PART 1: GETTING STARTED
|Photo by: Stefanie
Overflowing with excitement, I cannot contain the fact that it’s chick season!!! I do believe chickens are the favorite “farm animal” amongst our children. Do not get me wrong, all the animals are important, good companions or intrigue us with their fascinating behaviors. Yet, chick season is so fun! We can go to our local Tractor Supply Store and spot a new breed we should try. Even if we have a flock at home and 25 new babies. LOL It seems we can not get enough of our feathered friends.
Have you raised chickens before?
Are you limited on space?
Do you have predators or a lot of loose neighbor dogs?
What is the purpose of them? Meat ? Eggs? or Meat and Eggs?
What will you feed them? Do you want only free range?
How many eggs will you use a day?
All of these egg-celent questions (I’m corny I know) will determine your set up, breed and the number of chickens you are looking for.
You will be addicted if you start, this could be hazardous to your health, well being, and pocket book. (Northerners- that’s a purse) OR Your money! I warned you, I did! If proceeding, please use caution (or as my hubby says- common sense- and I quote “we only have so many neighbors to give eggs to..”- that’s why our dogs love them too 😉 I really do have common sense- I just love chickies more!) LOL!
STEP 1: IF you haven’t already and you are in town- check your ordinances. Some states have a farm act, that says even if your local ordinance says no “farm animals in town” they will allow you to petition of guidelines. For example- if you just want a few eggs, you can commit to not having roosters and show them your set up, etc. It really varies on your location AND if you live in a “community or have a neighborhood ordinance too”. If this is not an issue skip. Then look at the yard or buildings you already have. Chickens do not require a fancy set up, it can be very simple and possibly less of an expense than you think.
STEP 2: Come up with a plan. Answer the questions above and pin point what kind/s of chickens you would like.
Generally laying hens are smaller bodied birds than your muscular meat breeds. Purebred hens or commercial strains is your next question. The commercial hens are so much more efficient on your feed to egg ratio. You have the choice of 2 different groups. The Bantam (smaller- 1/4 the size) or large breeds.
If you are going for a dual -purpose breed, they are larger and more hardy and self reliant.
The you have your meat breeds also known as broilers or fryers. (Not a lot different- Shelter without a nest box, water and feed them until butchering age, harvest, and enjoy freezer fresh meat year round. Take note they do eat a considerable amount more feed though.)
Okay for the EGGS:
Fresh eggs are so delicious looking and tasting. Once you eat a fresh picked egg, you’ll have a hard time going back. The taste is so wonderful, the yolks are so much brighter, AND to top it off : you know what you are feeding them and that they are FRESH!
The typical laying breed will lay 250-280 eggs a year, starting at about 18 weeks of age. (20 for heavy breeds).
Something to consider is the space per bird confined is 10sq. ft. per heavy breed and 7 sq. ft. per lightweight breed, 2 sq. ft per bantam. Plus roosts. If you are letting them forage or have an outdoor run, you can get by with about half that space per bird.
|Photo by Junior Libby
STEP 3: Get out that trusty pen and paper. (or IPAD..shh.. I won’t tell). By now you may have picked out what breed/s of chickens you’d like. OR at least narrowed down the selection based on purposes. Then figure out what things will be needed.
- A Chicken Coop (if keeping the chicks in the basement, porch, etc you may have some time leeway on this. (Nests, cages, run, roosts, etc.)
- Chicken brooder- these are a bit expense, homemade works great (metal dog crate or a heavy card board box with a heat lamp and red heat lamp bulbs will work)
- Chick Starter
- Chick Feeder/s
- Chick Waterer
- Bedding of some sort
- Extension cord/s (optional)
Now you could get these all when you buy your chicks, but it does help to have it set up first. 😉 Your local feed mill, feed store, or tractor supply store will have these items. Or you can order them online if you purchase your chicks online. Here are two hatcheries:
- Whelps- I will personally recommend them. (This is not an affiliate- but do mention www.rusticpioneer.com, you did see it here and maybe they would give our readers a discount in the future. 😉 ) However, they have always had hardy quality of chicks. When we’ve had 25 chicks, we didn’t loose 1. A few personal contacts deal with them annually and they are great!
- Another I’ve heard so many good things about is McMurray’s hatchery. I have not purchased any of their chicks, however, a lot of 4-Her’s do. They are known for their quality too.
There are other hatcheries too. If you work, own, or would like to share one; leave the name in the comments section with a link for others to see as well. Thanks.
STEP 4: Figure out where you are going to purchase your chicks and set up your chick brooder area.
STEP 5: Add your chicks.
In the mean time, GET YOUR OWN EGGS!
PART 2: THE CKICKEN COOP OR HEN HOUSE