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.
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.**