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Starter Guide to Raising Chickens

Spring is here! Along with warmer weather, packing away the snow gear, and pulling out sandals, the spring also brings people thoughts of taking on new projects around the home or garden. One of those might be whether or not to raise chickens for eggs or meat or just because. My husband and I raised 27 chickens to have fresh eggs. Initially we thought they were 26 hens and 1 rooster. Later we learned there were 25 hens and 2 roosters when one of the “hens” suddenly started crowing and her comb and wattle triple in size overnight! Life is certainly interesting with chickens.

Having chickens was definitely a worthwhile experience. The eggs were amazing. And the chickens are very entertaining whether they know it or not!

If you’ve ever thought about it, here is a quick guide to get started with raising chickens. (This guide assumes you will buy hatched chicks and by incubating eggs.)

Things to consider

Determine breeds & amount: Not all chickens are the same. There is a wide variety of chicken breeds. Some are better suited for cold weather or extreme heat. Based on where you live you’ll want to make sure the chickens you get are suited for your climate. Also, decide if you are keeping them as pets, to get fresh eggs, or for meat. Certain breeds are naturally larger and grow quickly. Those make better eating chickens. If you want eggs, you’ll need to look for breeds that have high egg laying frequency. Some breeds may only lay 1-2 eggs per week. While others are in the range of 5-7 per week. Figure out how often and how many eggs you want to have on hand. My husband determined we should get at least 20 to ensure we have enough eggs for ourselves plus extra to sell by the roadside. The egg sales would essentially payback the cost for building their coop and their initial supplies. They had to earn their keep! We added 5 to account for potential loss of life due to illness or predators. The hatchery we ordered from, threw in “a free exotic chicken” with orders of certain numbers. We got 2. Those ended up being the roosters.

Figure out their housing: Buy a coop or build one yourself. Again, think about your climate. If you are in colder areas, you will want to make sure they have some solid walls, maybe access to an electrical outlet in winter for a heater and a sturdy roof, for snow…we learned this the hard way. One winter day  we had to run out outside during a snowstorm to keep the coop roof from collapsing on the chickens due to the weight of the snow. Everyone was okay. We were cold and they had a lot to say about it. Chickens are not quiet.

Supplies: Food, starter pellets, nutrients, feed holders, water holders, wood shavings or similar, nesting boxes when they get older. Fencing to keep them in a certain area. (This did not work that well. Depending on your chickens personalities or flying ability. About half of ours seemed to be able to fly high enough to get over. While the other half couldn’t or maybe didn’t care to. They never seemed to wander too far away. Although when we moved from Maine to NC, we suspect one of them moved in with our neighbor, Bruce and his small flock of ducks.

 

 

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