Advice on starting your own flock.
People are more and more concerned with what they’re eating each day, and care very much about where their food is coming from. Homesteaders, vegetarians and those interested in taking control of their diets might be interested in raising their own chickens for healthy, organic eggs.
It’s important to note that raising chickens for eggs won’t make you much of a profit–you will probably break even at best–but raising chickens can give some peace of mind to those whom are concerned about eating organic. And of course, chickens can even be nice pets!
Here’s a round up of tips on getting started with raising chickens, so you can have a general idea of what to look for and the work involved.
Things to Know
Before you think too seriously about raising your own chickens, there’s some general tips you’ll want to be sure of first. Check the legality of raising chickens in your community by looking into city ordinances (and homeowners’ association, if applicable.) Also, when planning the size of your flock, know that chickens can cost up to $30 each depending on age and breed. Regarding flock size, don’t get just one chicken–these are social animals, so you’ll want at least a few.
Pullets (which are essentially the “teen” equivalent for a hen) are great to begin with, as they are young but still able to lay eggs. Starting with chicks and be the cheapest route (and fun with kids!) but you will have to wait almost half a year before they’ll be able to lay eggs.
What You’ll Need
- A coop
- A chicken run
- Chicken brood (if you’ll have chicks)
- Chicken feed
- Heated water system/bowl for winter months
Making a Coop
A chicken coop can be very simple to make or buy. Coops can be bought second-hand for relatively cheap, and resourceful homesteaders might try upcycling structures, such as an old children’s playhouse. Extra space in the home, like a garage or empty storage room, can be made into coops as well. Whatever you do, cover any openings to the outside with wire so predators can’t find their way inside.
A good rule of thumb for your coop’s size is to allow three to four square feet per chicken you will have. This gives them ample space to keep happy.
Chicken Run Tips
A chicken run is necessary to keep chickens safe and contained while enjoying some time outside. The run should allow for ten square feet per chicken. A layer of straw, pine shavings and sawdust will dry out any chicken poo, lowering the threat of illness. Collect the dried poo, because it works as a great fertilizer!
Fencing your chickens around a tree in the center is a good way to keep them safe from airborne predators like hawks and eagles. If you won’t have a tree but live in an area with these predators, cover your run with some sort of cloth.
Some kind of grit (like sand or gravel) should also be available, as chickens need grit to aid in digestion.
- Check for eggs each day, as well as water and feeding.
- Check your hens every month for mites or lice.
- Clean out the poo from your coop each month, and clean all the bedding.
- Clean out your coop completely every six months.
Predators to Watch Out For
There are many predators to look out for when raising chickens. They can attack grown hens, baby chicks or even steal your eggs. Here is a list of some of the most common predators:
This post is adapted from the May 24, 2014 episode of Home Wizards that was released on iTunes May 27, 2014. You can find this segment during hour one of the podcast.