So you’re interested in starting a flock of chickens. And there’s a whole host of reasons why. Eggs, meat, pest control, fertilizer or just plain old-fashioned entertainment – these are ALL applicable when it comes to a backyard chicken.
But you’re a responsible grown-up and you want to make sure that you do it right. This leads to you ask, ‘exactly what do I need to do things right?’
The answer to this depends on whether you are starting with adult or baby chickens.
If you are starting your flock with fully feathered matured birds, then the requirements for care are quite simple. Adult chickens need a predator proof coop to sleep in and access to food and water.
Space to play in is always a good thing, but if this is in limited supply, then there are many breeds of chicken that do well in caged environment.
But regardless of whether you free-range or cage your birds, you will still need to have a chicken coop. Chickens do not see very well in the dark, which means they can not escape when a predator attacks (and predators will try very hard to get at a chicken).
You can either build this coop yourself or buy one that’s completed. Knowing what you want your birds to do, how many birds you plan to have, as well as, the climate for your area, will help you choose a design that best suits your needs.
Baby chicks, however, require much more than their adult counterparts.
Much like humans, baby chickens are not capable of caring for themselves. So unless there is a broody hen available, the task of being ‘mama bird’ will fall upon you.
Chicks require a brooder to stay in, a source of heat, and someone to show them ‘this is food’ and ‘this is water’. A failure in any one of these areas can cause a fatality.
Choosing between starting a flock with adult or baby birds, is something you should take your time with when considering. Time and financial constraints seem to plague everyone. For an in-depth look at this tough choice, check out, ‘Should I Get Chicks Or Pullets?’
But whatever route you choose, they both lead to the same reward – an amazing creature that is sure to provide you with more than you would ever expect!
### Important Note ###
It’s really in your best interest to check (ahead of time) and see if there are any restrictions on having a flock where you live. Roosters can be incredibly noisy and unlike the movies, they don’t just crow at dawn. They can crow… all…day…long! As you might imagine, this is sure to make you popular with the neighbors.
Another thing that I recommend to every potential flock owner is to join a chicken forum. The help and insight that I have received from these groups has been incredible.
Is It Hard To Raise Chickens For Eggs?
This is a very difficult question to answer as what you define as being difficult, depends on your perspective. So for sake of common ground, I will use a dog and a cat to compare with, as these are animals that most people are acquainted with.
Baby chicks require significant more care than either a kitten or a puppy. Temperature control is critical; the acceptable range being much narrower than your typical household pet. Also, as mentioned above, baby chicks initially need to be shown, ‘this is food’ and ‘this is water’. To my knowledge, no dog or cat has ever had issues with this.
But after the challenges of baby chicks has been met, chickens are one of the easiest livestock animals to raise.
Once your bird is fully feathered, the input required from you is minimal. You will need to feed and water them, just like any other animal. There will also be waste issues address. But, relatively speaking, adult chickens require very little effort.
Now for the comparison.
Chickens will need to be let of their coop every morning and then locked up every night. Also, once your hens start to lay, then you will need to collect eggs. In this regard, a chicken requires more effort than a cat.
Dogs, on the other hand, enjoy being walked regularly, as well as spending time engaged in meaningful interaction. Chickens are not like this.
Chickens will spend their day scratching and pecking at the ground, completely without any encouragement from you. So no walks are required. Also, as chickens are a flock animal, they are constantly interacting with each other – again, requiring nothing from you.
And for those whose dog occasionally ‘gets out’, a chicken will always come back to the coop at night (provided they are physically able to).
In this regard, a chicken requires a lot less input than a dog.
If you are having concerns regarding the unknown aspects of raising your own flock, then please consider this.
Wikipedia has the chicken being domesticated as early as the 5th century BC. Take a moment and think about just how much information was available for the average person back then.
There was no such thing as a chicken forum. And even if there was, not everyone was able to read or write, so posting a question would be fruitless.
We have the ability today to get answers to the most bizarre questions, very VERY quickly. Because of this, understand that you are NOT ALONE. Help…as in real world experience, is happily shared from people who are deeply passionate about their flocks.
Also worth noting is breed availability. With such a long history of domestication, the physical and behavioral characteristics of this fowl are quite vast. This means that you can purchase a bird with an innate ability to happily thrive in your specific environment.
And any conversation regarding backyard chickens must include a mention of commercial feed. Highly nutritious quality feed is readily available for purchase; the recipe being tailored for your specific flock.
So to recap, not only is excellent help available when you need it, not only will the right breed of chicken naturally fit in to your backyard, but you will have the additional benefit of a healthier chicken as they will be consuming a nutrition packed diet.
In short, over the several thousand years that chickens have been a part of our lives, there has never been a better time for you to start raising your own flock!
If you are excited about the possibility of some feathered friends in your backyard, and wish to learn more, check out, ‘Raising Chickens: Five East Steps For The 1st Timer.’