Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Homestead Tips on Tuesday: So you want to raise some chickens?

Chickens, there is something about having a few roaming your backyard. They are fun to look at, have distinct personalities, and provide amazingly yummy eggs. The popularity of backyard chicken keeping has been and continues to be on the rise across the country. While many areas legally allow the keeping of chickens, other communities are still in the process of find what will work for them. One thing you need to keep in mind when you decide backyard chicken keeping is for you, is to first and foremost, before bringing home a single adorable chick, is to check your local laws.

Once you have a green light to legally keep chickens and know how many you can have, you need to decide what breed(s) you want to get. Trust me, there are some amazingly beautiful birds out there, but not all of them will be available in your area or without ordering large numbers from a hatchery. Some local places will also have purchase requirements, like Tractor Supply who will only sell a minimum of six chicks. We can’t have six chickens according to our local law, but lucky for us there are business that will sell smaller numbers due to the rise in backyard keepers.

Once you locate a place to purchase chicks, find out what breeds they have available. Do some homework…. Do you have a preference for what color eggs your chickens lay? (And no, the color doesn’t make them taste any different.) Did you know some breeds are more temperature tolerant then other? (Good thing to know if you live where is gets really cold in the winter.) Did you know some breeds are even more “kid friendly” aka they have a more docile temperament.

Once you decide which breed(s) you want, make sure to buy PULLETS. Pullets are female chickens that have not yet laid an egg. Once they begin laying they are called hens. Why get pullets? Because if you get “straight run” chickens it means there are both sexes in the batch, which mean you could end up with a rooster you might have to re-home later. Now that is not to say you might not get a rooster in a pullet bin! Hatcheries are about 90% on their sexing of chicks. Also, my recommendation is to go with standard size breeds. While bantams are cute, their eggs are smaller, and they are usually only sold in straight runs.

You need to set up a brooder for bringing your new livestock home to. Yes, you now have livestock! A brooder is a simple pen, we use an old guinea pig pen, but it can be a box of any sort. You will need bedding for your brooder. Everyone has an opinion on what to use and I am not going to get into a debate about what is best. We use wood shavings. Newspaper just gets to wet, nasty and slippery and sand can get too hot and be consumed by the chicks causing death. You will need a water source and a food dish. You will need food for the little chicks, like Chick Starter. You will also need a heat source since you just became mommy. A heat lamp will fill the bill, just don't hang it too close to the chicks.

You need to be prepared to clean as well. For what goes in those adorable little beaks will come out those cute fluffy butts. And as they get older, they will start to smell more and more and you will long for the day when they are big enough and it is warm enough to toss their butts into that backyard of your! Check your local laws for requirements needed for keeping those chicks in your backyard too. Some towns spell out very specifically the structures required.

Once your chicks are big enough to go to ”the coop” you will need food, water and a nest box with some type of bedding. We use straw in our boxes. You will need to make sure your coop is predator proof too. No opossums or raccoons in your area? Think again! Not to mention stray cats and neighborhood dogs. Your chickens will start laying around 20-24 weeks of age and will lay for about 3-5 years but live for around 8-10 years. That is something to consider since you are either going to have to just enjoy their company for the remaining years or “do something” with them. So if your allowed a total of say 4 hens, start with 2 and in a few years add a couple more, that way you always have someone laying.

Raising chickens is a commitment and you should do lots of research before ever bringing home your first chick. They must be fed and watered everyday. And there is nothing like the joy of cleaning the coop (though it is great to add to the compost pile.) Trust me, there are days in the winter I hate trudging through the snow multiple times a day to unfreeze the water, but I wouldn’t trade my girls for the world!!

**Homestead Tips on Tuesday is a weekly series where we help you learn skills, tips, and trick to help you on your journey of homesteading. Many places post list of things you should/could do as far as homesteading skill, but I feel lists are at times overwhelming and can make people give up before they even start. So every Tuesday I share one thing for you to try or consider. I hope you join us every Tuesday and I would love to hear about your adventures with each weeks topic.**

31 comments:

  1. We can't raise chickens where we live but some friends in a neighboring town do. They have the absolute best eggs EVER! Love them! You guys are so lucky you can do all of this!

