When people consider raising their own chickens, they often have many questions. Are chickens easy to raise? How many chickens should a beginner start with? What do chickens need? If you don't know where to start, don't panic. Raising chickens certainly takes work. However, it's not so complex that beginners can't do it. If you ever dreamed of having your own backyard chickens, this guide is for you. You'll learn what should be inside a chicken coop and everything about getting started with backyard chickens.
Why Raise Chickens?
Before diving into the 101 on raising chickens, it helps to consider why you should do it. The most obvious reasons are for fresh eggs or meat. What are the pros and cons?
What Are 3 Advantages of Raising Backyard Chickens?
There are three key advantages of backyard chicken raising. They include:
- It's easy to raise them in a free-range setting.
- They make good pets and offer educational opportunities for kids.
- Since you can feed them kitchen scraps, you cut household waste.
What Are 3 Disadvantages of Raising Backyard Chickens?
As is with everything, there are also drawbacks to raising chickens for eggs. Three main disadvantages include:
- Chickens require space and can be messy.
- Some neighbors may be annoyed with your chickens.
- Cities often have specific ordinances and limits for backyard chickens that can present challenges.
Another potential challenge to consider with city ordinances is that some prohibit roosters. You can still order female baby chicks as needed. However, if you get a male one by accident, you'll have to rehome it. If you want to raise some chickens for meat, a drawback is the work it takes to clean them. Also, some cities may have specific rules or restrictions on raising them for meat.
Are Chickens Easy to Raise?
In some cases, they are easy to raise. Others may find it difficult. One key to easy chicken raising is finding the right breed and starting with the right amount. Other keys to success are having the right food, supplies, and living environment.
What Breeds Are Best for Beginners?
There are different breeds and the type of breed matters for several reasons. For example, some breeds are better only for eggs. Others are ideal for both meat and eggs. Some breeds thrive in certain climates and struggle in others. These are some top breeds for beginners.
Rhode Island Red
This breed is the most versatile and one of the hardiest. The breed does well in warm or cold climates and is good for meat or eggs. Adult hens lay between 250 and 300 brown eggs per year.
This breed is better for cool or cold climates. Since it has black feathers, it doesn't do well in extreme heat. Australorps lay about 250 brown eggs per year and can be used for meat. If you're looking for a chicken breed that's more docile around kids, this one's a good choice.
For a cold climate, this breed is a good choice. It has a larger body and a good temperament. You can expect about 200 to 280 brown eggs per year from one of these chickens.
Yes, this breed inspired a popular cartoon character. Leghorns lay white eggs and produce an average of 280 to 320 eggs per year. If you want large or extra-large eggs, this is the chicken breed for you. Although they're versatile in climate tolerance, they aren't great around children.
If one of your secret goals is multi-colored eggs, this is your ideal breed choice. They're decent as pets, and they lay around 200 eggs per year. Unlike most chickens that lay brown or white eggs, these lay colored eggs. Don't be surprised to see aqua, olive, or pink eggs. If you have kids, they're sure to love this fascinating breed of chicken.
How Many Chickens Should a Beginner Start With?
How many chickens should I get? This is an important question. Having too many chickens can be overwhelming for a beginner. Before you learn what you need for chickens, it helps to know how many you'll have. Since chickens are flock animals, you'll want at least three for a backyard project. However, if you have a larger family, it's better to keep about five or six chickens. The good thing about starting with fewer chickens is that you can buy more if needed.
How Many Chickens Do I Need for a Dozen Eggs Per Week?
In most cases, three chickens should be enough to produce a dozen eggs. Keep in mind that some chickens produce more eggs than others, and some produce larger eggs. Be sure to pick the breed that fits your egg size, color, and quantity requirements.
What Is the Best Method for Raising Chickens?
There are several techniques for raising chickens for eggs or meat. Indoor raising in your home is not preferable. However, some people raise a chicken indoors as a pet. Raising them indoors in a large enclosure with no ability to roam is also not preferable. Yarding and free-range techniques are better. The difference between the two is the size of the area they have to roam. Free-range chickens are free to roam in a large area. When the area is smaller than what they'd normally roam, it's called yarding.
If you have the space, a free range is ideal.
What Do You Need for Raising Chickens?
So, what do you need to raise chickens? These are the most important supplies you'll need.
Coop, Nests, and Warming Light
Many people wonder what to raise chickens in. Even if you let them roam free in your yard, they need a place to nest and lay eggs. You'll need a coop that's big enough to house however many chickens you buy. Fortunately, you can find premade coops for chickens. Four square feet per bird is a good rule for choosing the right size. For instance, if you have four chickens, 16 square feet is the minimum size to pick.
What do chicken coops need? Experts recommend at least one nesting box for every three hens. When your chicks are small, they'll need to be under a heat lamp indoors. Until they're about eight weeks old, they can't stay warm on their own.
Food and Supplements
What do chickens need to survive? Chickens can get sick without proper nutrients. It's important to promote their health with good food and supplements. Find a good poultry feed, and many breeds can eat food scraps as well. Be sure to study up on the breed you choose for ideal foods. Some people wonder how to raise mealworms for chickens, and that is also an option. Ask your local vet about recommendations for supplements for the breed or breeds you choose.
Feeder and Waterer
You'll need a place for food and water. There are special feeders and waterers for chickens. With baby chicks, you can spread out the feed on a paper towel. This helps them learn how to find it. When they're grown, you may want a hanging feeder to keep out rodents and debris. There are also trough feeders, which are better for large flocks.
Use a special chick waterer for chicks. For grown chickens, there are waterers made from plastic or galvanized metal. While galvanized metal lasts longer, plastic is easier to clean and cheaper. The right choice is a matter of personal preference and budget. For cold climates, there are also heated fountains for winter. Because their water is prone to contamination, chickens need fresh water daily. Additionally, be sure to keep the coop clean by scooping and washing away waste regularly.
Now that you understand what to know about raising chickens for beginners, you can start planning. Find everything you need for successfully raising backyard chickens at your nearest True Value store.