Have you ever wondered what it would be like to raise your own flock of chickens, but don’t know where to begin? Whether it be for egg production, a hobby, or a 4-H project, chickens are simple to care for animals, no matter what level of experience you may have. They are easy keepers that care for themselves with very little requirement from the human hand. You will however need to pay attention to your feeding/watering schedule and ensure you have a proper coop set up. Raising chickens can greatly enhance your hobby farm or backyard experience. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Choose a flock best suited for you
So, what are your intentions? Are you looking for a flock that is as useful as they are entertaining? Then the Golden Comet or Rhode Island Red are a great choice. Perhaps you are after a more “wild & crazy” bunch, like the Silkie or Polish breeds. Whichever you choose there are a few things you should consider.
It is best to start your flock as chicks that grow up together. There is a reason the term “pecking order” exists: Chickens create a close-knit group with their flock mates. If you bring adult chickens in that are from an outside flock, you will certainly see more fighting than you would like.
Choose a flock that is an appropriate size for the coop space you have available. Rule of thumb is 2 square feet per bird. Overcrowding your flock can affect their overall health. Make sure they have plenty of room to roam without crowding each other.
Climate plays a huge role when choosing a breed that is best for you. Some breeds are more cold-hardy than others. A cold-hardy bird would be great for locations where it gets chilly, but less ideal for places that are humid year-round.
Plan your coop with your chickens in mind
All over the internet you will find numerous suggestions on ways to set up your coop. From pre-made to homemade, make sure you are choosing a coop that will best suit your flock. Regardless of the coop you choose, make sure you have enough room for your flock to roost comfortably, nest efficiently, and eat/drink with no problem.
Chickens prefer to roost on perches as high as they possibly can. This helps them feel safe and out of reach of predators. When it comes to nesting boxes, ideally you should have 1 box per 3-4 birds. Although they may only have 2-3 “favorite” boxes that everyone will take turns using.
Easily accessible food and water is a must for all flocks. Make sure that your feed is kept off the ground, yet low enough for your smallest bird to reach. Ensure their feed is kept in a dry location, so molding does not occur. When it comes to water, keep it fresh, keep it clean, and keep it full.
Predators are everywhere, keep your flock safe
Predators love wooded areas and placing your flock near one should not be taken lightly. Foxes, raccoons, weasels, dogs, hawks, and other large birds, would love to have a taste of your flock. To help keep your fatalities as low as possible, focus on the sky, ground, and all areas in between.
Heavy-gauge chicken wire is a must when it comes to your run and coop. The heavier the gauge, the harder it will be for predators to break your fencing and enter the coop. Make sure all holes are sealed off, so the inside of your coop and run are not easily accessible to other critters that may cause harm to your flock.
If possible, nestle your run under some trees, so large birds cannot swoop down and pluck your hens off one by one. If there are not trees around for you to do so, bird netting over the top of your run is a great alternative.
When it comes to digging predators, additional chicken wire attached to or buried under your run fencing is a great way to stop animals from going under your run.
It never hurts to keep a rooster around with your hens. Like a watchdog, these guys actively look for threats and will alert you, as well as the rest of the flock, to be on the lookout when they spot a threat in the area.
There are the basics to get you started. Have no fear when it comes to starting your first flock, it’s easier than it may seem. There are resources all around to help you along the way! It helps to locate your local feed store. There you should find plentiful chicken supplies and knowledge to help answer any questions you may have. Before you know it, your flock will come together like a fresh egg sandwich on a Sunday morning!
Written by: Ashton (shown pictured above).