Are you interested in raising chickens? They make great pets, and produce you a steady supply of healthy food!
Check out this video Bee made with IOBY about how to raise chickens for eggs!
1. Do You Have Enough Time?
They need daily attention and long term care. The more time you spend with your birds, the more you will get to know their individual personalities; this will make it easier for you to know if they are happy or if they are getting sick. You will also need time to clean your coop, run, feeders and waterers and do regular chicken health check ups. If you plan on going away on vacation, remember you will need a chicken sitter.
2. Do You Have Enough Space?
You need to have enough space for your chickens to live a happy and healthy life. Chickens that are confined too small spaces are more likely to pick at each other and get sick. You need 4 square feet per bird inside your coop, and at least another 4 square feet of space per bird outside the coop. I recommend at least 10 square feet per bird- but 20 is better!
Chickens also need a space that has contact with the soil. Chickens need to peck and dig at the ground, for their health and happiness. They swallow tiny rocks to digest their food, and they enjoy digging!
3. Design Your Coop
Your coop will have two main parts
- The Coop itself where they will sleep and lay eggs
- The Run, a protected place for them to roam around, play, eat and drink.
Inside the coop you will need nesting boxes for them to lay eggs in and roosts for them to sleep on at night. The floor of the coop floor will need to be covered in an absorbent material such as wood-chips (from non treated wood!). Make sure your coop has enough ventilation. If your coop smells like ammonia, there is not enough ventilation, or you are not cleaning it enough.
4. Get Chickens!
There are many breeds of chickens to choose from. Some are better layers, some live longer, some are fluffy, some have crazy feathers, some are better for cold weather, some are better for hot weather. Know what you are looking for and pick the best combination for your needs. You can order day old chicks, or buy older chickens from a reputable source near you.
5. Feed Your Chickens
Chickens are omnivorous and need a varied and balanced diet. I recommend purchasing a non-gmo organic premixed feed as well as giving them plenty of table scraps. Chickens nutritional needs change as they age from chick to full on layers, so make sure you are adjusting their feed. I also recommend increasing the fat content in your feed before winter sets in if you live in a cold climate. You can do this by giving them more “scratch” or ground up corn in the late fall.
6. Care and Maintenance
Chickens require daily, weekly and seasonal chores. Everyday you want to make sure they have enough food and clean water. When you chickens are laying, make sure you collect the eggs early and often. Weekly clean out the bedding in the coop, and wash and sterilize their feeders and waterers. I recommend doing a health check every month, looking for external and internal pests and any other issues. Seasonally you will want to do a deep clean.
Remember you can pass diseases to your chickens from other birds. If you visit your friends coops, make sure your change or sterilize your shoes, and wash your hands. Its never a good idea to arrange chicken play dates. Biosecurity is key for the long term health of your chickens, and all chickens in your area.
7. Enjoy Your Chickens and Take a Well Deserved Break!
Spending time with your chickens is a great way to unwind at the end of the day, and a calm peaceful way to start the day. They are a lot of work, but they are a ton of fun! Enjoy!