So you want to raise chickens. Here are a few tips to get you started. Then go over to my post about the 5 Things I learned AFTER Getting Chickens. You’re welcome, in advance, for saving you a ton of trouble.
#1 Is it Legal
If you are in the country, like we are, then you are probably fine. If you are in the suburbs, and you want to raise a couple of chicks in your backyard, you should check with your local laws first. Can you have them? How many can you have? Are Rooster’s okay?
I would tell you where this would be, but, honestly I am clueless. Maybe the courthouse? Also, check your neighborhood rules or homeowners association bi-laws.
#2 Do You Have Space
We have 5 acres so space is a non-issue. We also free range. More on that later.
If you are going to have them in your suburban backyard you need to decide will that be in a chicken tractor or are you going to build a chicken coop that can’t be moved.
You then need to decide on the size and then you can decide how many girls…er…chicks…er chickens. You need 15 sq./ft per bird of run space, you need 5 sq./ft per bird inside with a minimum of 30 sq./ft., no matter how many birds you have.
#3 Are You Prepared for Illness’s and Injuries
Chickens, for the most part, are super low maintenance. There will be the occasional injury or illness. You need to be prepared to treat the girl. You also need be prepared to possibly loose the girl. This may be controversial, but I won’t pay a vet to save a chicken. I love them and how they entertain us. I love my fresh eggs. But I won’t run up a vet bill if she is ill. There’s a chance she could infect the whole flock, at which point I will just cut my losses.
You can have a first aid kit for your flock. Much like what I have for my humans. Vet wrap etc. I include Blu Kote incase one girl gets pecked on by the others. We had a Polish that had a bare spot and it resulted in more pecking because there was blood. (Chickens like to peck red areas) The Blu Kote protects the bare area and gives them a cool, temporary dye job.
#4 Will You Let them Free-Range
Be prepared to lose one or two, or ahem, three if you let them free range. In our early days I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where they kept disappearing to. Ohhhh you hear that owl out there? Or that crow that keep circling. Also, if you have a dog that wasn’t raised with the chickens, that could get ugly too. Also, the girls know where to go home to at night. On their own. You don’t have to wrangle them. Ask me I know this….and no there isn’t video.
#5 Food and Water
We give our girls feed during the winter. Of course, they still free range, but there’s a ton of snow so not much to forage. They need fresh water every day and, if you live where it’s cold, make sure to keep it from freezing by using a heater underneath the water.
#6 Nesting Boxes
I insisted that The Principal supply a nesting box for each girl. They only use 2. Most of the time they don’t do that because we let them free range. They hide them somewhere on the property. If this happens just lock them up for a couple of days and they will remember…OHHHH you want me to lay the egg HERE?! Okay.
#7 The First Few Months
Fun Fact: Chicks need to be warm until they get their feathers. So about 5-6 weeks. That means they need to live inside the house in what is called a Brooder. Basically a box or little area that has their food, water, and heat lamp. Also shavings on the floor of it. The shavings need to be replaced often because, well, poop. Chickens poop a lot. The more chickens you have the more the poop. If you have a dog then I suggest a grate over the top to protect the chicks. Ask me how I know this is a good idea.
This is a pretty random list, but a few of these are topics that came to mind as I was thinking “What did I not know when I first brought home chicks?”
Whatever you do, don’t get little Sally or Johnny chicks for Easter because their so cute.(the chicks, not the kids) It’s a bad idea.
While I said earlier, chicks or pretty low maintenance, they are also a commitment.
No more trips to the Bahamas without, at minimum, getting the neighbor kid to check on them a couple of times a day.
Most importantly, enjoy the journey.
You will quickly learn that they are so entertaining you will find yourself outside, with your coffee, while you watch them and forget about TV altogether.
Ask me how I know.
I suggest Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens
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