens – especially if you live in an urban area. Consequently, you may have to look for a specialist vet that has experience with chickens.
Pet insurance for chickens is not easy to find, but does exist.
It is best not to insure your chicken through a generic pet insurance provider, as you may find that prices are very high. Insurers that specialize in birds or poultry may be able to offer better rates.
5. Collecting Eggs
One of the best things about having healthy chickens is collecting their eggs.
If you’re chickens are well-cared for, and the season has long days (14-16 hours of daylight), your chickens will likely begin laying eggs when they are about 18-22 weeks old.
Their first eggs are called ‘pullet eggs.” They are smaller than the average egg, but are still suitable to eat. In fact, they are delicious.
Once they start laying, you can expect your hens to lay about one egg per day (technically, every 26 hours or so) until they are 6 or 7 years old.
Collect the eggs in the morning or as early in the day as you see them.
To do this, you’ll want to make sure the hen has left her laying spot. Leaving the eggs in the coop when the weather is very hot or very cold could make them unsafe to eat.
After gathering the eggs, you can leave them at room temperature as long as you haven’t washed off the shells’ natural coating or “bloom.” Otherwise, wash them and refrigerate.
And if you want more chickens?
Simply leave a few eggs in the nest to encourage your hens to sit on them. In 3 weeks, you could have more!
Final Thoughts on How to Care for Chickens
Now you have a much better idea about how to care for chickens at home. Let’s recap.
If you’re a chicken lover (or aspire to be one), raising chickens requires careful consideration of the birds’ sex, breed, and feeding habits. Building a coop and run that provide ample space and security from predators is essential.
Regular cleaning and health checks can prevent the spread of disease and promote well-being. Collecting eggs can be a fun and rewarding aspect of raising chickens.
Most importantly, understanding the basics before getting started can help you create a safe and enjoyable environment for your feathered friends.
For more about farming tips and kitchen gardening, read the articles below, next:
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