Raising chickens is simple and easy to do, even for those new to backyard poultry. To be successful and keep your chicken flock alive, healthy and productive, there a few basics you’ll need. Shelter and confinement are the most necessary, as protecting your flock from predators and the elements is of primary importance. An outdoor run, in addition to the scratch yard just outside the coop, is also key to happy, healthy birds. Good food and plentiful water round out the basics. Follow these tips for raising backyard chickens successfully.
- Chicken coop
- Scratch yard
- Chicken feed/ grain
- Calcium supplement
Starting your flock with quality fowl is important when raising chickens, whether you are a pro or new to the hobby. You can buy baby chicks online, and you can also buy baby chickens at farm stores and private sellers in your larger community.
Learning proper care of baby chicks is important if you decide to start with baby chickens. Caring for baby chickens is a little more labor-intensive than working with pullets or full-grown chickens, but it is also rewarding, as your birds will be more gentle and familiar with you if you have them from the youngest age. Raising chickens can be quite enjoyable, and many prefer to start with day-old chicks for these reasons.
Once you have raised your chicks or obtained pullets (young hens soon to start laying), the fun begins. Keep your young chickens inside their coop/ run area full time while they are young. As they get older, especially if you have a rooster to look after them, you can let them into your yard for further scrounging and to eat bugs and grass. They will naturally return to their coop at night to roost or you can encourage them back during the daytime by feeding grain at a specific time each day and shutting up the coop once they are inside.
Since protection against chicken predators is incredibly important when raising hens and roosters, adequate chicken wire and fencing around the chicken coop is essential. Many backyard chicken flock owners will encase the chickens’ whole area, including above the pen, with fencing or chicken wire to discourage hawks, foxes, snakes and other animals looking for a meal. Those in rural areas will need to be most vigilant, in general, although dogs and cats can be as much of a threat in more suburban areas.
When raising chickens for eggs, feed the hens a laying mash, which is optimized for their health and production of nutritious eggs. You can also supplement their feed with ground oyster shells for extra calcium. Be sure the hens have adequate fresh water supplies, especially in hot weather. You can purchase chicken waterers that keep a constant supply of water in a round trough for the hens. Have several in their yard to minimize the frequency of refilling the containers.
It’s a good idea to have a scratch yard in front of the chicken coop, with a grass yard off of each side. The grass yards should be rotated to give the grass time to recover. Use each one for a couple days and then switch. If you have the space and the desire, you can also keep free range chickens, allowing them to roam in your yard or garden area.
Raising chickens is a fun adventure, and it can be quite satisfying and profitable too.
Go back to Egg Laying Chickens or check out other chicken-related resources online:
Best Coop Plans:
These chicken coop plans and building guide are the best I’ve found, and purchased them myself to build our first coops. There are five different chicken coops included, beginning with the most basic double-story ark and culminating with the largest design, the Chicken Barn with attached screened-in chicken yard. I want to use their plans again for their largest chicken coop, the chicken barn, when we are ready to upsize our chicken flock’s habitat. The coop pictured here is a medium-sized all-in-one design.
Recommended Chicken Books:
- Homemade Living – Keeping Chickens: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English
- Storey’s Guide – Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
- Barnyard in Your Backyard – A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
Favorite Chicken Quotes:
“ A chicken you eat only once — eggs a hundred times.” ~ Tajikistani Proverb
“ You cannot cook one half of the chicken and leave the other to lay eggs.” ~ Sanskrit Proverb
“ You don’t have to kill the chicken to get eggs.” ~ French Proverb