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What to Know About Raising Chickens

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Raising chickens is an interesting thing when you think about it. They’re these little pterodactyls looking critters and the males squawk all day long.

But, for real, raising chickens is a fun and fulfilling experience.

On mundane days, I watch them peck at my window screen as they tell me that they need to be fed. Or, I’ll watch them peck some worms, bugs, and beetles.

They are my greatest companions in keeping an eye for some insect pests, for sure! They can eat all the bugs and I’d be pretty dang happy with that.

While I enjoy the day to day life of raising these crazy birds, some times it can feel tough.

If you are new to raising chickens, here are some insights to help you get started.

raising chickens in a chicken coop

What to Know Before Buying and Raising Chickens

Personally, I think the most difficult part about raising chickens is not knowing anything at all- from local ordinances down to practical poultry raising.

Chickens have their own language, they’re smart, they love to play, and they can give you dozens of eggs!

You can keep it that way as long as you provide a well-nurtured environment free from predators.

Chicken feed generally costs around $20 per bag, depending on location and type of feed you’re buying. You may have to spend more depending on the species, age, and recommended diet.

Here are some important things to consider buying when deciding to bring home chickens:

  1. A heat lamp
  2. Chicken waterer
  3. Chicken feeder
  4. Chicken coop
  5. Roosting boards or sticks
  6. Nesting boxes
  7. Bedding
  8. Feed

So, it’s better to plan your budget ahead… you know, before you bring home the chickens.

Not only that, but chickens come in a variety of breeds, shapes, and sizes to choose from.

If you have a clear set of goals for raising chickens, then this wouldn’t be a hard decision to make. You can choose from small breeds, colorful egg layers, birds that lay lots of eggs, and even birds that are raised strictly for meat.

You can find all sorts of things when you start digging into the wide world of raising chickens but don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.

Owning chickens much easier and more fun than raising some other different livestock options out there! To be safe, you can start with just a few birds since chickens are highly sociable and can thrive with only just one companion.

What to Feed Your Chickens

You can either buy premade chicken feed or mix it yourself. But, and I’ve looked, it’s actually pretty much cheaper to buy the pre-mixed stuff than to mix it yourself. Unless you’re growing what you’re feeding to your chickens that is.

When you’re getting chicken feed it’s best to know what you’re buying for exactly.

You can get feed for:

  • Layers
  • Chicks
  • Starter/Grower
  • Mealworms
  • All Flock
  • Grain Scratch
  • Minerals

It’s best to know exactly what you’re looking for and figure out who can eat what.

Chicks will need different amounts of protein than layers or roosters would need, and layers need different things than roosters. Layers also possibly would need different minerals based on what conditions the eggs they’re laying look like.

raising chickens in the pasture

Types of Chicken Feeder Systems You Can Buy or Make

So, you know what kind of feed you’re going to give your feathered friends it’s time to figure out what sort of system you’re going to use to feed them.

You don’t need a fancy system and some folks simply feed into an unused drip pan, but other folks enjoy having a feeder system they can setup. It gives you a set it and forget it (for a while) system.

These are my top 5 options:

1. Free Range Treadle Chicken Feeder

This is a sturdy, easy to use, rust-free feeder that is highly recommended by poultry farmers! It has amazing features, like the 3 inner tubs (provision for a variety of feed, water, grit, and treats choices) and feeds flick that makes it easier for the chickens to feed. It also has a step-on mechanism that can drive away nasty wild birds and vermin from feasting your flock’s food. (see one here)

2. Hopper Chicken Feeder

This sturdy, heavy-duty plastic chick feeder can hold an entire bag of feed (and not difficult to fill) so it’s perfect for poultry farmers raising medium to large size flocks. It has three legs that keep the feeder station in an upright position to prevent debris and contamination. (see one here)

3. Tank Stand Chicken Feeders

Perfect for busy poultry farmers raising large flocks who want an easy way to refill the feeder daily. It is also easy to clean and has elevated legs that prevent pests, spills & wastage, and to let gravity help water flow out easily. (see one here)

4. Flip-top Trough Chicken Feeders

Choose either made of plastic or steel, this chicken feeder is a perfect feeding solution for chicken runs and smaller coops! It is very handy, durable, easy to clean and fill, and features 28 feeding holes that allow controlled feeding and help minimize waste and spills. (see one here)

5. Galvanised Gravity Fed Chicken Feeders

Made of steel, galvanized gravity fed is a durable, rust-free chicken feeder that looks a bit classic! It is ideal for standing used and offers a variety of sizes to choose from. (see one here)

Do You Need A Coop?

A coop serves as an important shelter for your chickens! Foxes and cats love to feed on poultry, and yours may be a candidate prey at night! A secure and weatherproof coop is highly suitable to protect chickens from potential danger, illnesses, and injuries.

