How to get started with chickens
By Constance Smith
Scores of people are choosing to start their own backyard flocks of chickens – many for the first time. Farm supply stores and hatcheries are selling out, and some even have waiting lists for chicks. If you are thinking of creating your own backyard flock, this will help you get started.
Having backyard chickens not only provides you fresh eggs, but there are additional benefits. Bedding and droppings from the coop can be used to fertilize your garden. Chickens will eat almost every kitchen scrap you give them, and they love to eat insects, including ticks.
Should you start with grown chickens or chicks?
When you start off with chicks, you have the benefit of seeing how quickly they grow. Depending on how much time you spend with them, they can become very tame and allow you to handle them. It is fun to see just how quickly they grow and develop – much faster than you would imagine.
Raising chicks can be a lot of fun, but you will need some extra equipment, like a brooder – an environment to keep them warm and safe and give them a place to start out. I have shared information on CosmopolitanCornbread.com that thoroughly explains setting up a brooder, and I have also posted other chicken care articles and videos.
However, you may choose to start with juvenile hens, called pullets, or fully mature birds. The biggest benefit of starting with grown hens is that they are already going to be near, or at, laying age. If your goal is to have fresh eggs, this is a huge perk. Additionally, if you start with grown hens, you don’t have the added up-front expense of a brooder and other starter equipment that you would need for chicks.
Chicken Coops and Yards
When you decide to get chickens, they will of course need a coop to live in. This can be a shed-style coop with a yard or a “chicken tractor” – a small coop with attached chicken run that can be moved all over your yard. This allows the chickens to stay contained but always have access to fresh grasses and insects. These are a great option if you have just a few chickens.
Remember, while chickens can’t fly well, they can easily go over most fences. In particular, if a fence has a top bar or board the chicken can land on it, it will go over it. If you really need to keep your chickens contained, it is best to provide them a run or yard that has a roof. The roof can be made of simply bird netting. That is enough to keep them inside.
Keeping your own chickens is a rewarding experience that you and your family will love. You can find chicken breeds that lay white eggs, brown eggs blue or even green.