Raising chickens in your backyard can be quite rewarding and exciting, especially for beginners. After all, chickens can be a great source of food or can also be kept as pets. Raising some chickens in your backyard can give you an unlimited supply of eggs, a sense of fulfillment and joy. Plus, if you have kids, the joy of rearing chickens can be multiplied as these pets are very social creatures.
Raising chickens in your backyard can be a great way to have fun with your kids, teach them how to take care of the chickens, and even help with the chores. But raising a new flock can be a challenging task full of ups and downs. And it can take a very long time to learn how to take care of your chickens. So here are a few unique tips for raising chickens in your backyard for the first time that will help prevent heartaches and confusion.
Tips for Raising Chickens in your backyard
1. You Don’t Need a Fancy Chicken Coop to Start
There are numerous fancy prebuilt chicken coops in the market for modern farmers that are quite costly. But the price of these chicken coops should never discourage you from starting your project. After all, these birds are simple creatures that need a simple chicken coop. In fact, you can design and even make one using recycled materials to reduce the cost. Just make your coop has:
- Nesting boxes for all the layers
- A unique spot for roosting
- Protection from predators and even thieves
- And more than enough space to move around
You can even modify an existing structure like a doghouse or barn and make sure you create enough space for the above requirements. Or simply build a new structure for your new birds. Luckily, there are numerous chicken coop designs online that you can use for inspiration. But make sure your design leaves more than enough room for expansion in your backyard as your flock grows.
2. Start With Mature Birds or Chicks Instead of Hatching Your First Flock From Eggs
While incubating and hatching your first flock from eggs might seem fun, it’s simpler to start with mature chickens or chicks. Starting with mature birds or chicks will allow you more time to get accustomed to taking care of these birds until maturity and learn all the dos and don’ts of raising chickens in your backyard. Hatching your own chickens is something that you should consider in the future as your flock grows, but for now, you should avoid the frustrations of egg incubation and focus on learning the behavior and taking care of the chickens.
Luckily, most local animal feed stores receive chicks orders in spring; therefore, you can ask around and find out when they will arrive in your town. You can also get some chicks from a well-established chicken farm in your town. If that is not an option, you can order chicks online from some established hatcheries and have them delivered directly to your home. But make sure you prepare your backyard before their arrival.
Another ideal option for starting this project is by purchasing mature chickens that are already laying eggs as your first flock. This option can work perfectly sometimes, but you might end up with rejects from other farms. Therefore, you have to be very careful when purchasing mature chicken.
3. Try and Stay as Natural as Humanly Possible
There are numerous methods and techniques for rearing chicken, and this being a simple new project, you should avoid complicating it. So instead of spending a lot of cash while taking care of your flock, you should make it simple and fun by doing the following:
- Instead of disinfecting the chicken coop using special washers and chemicals, you can use a homemade solution.
- Try and free-range your flock as much as possible. This will help you reduce your budget and provide them with a well-balanced diet.
- Instead of giving them calcium supplements, you can feed them crushed eggshells.
- Feed them an assortment of scraps from the kitchen to give them the needed nutrients. This will help reduce the amount of waste that reaches your garbage bags.
- Instead of spending a lot of cash on costly equipment, you can make your nesting boxes, waterers, and feeders using repurposed things. You can also make the roost from scrap pieces of wood.
Going natural can save you a lot of cash while ensuring that your flock is healthy and relaxed in your backyard.
4. Choose the Right Chicken Breed
Even though all chicken breeds can be raised in your backyard, there are some breeds that are ideal for backyard chickens. So instead of picking any chicken breed, you can select the following breeds that will thrive in the small space in your backyard:
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is a great dual-purpose breed that can be raised for both meat and eggs. This breed can attain a maximum weight of about 6.5 lb. and has dark red feathers. The Rhode Island Red can easily adapt to living in a small flock and lays brown eggs. A dual-purpose breed like the Rhode Island Red is hardier and self-sufficient than most chicken breeds.
Another great dual-purpose breed (for meat and eggs) is the Wyandotte chicken breed. Weighing about 6.5 lb., this breed does well in rugged conditions and thrives in a small flock. Wyandotte is a very popular backyard breed in the US. Wyandotte is a healthy, friendly, and hardy chicken breed that will guarantee you four eggs per week.
Another fun breed to keep in your backyard is the Orpingtons. Orpington chickens are great dual-purpose chickens whose hen can attain a maximum weight of about 8 lb. Orpington chicken was originally bred in 1886 by William Cook by crossing the Plymouth Rocks, Langshans, and Minorcas.
Ameraucana is a unique breed that is loved by people for its unique disposition and comical puffy cheeks. They are versatile, easy to handle and can thrive in a wide range of climates. Ameraucana is known to lay green eggs. This breed can lay more eggs over an extended period than most breeds.
5. Keep Everything Clean
Make cleaning the chicken coop and the nesting boxes a daily routine. After all, a dirty nesting box equals dirty eggs, and this will leave you with the dilemma of deciding whether you should wash them or not. Cleaning the nesting boxes and replacing the beddings can take a few minutes every day. But waiting until the weekend can leave you with a huge task and numerous dirty eggs.
This also applies to the coop’s floor. If you are using a deep litter method, you can try and turn the beddings every time you enter the coop. Keeping the chicken coop clean can also help reduce the probability of your flock getting sick. A clean coop also means a fresh-smelling backyard,
6. Get a Heated Water Bowl to Use During the Cold Seasons
Even though you are trying to reduce your budget by keeping your electricity bills low, a heated chicken water bowl can be quite helpful, especially for people living in cold places. During the cold seasons, the shallow water pans and buckets can freeze very fast, so you will have to go outside after every few hours to refill the waterers and break the ice. So why don’t you save yourself this headache by using the plug-in dog bowls?
During the warm seasons, you can use the on-demand waterers that function like drip water. The on-demand waterer is easier to keep clean than the normal waterers, but they do freeze easily in winter. Therefore, you can use the plug-in dog bowls in winter and the on-demand waterers in summer.
7. Chickens Are Not Meant to Be Chased
There are numerous times when you will have to handle your flock to move them or give them some medication. Therefore, chasing them during the day is not the best way to handle them. Plus, chasing them is not meant to entertain your family in any way possible. After all, chickens are agile, and swift creatures that are wired to run really fast, and chasing them can be quite tedious.
Therefore, instead of chasing them, you can wait for them in the evening when they are comfortably roosting and move them or give them some medication. Chickens tend to be very drowsy and lethargic at night, and they won’t put up too much challenge when being carried. You can pluck any chicken from the perch at night with little to no issue. This is also the best time to clip their wings.
Raising chickens in your backyard can be as complicated or as easy as you want it to be. If you have more time and a huge budget, you can build a fancy chicken coop and even feed them costly chicken feeds. However, if you are working on a budget, you should try and simplify this project as much as you can by using the above tips. And within no time, you will start enjoying the benefits of introducing the flock of chicken in your backyard without doing a lot of work.
About the Author – Kristen Chapple: Kristen is the editor and content creator at Ecopeanut.com. She is passionate about sustainability in style and interior décor with a soft spot for DIY projects.