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    1. I know were are and I don't take it for granted. I hate store eggs now! LOL

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  2. I've always kind of wanted a chicken! In the schools where I work, some of the classrooms get eggs and incubators in the spring so they can hatch chicks. I love those little chicks so much, I stay late after work to play with them, and the teachers joke about checking my pockets before I leave!

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    1. LOL frisked over chicks, too funny. My hubby is always whispering for me to put a baby goat in my purse when we see one LOL

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  3. I did several months of research before I got chicks. I found http://www.backyardchickens.com/ wonderful. There's even more there now!

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    1. There are so many places to find info (and not all of them are good sources LOL)

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  4. Definitely some good points for someone considering chicks!

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  5. This is such great information! I am trying to convince my husband that we need chickens.. even though I don't know the first thing about them! Ill have to share this with him. Thanks so much!

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    1. Oh I hope you get some. They are a delight and the eggs are so yummy!

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  6. Hi Mindie, this really gives potential chicken keepers a feel for what the work of keeping chickens will be like. Thanks for sharing on Wake Up Wednesday Link Party. It's so important that people think before getting chickens, because they really aren't for everyone, and it's always the animal that suffers when people lose interest. To add to your excellent post, I would like to share mine for anyone interested, with additional details on the pros and cons of chickens: http://ouroneacrefarm.com/pros-and-cons-of-backyard-chickens/

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  7. found this @ someday crafts WGW.
    Very Helpful tips! Raising chickens are on my bucket list. You gave valuable "how to" tips for beginners. Pinned this, okay?
    I have a Pinterest folder (just for raising chickens tips).

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    1. Pin away and if you have any questions feel free to email me :)

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  8. such an interesting post, a perfect resource for those ready for chickens. Thank you for linking and sharing your sweet blog at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop ♥

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  9. I am sure this is very helpful to those desiring to raise some chickens...I bet the eggs are amazing! Thanks for posting on the Thursday Blog Hop!

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  10. I love reading about people raising their chickens. I love reading about their personalities and fun antics! I'm visiting today from Thursday's Favorite Things.

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    1. If you love reading, why not get a couple? LOL No pressure *wink*

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  11. We'll be picking up our first egg layers in a few weeks. Love reading other people's experiences. reading makes me even more excited.

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  12. I was just talking about the prospect of raising chickens last night! I live in a small city, but it is definitely a thing around here to have them. It sounds like a lot of work, but I eat so many eggs and they just taste so much better when they are fresh. Thanks for sharing the tips, stopping by from the Let's Get Real Blog hop.

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    1. Honestly Bev, it is work... not a ton though. And they are so fun :)

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  13. Awww, I love chickens. Our family raised chickens for 4 years and recently had to move into town, so this is the first year in a while that we haven't been able too. I miss my chickens, so it's nice to see your experience!

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    1. Aww Lydia ((HUGS)) I couldn't image life without my girls.

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  14. This post is full of great info for "city folk" like me who have no experience with homesteading or farm animals. And so timely because I just chased one of my neighbors chickens into its backyard because it got loose and I didn't want a big dog or stray cat to hurt it. I'd like to raise chickens in the future so I'm definitely saving this post for later. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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    1. I think everyone should have a couple :) You will enjoy not only the eggs you get but the antics they get up to!

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  15. YES! I do! Darn HOA won't let me though:( We will be moving in the next few years and moving somewhere that allows chickens is #1 on our list

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    1. Icky, you said HOA!!! LOL I will never live somewhere where there is a HOA.

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  16. Hi Mindie - We are raising our first group of chickens now. We have a little more than an acre, and are hoping to do more homesteading activities over the next few years. Thanks so much for linking up with the Let's Get Real party this week.

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    1. Oh Gaye it is so fun trying new homesteading activities! If you ever need a brain to pick... well if mine doesn't hold the answer, I'll find someone for you who's brain does!

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