The first step is to want chickens. And then you are in trouble because you'll want all the chickens, I want all the chickens. Start slow. Do your research. Talk to people local to you that have chickens if possible and start from there. It is easy to get in over your head with chickens. Let's talk about how to get started with chickens.
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The first step is to learn everything you can about raising chickens where you live, and why you want chickens. Do you want them for their eggs? Are you raising them for the meat? There are specific birds for both of those purposes.
How to Get Started with Chickens
Read everything you can about raising chickens in your specific area, your zone with your weather because it is going to make a difference in how you go through each season. Having chickens in the winter is completely different from taking care of and raising chickens in the summer.
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Make sure you have the time and energy for their care. They need clean water and food every single day. In the winter you need to make sure that their water isn't frozen for example.
What you want chickens for is step one. Meat or eggs? Or dual-purpose. We do not have experience with meat birds (meat kings) at this time, but we do have dual-purpose birds and a couple of layer birds.
What kind of chicken you want is going to determine how many chickens you want to get. The bigger the bird the more:
- feed you will need
- space you will need
- more time you may have to give them
Are you going to start with chicks or are you getting layers? Pullets? A pullet is considered a teenage chicken from about 7-17 weeks old.
Create a budget for: the time you are able to spend with your flock; the housing the birds require; a plan for how you’ll collect and use eggs; and what you’ll do with the birds after they retire from laying eggs. Then start small with a flock of 4 to 6 chicks.
Chickens will slow down their laying in the colder months, and while they molt. You can add a light to their coop to simulate longer days to keep them laying, but if you are relying on their eggs this is something to keep in mind.
Will you let your chickens free-range? Are there predators that could/will get your chickens if you free-range? Do you have space to have a safe run?
Tending to your Chickens
What are you going to do with their manure? We set it aside and use it for our garden in the fall. You can't add it directly to your garden as it will burn it. Chicken manure is hot manure. Plants, especially young plants, that come into contact with fresh chicken manure will be “burned” by the nitrogen content and will quickly wither.
You will need a place to keep the manure until you can use it, or a way to dispose of it.
There is a lot of thought that needs to go into deciding to get and raise chickens.