If you’re interested in raising chickens for eggs, meat and/or feathers, there are a few things that you need to consider. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to raise backyard chickens so they don’t stray too far from your coop and produce healthy birds year after year.
The “disadvantages keeping chickens” is that they can be very expensive to maintain. They also require a lot of space and are not as clean as other animals. However, the advantages of owning chickens include fresh eggs, meat, and fertilizer.
Note from the editor: This is a guest article from Willow Haven Outdoor’s Creek Stewart.
I’m a wise guy. I’ve surrounded myself with a stunning group of women who work diligently to plant my yard, supply rich compost for my garden, dispose of my cooking trash, keep me company, and even prepare me a delicious breakfast every morning. These very industrious women in my life are not human. They’re chickens, but I call them “my beautiful lady lumps” since they’re so cute.
Even though they cost very little time, energy, or money, I consider my tiny flock of backyard hens to be one of the finest investments I’ve ever made. If you’d want to have a harem of hens in your life like mine, here’s how to get started.
The Benefits of Raising Chickens in Your Backyard
Some of you may be asking why hens were chosen. First and foremost, let’s get this question out of the way. Raising chickens used to be something that only people in the country did. Farms and broad open areas were connected with chickens. Not any longer! Backyard chickens, in my opinion, are a contemporary cultural phenomena. Thousands of families are flocking to their backyards to add a small flock (2-5) to the doghouse. My first property only had a 20’x20′ backyard when I purchased it. I started by building a little chicken house with three hens, which is the ideal quantity for a beginner. The most common misunderstanding about keeping chickens is that you must live in the country. This just isn’t the case. Local rules or neighborhood ordinances may have an influence on your selection, although many towns are chicken-friendly or easily persuaded differently.
Raising a small backyard flock, in my opinion, has several advantages. Let’s have a look at a few of my personal favorites.
- Fresh eggs, or “Hen Berries,” as I like to call them, are the most apparent reason. Hens begin producing eggs at the age of six months. For many years, they will regularly lay one egg every 1-2 days. These eggs are more tasty than store-bought eggs, particularly when the birds are fed kitchen waste and/or permitted to roam freely.
Fresh eggs from my morning pick.
- Composting: Chickens are incredible compost producers. They can transform practically any culinary refuse into feces, which is a nutrient-dense plant addition. Vegetable leftovers, bread, cereals, and even meat scraps are favorites. We’ll go into eating a little more later.
A tree with a chicken-landscaped base.
- Allowing your hens to free range (roam outside of the coop) will enable them to painstakingly landscape around your trees and bushes, which will help with insect control. Like expert ninja assassins, they’ll go for insects. They’re affectionately referred to as “my tiny T-Rexes” by me. They’ve eaten every sort of bug imaginable, as well as snakes, mice, minnows from our pond’s shallow border, and even a fallen young bird. They are ruthless killers, and when you look into their eyes, you can see their distant genealogy to great birds of prey. They do, however, like new grass and plant shoots and will gladly weed your garden (or planters) once it is established.
Look through the eyes of a ruthless assassin.
- Pets: You read it correctly: chickens make excellent pets. Chickens will happily feed from your hand, sit in your lap, and follow you around the yard if you raise and handle them from little chicks. They’ll even defecate on your lap if you let them. When you call, they’ll come to you and meet you at the door. They both have wonderful personalities. They are highly interested and constantly seek for food. They prefer to get up early and retire to bed shortly before twilight. They are, without a doubt, the most low-maintenance pet you can have (save maybe a goldfish). They’ll be as happy as can be as long as they have fresh food, water, and a clean coop. They aren’t as needy as other animals and are just as content when you aren’t around. I have no difficulties leaving my chickens for days at a time.
Creek feeds his sheep by hand.
- Chickens symbolize a long-term survival strategy, according to a survival teacher at Willow Haven Outdoor. If food becomes scarce in the future, a small backyard colony of hens may simply be scaled up to help replace food shortages. Chickens, as you may know, lay eggs, but they also lay chicken. Knowing precisely where your food originates from has a magical quality to it. I know what my hens eat, therefore I know what I’m eating — it’s a straightforward formula that I like.
