Raising egg laying chickens, for beginners, may seem daunting at first. But in my experience, chickens are one of the easiest and most rewarding farm animals to have. Their needs are few and their care, simple and straightforward.
Some of the first questions potential chicken owners ask me is if the birds are very messy, or very difficult to manage. My answer to both is: No. Granted, if you are planning to raise your chickens indoors, I would have to say that could be a very messy proposition. But considering that chickens are generally running around on the dirt outside, penned in for much or all of the time, their waste is not an issue if there is enough room in the cage for the birds to spread out.
As far as difficult, again, chickens rank very low on this scale when it comes to animals. They need to have plentiful water and food and protection from predators. If you can automate all three of these criteria, you could leave them to their own devices for days at a time if need be. Of course, human interaction is ideal in order to keep them tame, and their eggs should be gathered daily, but they will survive as long as they have a supply of food and water and predators are unable to reach them.
The coop and chicken run are the most important elements to a simple and easy to manage chicken operation. It needs to be of sufficient size to fit all your birds, with the enclosure walls high enough that the birds can not fly over. If the wire fencing extends over the top of the chicken run and covers the coop area with no points of entrance for predators, you’ll have more ability to leave the chickens for a day or two when needed.
You can buy chicken feeders and waterers that can hold several days’ worth of food and water for your birds, depending on the size of your flock. Multiple waterers should be used in the summer heat so they don’t run out.
You can start your flock with birds of any age, from peeps (newly hatched chicks) to pullets (young hens, usually not laying yet) to full grown birds. As you experience raising chickens in your backyard, you’ll probably try all different ages and find what suits you best for building your own chicken flock.
Honestly, the only way to overcome concerns about raising chickens is to give it a try. Read through the articles on this site and enjoy your new chickens when you get them!