In current times, people are turning more and more to raising chickens in the backyard. They love the idea of fresh eggs, a possible food source, and having a fun pet. Chances are, you are here for the same reasons. You are wondering how to start raising backyard chickens. Today we will give you a brief overview of what you need to get started.
The first thing you should do is look into your local laws. Every county and city has its own ordinances on raising backyard chickens. There are laws on everything from flock size to where you can place your coop. A few things you should look into specifically are:
- Does your city allow them
- How many you can have
- Do you need a specific property size to keep them
- Can you own a rooster
- And restrictions on where you can place your coop
Sometimes county laws differ from city ordinances, so it is best to check with both. Knowing these laws will help you with any trouble later. It can also prevent the heartbreak of having to give up your chickens.
Getting carried away with chickens can be an easy thing to do. Before you go any further with raising chickens in the backyard, you should examine your finances. There are a lot of costs to consider with any animal, including:
- Coop and run
- The actual chickens
- Fixing your coop if a predator breaks it
- Vet bills
- And other miscellaneous costs
Even if you are building your own coop and run, you can expect to pay $300 on the cheaper side. And if you are buying everything pre-made, it can cost thousands for a well-built coop. Another fact to consider is that the larger your flock, the more it requires. A small flock of just five hens can cost about $70, depending on your location. So if you are looking to save money on eggs and meat, you should calculate these costs against what you are already spending.
Getting A Sitter
You can’t exactly leave your chickens home alone while you go on vacation. But you also need to have the freedom to leave and have a good time because your health depends on it. Before ever getting chickens, you should think about who will look after them when you are gone. This sitter should be a trusted person who doesn’t mind getting dirty while you are away. If you have a close friend, neighbor, or relative willing to do it, then the problem is solved. But not everyone has a support system close by.
Why Do You Want To Raise Them?
The next thing you will want to examine is why are you raising them? Do you want your chickens for eggs, meat, or as pets only? Deciding what the function of your backyard chickens helps you decide what breed flock you need to achieve this.
If you want eggs solely for eggs, there are a few things you need to know.
- Chickens lay 4-5 eggs a week
- Chickens usually only lay for two years
So deciding on your initial flock size can be easy. But, what about after those two years? Some people keep these chickens after the two-year mark as pets and add to their flock. So you will have to build a large enough coop to account for adding chickens every couple of years. Some people prefer to make these chickens meat producers after they are done laying. The decision is up to you on what is best for your family, but it is crucial to think about.
If you are raising meat chickens in your backyard, there is a wide variety to choose from. Most of these breeds live a shorter lifespan than other chickens, and they are bred to produce the most meat. If you decide to go this route, you will need to allow for space and the finances to replace them.
And finally, some chickens produce lots of eggs, and after they stop, they provide excellent quality meat. These types of chickens are the ones that most chicken owners decide to go for the most. They are the best of both raising your own food that also gives you great eggs.
Choosing A Coop & Flock Size
Now that you have your ideal flock in mind, you can start focusing on its size. Many things determine the size of your flock. Firstly, how much room you have for a coop and run. If you only have the space for a few chickens, then that settles your flock size quickly. But if you have room for more than 10, it depends on your raising purposes. A good rule of thumb to go by is that you need about 10 square feet per chicken to give you a good idea of where to start.
Some things to consider with flock size are:
- If you do get a large coop, do you want to start with only a few and add as you go?
- Can you care for all of the chickens without it being a strain?
- If you are raising for meat, will you know how to butcher them all and the space to store them?
- Can you financially afford the size of a flock you want?
Questions to ask when choosing a coop:
- Is it large enough?
- What type of bedding is best?
- Should I get a stationary or tractor?
- Is it safe from predators?
- Will it break any city ordinances?
- Will I need to landscape within the run?
A lot of these answers go hand in hand, and this is just the beginning. There are, of course, more questions you should ask yourself before getting chickens.
What Life Stage To Start At
The key to how to start raising backyard chickens is the life stage. There are four life stages that you can buy your chickens at, and each has its pros and cons.
- Hatching Eggs – Hatching requires a local breeder and a lot of precision. You will need an incubator and treat these chicks just like a baby. You will even need to talk and “peep” to them to act like their mother. Hatching eggs are for the most advanced breeder.
- Chicks – These are the most common starter, though still not easy. Chicks still need a little patience and skill to keep them going strong. You will need a brooding box with a heat source to keep them alive. It isn’t uncommon for not all to make it, and it will inevitably happen. Your chicks will need to be in their brooding box for at least six weeks before heading out to the coop. And to add a little fun, sexing chicks can go wrong. It isn’t uncommon to order all females and get a male or two in the bunch.
- Pullets – These are chickens who are ready to start laying eggs on any day. They don’t require anything special and can go directly into your coop.
- Adults – While this is technically not raising chicken in the backyard, it can be rewarding. These chickens can be beautiful breeds that are being put up for adoption because they don’t lay anymore. You can sometimes find older chickens for sale locally because the owners can’t take care of them. They make lovely pets and can be fun to watch in the garden.
Finding A Breeder
Our next step on how to start raising backyard chickens is to find a trusted breeder and purchase a flock. You can get chicks from local feed stores, farmer’s markets, and even online.
When buying online, you want to make sure that wherever you are getting your chicks, they have good reviews and a guarantee. Also, check reviews specifically on their shipping and how healthy the chicks are. If they have a glowing review, you should feel safe purchasing from them. And our last tip is to order when the weather is nice and no sudden cold snaps or storms. Shipping can be stressful on the chicks, so doing this might help them.
When buying in person, you should check all the chicks to make sure they are healthy. Their eyes should be clear and opened, they should be moving around, and not separated from the group. These are all signs that the chick might not be in the best health. The best part about buying in person is that there is no waiting time.
Follow This Blog!
Now you have your chicks and everything they need. But is that the end of how to start raising backyard chickens?
Trust us; you will have many questions about everything. It will be just like a new mom who googles everything her baby does. If you follow this blog, we might just have the answers you are looking for. There are also a lot of great Facebook groups for new chicken owners. These communities can provide you with a lot of personal information tailored to your specific situations.
This article is just the beginning of how to raise backyard chickens. It doesn’t include the cleaning and hard work put into them. After all, they are farm animals. So they do require a lot of care. But the end result of fresh eggs and a quirky pet is incredibly rewarding.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!