- It’s easy to overlook the beauty of a plain backyard chicken, yet many of them have plumage that rivals even the most dazzling tropical bird. I’ve had chickens that were truly breathtaking to see. The variety of chicken breeds available is incredible; from brilliant blues and greens to lace-tipped gold feathers, many are true natural wonders. I’m often astounded that such a lovely bird may be seen roaming about in my garden. Some folks keep hens just for this purpose. In fact, some fly fisherman raise certain kinds of hens just for the purpose of using their feathers to tie high-priced fishing flies.
It’s easy to raise hens in your own backyard. You’ll be alright as long as you have the essential survival needs covered. Chickens, like humans, need shelter, water, and food to survive.
What You’ll Need to Raise Chickens in Your Backyard
Some of you may wish to start raising chickens from scratch or even hatch your own eggs in a home incubator. Others may want to forgo all of that and just purchase mature chickens that are already producing eggs. Baby chickens (chicks) need a different kind of shelter than teens and adults. I’ll divide shelter into two groups dependent on the age of the chickens.
Shelter for chickens under the age of two months
The optimal time to start rearing little chicks is in the spring. For the first two months, I keep all of my newborn chicks in my house or garage. Around Easter, many farm supply shops sell live newborn chicks, so now is a great time to get a pair. Unfortunately, distinguishing females from boys at this age is tough, so you’ll have to take your chances. Girls (hens) are the only ones that lay eggs, and newborn female chicks require 4-5 months to begin laying them. Craigslist is also a good way to look for local chicks (and even laying hens). Order an incubator and fertilized eggs online and hatch them yourself if you want to witness something really incredible. The baby chicks will leave an indelible impression on you and develop a much closer relationship with you. Backyardchickens.com is a fantastic place to look for fertilized eggs and incubators.
A cardboard box coop for baby chicks.
For the first two months of rearing newborn chicks, I’ve discovered that a plain old cardboard box is the ideal refuge. Temperature control is crucial for tiny chicks. A heat light is the ideal tool for this. You may also use a regular light bulb and an inexpensive store light. A thermometer in the box will let you manage temperature by adjusting the bulb appropriately. For the first several weeks, the following are the general temperature ranges:
Week 1: Temperatures of 95 degrees Fahrenheit Week 2: Temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit Week 3: Temperatures of 85 degrees Fahrenheit Week 4: Temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit Week 5: Temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit Week 6: Room temperature or 70 degrees Fahrenheit Week 7: Room temperature or 65 degrees Fahrenheit Week 8: Temperature in the room
Pine shavings from a local pet shop work nicely as flooring for a baby chick coop, according to my experience. Because chickens are miniature excrement producers, the wood shavings are quite beneficial. I’ve also made use of newspaper. The food and water bowls are the last two parts. Any shallow bowl (no more than 2 inches in height) would suffice. The small ladies must be able to reach the rims. You may either repurpose existing butter or whipped cream bowls or purchase new ones to meet your requirements. Young chick crumbles or beginning ration are specifically manufactured chick food available at farm supply shops, but I grew up rearing baby chicks on Quaker oats and cut up vegetable leftovers. If you take this method, it’s vital to mix in a little sand with the oats since chickens grind their food in their gizzard with minute pebbles and bits of sand. This is present in most store-bought feeds. The two most crucial considerations are maintaining a constant temperature and a full water dish. These are primary survival concerns for animals, just as they are for people.
Shelter for two-month-old and older chickens
If it isn’t too cold outside, I transfer the hens into my outside coop when they are two months old. There are many of different outdoor coop designs to choose from. You may see what I mean by doing a fast Google search for “chicken coop.” I usually raise 3-5 hens in a coop with a 48-foot footprint. Online coop kits may be purchased or free blueprints can be downloaded. The one in these photographs was purchased from a local Craigslist seller who produces and sells them. However, I made my first chicken coop out of waste materials. I also like movable coops, which are often known as chicken tractors. These usually have wheels on one side and can be moved about the yard to enable your chickens to roam around freely. There are various crucial elements to consider when it comes to outdoor chicken coops.
