You may ask -Why? Why would I want to have chickens in my backyard?
- They are completely entertaining. If you have never seen a chicken take a dust bath, or set off after a bug- you are missing out my friend!
- They provide you with fresh free-range eggs. Fresh eggs are richer, and much tastier. This photo is of a store bought egg on the left and a fresh egg from my own hens on the right. See what a pretty orange it is, they are lower in cholesterol and higher in vitamins, and omega-3's.
- They are easy to take care of and inexpensive to keep. If you are interested in owning other livestock- chickens are a great starting point and great for practice.
- You can eat them. That is all I will say about that, while I do eat chicken, I simply CANNOT eat MY chickens, you may however enjoy yours.
The Basics of Backyard Chickens
The first thing to decide is what kind of chickens you would like to have. There are all kinds to choose from; some are better layers, there are full-size chickens, and little bantams, broilers are great meat birds. Do a little research and decide what type works best for you and your family, where you live, the space you have to house them and what you want them for. Do you want adult chickens ready to lay or would you rather start with chicks? (They begin laying at about 6 months)
Decide where they are going to live, will they be fully free-range, kept inside a coop? You can find plans easy enough online or feed stores often sell ready made coops. Or maybe a combination of both- free range during the day and put up at night. I have had my chickens for two years and the first batch were allowed complete freedom, they roosted high up in a tree at night. They were bantams, and quite hardy birds. However, we wound up with 2 roosters in our batch of chicks and they were very aggressive-the kids were afraid to play in the backyard for fear of them and we had to get rid of them. Without the roosters to protect them we lost most of our hens one by one to some predator. We tried putting the rest up at night but they were too used to their freedom and wanted no part of a cage. Eventually we lost all our chickens. So we started over, this time with 3 Rhode Island Red's and 3 Barred Rock chickens that are kept in a sturdy pen, safe from predators. We do allow them to come out into the yard sometimes if we are nearby to keep an eye on them. From there its up to you, if you choose to go with a coop there are many flooring options; sand, sawdust, concrete, or straw/hay.
If you have babies and no brood hens to keep them warm ( as our first batch was) you will need an incubator or heat lamp to keep them warm. They should be kept at a warm 95° in a brooder box. If you live in a very cold climate even your adult birds may need some assistance keeping warm also- be it a solid coop that keeps the worst of the cold out or even a heater. Some people prefer to let them just be as they are, wild. I treat mine as pets so I would opt for a heater on the worst winter days.
They will need feed and water, even free range chickens would fare better with supplemental feed, though they will scratch all over your property in search of juicy bugs. Chicks will need starter feed that is higher in protein for their first 6 weeks and there is even a special feed for your layers that contains high amounts of calcium, this helps strengthen the eggs shells. Give plenty of fresh, clean water, in the coop and outside if they are allowed out.
That is pretty much the majority of what they require. I find they provide far much more to me than I offer to them- entertainment, companionship and eggs. Look at this momma in the yard with her recently hatched chick peeking out- I love this little taste of country life without overwhelming commitment to livestock on my part. Good luck and let me know if you decide to start your own flock!
Hi, I am Jody Smith. I am a Christian stay at home mom of 2 living in fun, and sunny Florida. I am passionate about: cooking, gardening, my backyard chickens, reading and scrapbooking. I love taking all kinds of things apart and remaking it on my own. If I am not busy at one of those activities I must be sleeping (which I’m also crazy about).