Inside: Dive into the world of raising chickens, from setting up the perfect coop to tending to your feathered friends on a daily basis.
Have you thought about raising chickens of your own but you want to know what goes into raising chickens? I'm going to try to answer your burning questions here. I too am someone who likes to have all the answers before jumping into something. Knowing how to keep your chickens healthy and safe is going to be your number one priority.
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What Goes Into Raising Chickens
I love my chickens, probably a little too much. My hens and one rooster per flock, are my pets. They are my pets that poop out our breakfast, cake mix-ins, etc. I work hard to make sure that they stay safe and healthy.
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Questions to Ask Yourself Before Raising Chickens
First, you need to decide on how you will house your chickens: Will you have free-range chickens or keep them in a run?
How many chickens do you want to keep? Beware, chicken math is a real problem. I never dreamt we would have 30+ chickens only a year after getting our first chickens. *Edited to add: we have 4 coops, 2 are mine, then each of my daughters has their own with their own flocks.*
Do you want to start with chicks? Pullets? Laying hens? Each will have their own needs and/or requirements.
Free-Range VS Run Raised Chickens
We have our chickens in runs. They are safer in a chicken run, which is what it came down to for us.
We do have two high-prey drive dogs who would love to try chicken despite being allergic to chicken. We also live in the woods and have had a hawk, raccoons try to get our chickens. And really, who knows what else passes through our yard without us knowing?
Even in more urban areas, there are threats to your flock: neighborhood dogs and cats, vehicles, birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, and even crows.
The cost/amount of feed needed with free-range vs. run chickens is going to be different. Chickens in a run are going to have less access to bugs and grass.
How Many Eggs Do You Want
How many birds you want to keep depends on what you are hoping to get out of them. Just eggs for your family? What to share with family and friends or sell them?
Take that number and start thinking about which breeds lay more, or fewer eggs. Silkies are more show birds than laying, as Silkies only lay about 100 eggs a year. Compared to a Leghorn that lays about 300 eggs a year.
Do You Want to Raise Chicks?
There can be something magical about raising chicks. Getting to handle them while they are young, they get to know you. I get to watch them develop their feathers and markings.
They are a lot more work. They require proper heat. They require warm water and chick feed. They are great at upsetting their water so you have to clean the brooder more than you would expect. So you are going to need a lot of whatever material you use for the brooder; I use pine shavings, some use pee pads, or paper towels.
Pullets are not going to be laying yet, but they are less work – no brooder, and ready to be outside in their coop and run.
Ready to lay are of course laying, or going to be laying very soon. They can be more standoff-ish if they haven't been handled by those who owned them, and chances are they are factory-raised and not handled. You get what you want out of them right away, eggs.
More Things You Need to Think About
What happens if you end up with too many roosters?
What happens when a chicken gets sick? It is bound to happen at some point.
Keeping the coop clean – the litter method you choose, from pests such as mites and lice. Keep their run clean as well, if that is the way you choose to go.
The cost of feed. Chickens that free-range will need less feed of course. But there are other ways to reduce your feed cost but still have healthy chickens. Fodder for one, and soaking your feed for another.
A year after getting chickens, I have become a crazy chicken lady. I love my tiny velociraptors with their funky personalities.
We even have a few chickens who will come when called. Yes, they come to their names better than my dogs, cats, or my kids sometimes. It all depends on how much you handle them. Chickens are really interesting when you learn some interesting facts about them.