My chicken coop is a movable 48-square-foot enclosed coop.
- The primary goal of a coop is to provide security. Chickens are at the bottom of the food chain and are considered a delicacy by almost every predator, despite being cruel birds of prey for anything smaller than a deck of cards. Weasels, minks, cats, raccoons, dogs, and even hawks have killed my hens in the past. When you’re watching your chickens in the yard from the window and a giant hawk swoop down and soars away with one hanging from its talons, the name “chicken hawk” takes on a whole new meaning. I’ve come to the conclusion that a wire cage should be wrapped around a chicken coop 360 degrees. The wire holes should be no more than one inch in diameter. Nothing should be able to get inside via gaps or loose boards. There is a way where there is a will. Predators have been known to sneak through even the tiniest holes. Raccoons are a significant concern, and I’ve seen them open basic locks, thus all doors should be locked.
Raccoon attempting to enter coop via a gap.
Raccoon attempting to get access to the coop.
- Chickens should have a place to forage and receive some fresh air in every coop. My 48-inch coop has proven to be ideal for three chickens.
Predator protection is provided with a wire mesh casing.
- Although I’ve seen open-air roosting coops, I prefer a raised and enclosed roosting space for my hens. Chickens, like other birds, have a natural roosting urge and like to perch in high places (even trees if you let them). This area should be both shaded and ventilated, particularly during the hot summer months. A roosting perch bar is usually present in the roosting area, where the hens would sleep. It’s important to remember that they are driven by thousands of years of genetically wired impulses, so it’s simply a tree branch to them.
Perch for roosting that is both covered and enclosed.
- Roof: To protect from the sun, snow, and rain, coops should have a roof.
- Nesting Boxes: Nesting boxes should be included in every coop. These are basically little chambers for chickens to lay their eggs, measuring 12″x12″x12″. In my nesting boxes, I use straw or wood shavings. These are usually built within the roosting area.
Nesting boxes with a cover that can be opened easily.
- Mobile Coops: I’m a big fan of mobile coops for a variety of reasons. Chickens will strip the ground down to bare dirt in a couple of days if they are kept in fixed coops. Then cover the ground with hay, pea gravel, sand, or wood chips to protect it from becoming muddy and unpleasant. In around two days, three chickens totally stripped a 48 area. Mobile coops enable you to move the coop about your yard while still allowing the hens to have full access to fresh grass and insects. Mobile coops also enable you to place the coop in optimal locations, like as beneath a tree or out of the sun. With fixed coops, you may allow your chickens out to free range, but keep an eye out for predators. They like roaming freely among flower pots, gardens, trees, and other landscaping. When I’m working in the yard or near enough to keep an eye on them, I always let my chickens out of the coop.
- In the winter, I do not heat my coop. Chickens have thick downy feathers and can withstand extreme temperatures if other birds can.
Food for Chickens
Remember, what you feed your hens is ultimately what you consume. I try to give my chickens as much freedom as possible, and they like leftover supper and kitchen leftovers. Chickens, eggs, and egg shells are all favorites among chickens. They do, despite the fact that it sounds a bit unpleasant. Don’t be shy about giving them your leftover egg shells or a cold chicken sandwich. They’ll eat just about everything you throw at them, including watermelon rinds, apple cores, potato peels, grapes, egg shells, meat scraps, old bread, crackers, bacon, and so on.
Buffet of delectable chicken.
I often supplement their meals with Purina Brand Crumbles from a nearby farm supply shop, particularly during the winter. My mother grew up only giving entire corn kernels to their birds. In the end, chickens eat a wide variety of foods. Purchase a long-lasting chicken feeder and maintain it clean. Make sure your crumbles or grain aren’t moldy or moist at least every other day.