Some important considerations when buying or building a coop are ventilation, perch, nesting boxes, pop door, storage space, and attached run area. Buying a coop may be a bit expensive, so if you are on a budget, I suggest building one instead. Building your own coop enables you to customize it the way you want and allocate your expenses properly.

Coop Plans and Ideas

Depending on what your plans are, you can go for simple or get pretty elaborate in your coop design and planning. And, if you don’t plan on having a lot of chickens you can just as easily make a chicken tractor instead of a full-blown coop.

1. A-Frame Chicken Coop

2. A-Frame Chicken Tractor

3. Chicken Coop with Run

4. Chicken Coop with Outter Nesting Boxes

5. Small Chicken Coop

6. PVC Chicken Tractors

7. Pallet Chicken Coop Plans

What Kind of Bedding Should You Use?

You may want to provide a comfortable nook for your poultry where they can lay their eggs and roost. This makes choosing the kind of bedding to use vital. Here are my top 5 list:

Straw and Hay

Straw and hay are practical options for some poultry farmers who want easy to clean and cheaper bedding. Made from barley, wheat, and oats, chickens love their texture and earthy smell. However, they don’t hold up very well in the rain, only attracting moisture and mold.

Pine Shavings

If you want superior quality, I recommend pine shavings. Besides their sweet pine scent, they don’t attract moisture and mold (dries up easily) and they don’t break down easily. Though they are a bit expensive, you get what you pay for. Pine shavings are available at any feed store.

Excelsior Fiber

Very easy to put in, to pull out, and to replace – this is what makes excelsior fiber another great bedding option for your chickens! Laying chickens like to sit on these pads, and once the eggs are laid, chicken owners, on the other hand like to leave those eggs on top so the pads can absorb dirt, fluids, and feces. In other words, it is not just a quality bedding, but also an excellent laying area for your chicks! This too can be a bit expensive.

Sand

Sand is another excellent and high-quality bedding for your chickens. They are easy to clean and maintain. You may remove leaves, moss, and dirt from the sand using a cat litter scoop as this works gently and doesn’t cause break down. Sand also dries up very well so it doesn’t harbor moisture and mold. You may find this option a bit expensive, but replacement is only done twice a year.

Recycled Paper

If you have plenty of scratch papers at home, don’t throw them yet! They serve as a good bedding option for chickens – cheap (nearly free) but still ideal! Shredded papers offer comfort for chickens but they could be toxic when left with poisonous chemicals, inks, and staples. So carefully check the type of paper to use first before you tear them into the shredder.

raising chickens in a chicken tractor

At What Point Can Baby Chicks Go Outside?

Ideally, chicks between 4 to 5 weeks can already go outside depending on safety, weather conditions, food, and water availability.

It’s understandable that you might be eagerly awaiting your chicks’ first days exploring the outside world (especially because the older they get, the messier they become), but be patient and give them a little time to grow.

You don’t want them to become hawk food, fox food or to rush them being outside only to find out that they are suffering from illnesses caused by parasites and bacterial infection in the end.

Set them free when you think that they have built up a strong enough immune system and have good nutrition. This will save you heartache and keep them happy.

Raising Chickens FAQ

When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?

Chickens will need to be around 6 to 9 months old before they’re laying eggs.

The first handful of eggs will be smaller than the rest. Their bodies are just getting used to the act of producing and laying eggs so be patient.

Do You Need a Rooster For a Hen to Lay Eggs?

You actually do NOT need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs. The only thing the rooster does is fertilize the egg (and protect the flock), but it’s not necessary to have one for your hen to lay.

However, you will need a rooster if you plan on hatching eggs. Without a rooster running around you’ll hatch no babies. So keep that in mind!

Should I Free-Range My Chickens?

This is going to depend a lot on your area, what predators you have, how your neighbors feel and so many other factors.

We free-range, but we have a huge yard and our chickens are fairly well protected in our area. We do have hawks, raccoons, and foxes, but for the most part, they’re ok to free-range during the day.

Ours get locked up tighter than Dick’s hatband at night to keep them from being attacked by any nocturnal animals. And, during the day my children are running around like crazy, so I think that pretty well keeps the hawks away.

Some folks don’t want to risk their flock going onto other people’s property, some want to make sure a neighbors dog can’t attack them, and some just don’t have the room to free-range. The only thing to think about is how much you’ll have to feed them if you keep them locked in a chicken yard rather than free-ranging them.

No wrong answer here, just one to keep in mind.

Are You Ready for Raising Chickens?

Sure you are! It’s honestly not that hard.

Chickens are fairly hardy critters and you’ll love being able to go out and gather your far fresh eggs in the morning!

Related Post: Different Goat Breeds (+ Cute Baby Goat Videos)

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