Are you thinking of raising backyard chickens, but unsure because you don’t know what is really involved? If you are prepared, becoming a chicken owner can be an exciting and rewarding experience.
The following is a list of the 10 most important questions that you need to ask yourself BEFORE you decide to invest in the hobby.
- How many chickens should a beginner start with?
- Does my city allow me to raise chickens in my backyard?
- Can I keep roosters?
- Do you have the time to raise chickens in your backyard?
- How do you start raising backyard chickens?
- How many chickens do you need to get a dozen eggs a week?
- What do you need to get started with chickens?
- How much room do chickens need?
- What chicken breed should you buy?
- Can you leave chickens alone for a week?
How many chickens should a beginner start with?
Chickens are very much flock oriented and social by nature and should never be kept alone. It is best to start with no less than 3 chickens. This way, if one passes away, the other is not left alone.
It is also best to start out with just hens and not a rooster. This way you can concentrate on learning how to care for them with daily feeding, collecting their eggs, cleaning the coop, etc.
In time, once you become used to caring for your hens, you can begin to add to your flock. Many families want to keep enough hens to feed their family so they do not need to purchase eggs in the supermarket.
Tip: Raising Backyard Chickens
I highly recommend building or buying a larger coop than is necessary to house the amount of chickens you plan on getting. Chicken keeping is very addicting and you may find yourself wanting more!
Does my city allow me to raise chickens in my backyard?
Depending upon where you live, there are different regulations and restrictions. The laws for keeping chickens vary not only from state to state, but also from county to county and from town to town.
This is an important question to investigate before investing a lot of money into a coop, chickens, feed and various other essential supplies that are needed to raise chickens.
Make sure that your city allows for you to keep chickens in your backyard. It would be devastating to have to give up your beautiful flock chickens because you found out they are illegal to keep.
Make sure that you know what your local chicken law ordinances are and that you follow them. If neighbors complain, animal control officers can show up at your residence and issue fines for non-compliance.
Can I keep roosters?
Not all cities allow roosters. Make sure that you check within the city you reside to see what the restrictions are. Also, if you are raising baby chicks and your city does not allow roosters, make sure that you have a plan as to what you will do with them.
Find out how many weeks you are allowed to keep them until they need to be rehomed. For instance, the city in which I reside allows us to keep roosters until they are 5 months of age. This is about the time most roosters are crowing.
Do you have the time to raise chickens in your backyard?
Raising chickens does require you to take time out of your day to care for them. Every day you should inspect your flock to make sure that they are well. Check their coop to make sure that they are safe. Inspect around the perimeter of their coop to make sure that predators are not trying to get to them.
The most common backyard chicken predators are dogs, hawks and raccoons. Make sure that your coop is predator proof! I highly recommend this Poultry Netting Electric Fence with Amazon. I was able to get a good deal on it. You can check Amazon for the current price.
Chickens require fresh food and water daily. If you have laying hens, eggs should be gathered at least once daily, more frequently if the weather is very hot.
Weekly cleaning of their hen house is essential so your chickens are not having to breathe in the fumes of ammonia. Chickens poop a lot when they are roosting at night.
On top of a weekly cleaning of the hen house, a monthly deep cleaning of the chicken coop should also be done.
I have found that apple cider vinegar is extremely beneficial to have around the chicken coop. Read my article, 12 Uses of Apple Cider Vinegar Around Your Chicken Coop- How to Make Your Chickens Happy, Healthy and More Productive
How do you start raising backyard chickens?
Once you check your local laws about chicken keeping to make sure you can keep them, the next step is to find them! Many Tractor Supply Co. stores and local farmers sell their baby chicks in the Spring. You can also find many companies that sell baby chicks and fertile chicken eggs online.
If you are wanting to start with baby chicks, you need to make sure that you have all the Essential Brooder Box Supplies. Chicks require special lighting their first 6 weeks. Once they are fully feathered, by 6-8 weeks(depending upon the breed) they are fine to be put in the chicken coop outdoors.
How many chickens do you need to get a dozen eggs a week?
This, of course, depends upon the breed of chickens you choose. If you choose hens that are considered good egg layers, (Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Golden Comets) you probably only need 3 hens to produce 1 dozen eggs for you in a given week. Some of these breeds produce up to 7 eggs a week, but on average, 4 eggs a week.
Keep in mind that there are times that hens do cut back on laying. This can be in the winter, sweltering heat and during molting. During this time, they stop laying and put their energy into building up their nutrient reserves.
What do you need to get started with chickens?
If you choose to start with baby chicks, you need a brooder box and all of the essential supplies to go with it. Read my article 10 Brooder Box Supplies You Need for Thriving Chicks for a detailed list on the essential supplies.
Make sure that you have the time set aside to raise your chickens. They do require daily upkeep to make sure that they are happy and healthy.
How much room do chickens need?
The amount of space a chicken needs to live happy and healthy depends upon their age. Baby chicks need 1/2 square foot per chick, Young chicks, 1 square foot per chick. Adult chickens, 2-4 square feet per chicken.
How much space do chicks in a brooder need?
To provide chicks in a brooder a happy and healthy environment they need to have enough space. 0-4 weeks: 1/2 square foot per chick. 4-8 weeks: 1 square foot per chick.
How much space do chickens need in their coop?
Adult chickens need at least 2-4 square feet per chicken. This is a minimum. Heavier breeds require more, lighter breeds less. Make sure when designing a coop, it is large enough to house them.
How much space do chickens need outside of the coop?
- 8 square feet per chicken, minimum
Depending upon what breed of chickens you have also determines how much space they need. The heavier breeds, such as Orpingtons and Barred Rocks require up to 4 square feet of coop space. The smaller breeds, such as bantam breeds only require 2 square feet of coop space.
The more space that is available for your flock, the better. By allowing them extra space to forage outside in the day and retreat to their coop at night, you will not only have less fighting, but happier, healthier chickens. If your chickens are going to spend most of their time inside the coop, make sure you give them enough space.
What chicken breed should you buy?
If you are looking for hens that lay an abundance of eggs, your best bets are the Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns or Golden Comets. Many of these breeds lay up to 300 eggs per year.
If you are looking for chickens to provide you with meat, your best bet is a Cornish Cross. This breed is ready to harvest at 4-6 weeks of age.
If you are looking for the friendliest chicken, Silkies, Buff Orpingtons and Cochins have got to be the best!!
What chicken lays colored eggs?
Easter Eggers lay a variety of different color green, blue, brown and sometimes pink eggs. Olive Eggers lay a variety of olive colored eggs. Ameraucana’s and Crested Cream Legbars lay blue eggs and Black Copper Marans lay a dark chocolate brown colored egg!
Can you leave chickens alone for a week?
It’s ok to leave your chickens alone for a few days, BUT only under certain circumstances. If you are going to be gone longer than a few days, it is best to get a good friend or family member to help you out caring for them while you are away.
- They need to be provided with enough food and water.
- Make sure that their food and water containers cannot be knocked over. It would be awful to leave a few days only to find out that your chickens spilled their water the first day you were gone!
- Make sure that their enclosure is predator proof.
- Make sure that they have an enclosed area to forage, free from predators.
- Try to arrange for a friend or neighbor to collect the eggs when you are away. Many people would love to do this for you, especially if you offer them to keep all of the eggs they gather while you are away!