Purina Crumbles in food and water containers.
I also have a supply of sand on available for the chickens to dig in. They crush the food in their gizzard with grit (small bits of sand and gravel). A basin of sand will suffice. Crushed oyster shells (available at your local farm supply shop) are an excellent source of calcium. Their egg shells are also lovely and sturdy as a result of this.
Chickens, like all living creatures, need fresh water. On the market, there are a variety of chicken watering buckets to choose from. Because I have to fill it less often, I use a 5-gallon version. In the winter, I use a heated watering bucket.
Chickens have a lot to offer individuals from many walks of life, whether they suffer empty-nest syndrome or just don’t want to put all their eggs in one basket. They’re cheap to farm and won’t break the bank, even if you’re just scraping by or trying to build up a savings account. But don’t take it from me. Because birds of a feather flock together, I’d suggest looking into local poultry groups in your region. They’ll tell you if keeping hens in the backyard isn’t all it’s made up to be. Don’t be scared to take a risk and come up with your own coop concept. I’ve seen coops constructed from VW Beetle frames and ones that look like Hobbit houses from Lord of the Rings. Nothing ruffles my feathers more than folks who claim that there is just one method to boil an egg. Chickens may be cared for and raised in a variety of ways. If you want to raise a backyard flock, stop chasing your tail like a chicken with its head chopped off and get down to business. If you don’t want to yet don’t, you’re simply plain chicken.
Owner of a proud flock of chickens.
Guests who attend our survival classes often ask me the following questions regarding my chickens:
Q: Why don’t you have a rooster on your property?
A: Roosters are gorgeous birds, but they’re mostly useless unless you wish to fertilize your eggs and hatch additional chickens. They don’t lay eggs, but without one, you won’t be able to hatch your hens’ eggs into additional chickens. Before I hatch eggs, the roosters are usually 5-6 months old when I consume them.
Q: Which chicken breed do you prefer?
A: There are several breeds to choose from. Others are fluffy, while others are pure white and smooth, and some lay green and brown eggs. Easter Eggers, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and Americana/Araucanas are among my favorites. I like a variety of egg colors, and they make excellent presents.
Q: What makes you want to keep chickens?
A: The notion of growing part of my own food appeals to me. I also enjoy the fact that I could scale up production and use hens to augment my food requirements if required.
Q: Do your birds lay eggs on a regular basis?
In the spring, summer, and autumn, almost every day, and less often in the winter.
Q: Are there any health issues with chickens?
Chickens, like other animals, may get ill. It’s not always easy to figure out what’s wrong. Check the forums on famous chicken websites like Backyardchickens.com for other owners who have had similar issues. Chickens, on the other hand, are generally healthy and simple to care for. I’ve only had one person die from illness.
Creek Stewart teaches at Willow Haven Outdoor School for Survival, Preparedness, and Bushcraft as a Senior Instructor. Creek’s life’s work is to educate, share, and preserve outdoor survival and living skills. Creek is also the author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and the Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide, both of which are set to be released in May. Visit Willow Haven Outdoor for additional information.
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The “backyard chickens” is a popular topic these days. There are many benefits to raising your own chickens in your backyard. They provide fresh eggs and meat, which can be used for cooking or as a source of income.
Frequently Asked Questions
How hard is it to raise chickens in your backyard?
A: It is relatively easy to raise chickens, but it does require a bit of planning and effort. You will need to provide them with food daily and make sure they are getting the proper amount of exercise in order for their health not be compromised by stress or boredom.
Is raising backyard chickens worth it?
A: Raising chickens is a great way to provide fresh eggs and meat for your family. You can also save money by not buying these items in the stores. The only downside of chicken raising is that it does take some time and effort, but many people enjoy this process as long as they have enough support from friends or family members who are willing to help them with their chickens.
How much land do you need to raise chickens?
A: Im not sure what you mean by raise chickens, but if youre asking how much land is needed to raise a chicken, it would be about 1.5 m² for every dozen birds.
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