Raising Chickens

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What do you need to raise chickens? – The Basics of raising chickens.

Before the days of Walmart, raising chickens was a pretty normal thing to see. Even in the city, people would keep chickens as a way to have fresh eggs and control bug problems.

With more people turning towards organic foods and backyard gardens, raising chickens is starting to increase in popularity again. From knowing where your food came from, to making sure your family has fresh food during an emergency, there are a number of reasons that people are deciding to raise chickens.

Free Range Chickens Roaming in a field

Benefits of raising your own chickens:

  1. Fresh Eggs – Up to 200 a year per Hen.
  2. Fresh Organic food, free of pesticides and chemicals.
  3. Chickens are a great way to keep bugs from infesting your garden.
  4. They produce good nitrogen-rich manure that when mixed with your compost is great for plants.
  5. Great for weed control.

How to get started:

While there are a couple of breeds of chickens that produce eggs and meat, most chickens are bred either for their meat, or for their eggs.

For the beginner, we recommend either buying a couple of young female chickens that have just started to lay eggs, or a few baby chicks that have already hatched. You can also buy fertilized eggs and keep them in an incubator until they hatch, but baby chicks are much easier to deal with when you’re just starting out.

What to feed your chickens:

The taste of your chickens meat and eggs has a lot to do with proper feeding and watering.

Water – Each hen will drink approximately 2 cups of water per day. It’s very important to always have a fresh supply of water for your chickens.

Food – Chickens need 3 basic things:

Grains – Wheat, corn & oats.
Greens – Greens can be made up of grass, weeds and other fresh vegetables from your garden.
Protein – During the summer months most of the protein that your chickens need can come from bugs. If supplementation is needed you can use soybeans, fish meal, worms, milk and or meat.

Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe:

You can purchase chicken feed from just about any feed store, but making it yourself can save money and ensure that you know what your chickens are eating.

2 Parts corn meal
3 Parts soft white wheat
3 parts hard red winter wheat
1 Parts oat groats
2 Parts sunflower seeds
1 Parts split peas
1 Parts lentils
1 Parts sesame seeds
1 part quinoa
1/2 Parts flax seed
1/2 part kelp

Chicken Coop

Homemade Chicken CoopHand built chicken coopA chicken coop doesn’t have to be overly complicated or expensive. In fact, a decent coop can be made with materials that you probably already have.

The basic Chicken coop is made up of some wood and a couple of feet of chicken wire. The floor can be Lind with wood shavings or straw for easy cleanup.

Also, if you have the room we suggest enclosing a large area so your chickens can roam free and feed off the bugs and grass.

Resources for Raising Chickens

Books:

Chicken Coops:

Comments

31 Responses to " Raising Chickens " Please share your thoughts...

  1. settles says:

    Do you need to have a rooster with your hens? I live on the edge of town but not far enough out to not annoy my neighbors with a rooster. :)

  2. Robert says:

    You only need a rooster if you want to fertilize the eggs…. If you just want eggs to eat then there is no need for a rooster.

  3. Jarrett says:

    You should add some information about basic care. ie: need for hens to roost at night, predators (hawks, foxes) and egg=producing lifespan.

  4. Timothy says:

    Guinea fowl are the only birds that can actually remove FLEAS from an infested part of property and they act as an alarm animal – any approach they are not used to on the property will send them screaming super loudly and warn you. Chicken cannot be beat for the absolute best all around animal for producing something of value for so little.

    • howzadog says:

      Actually, no animal outperforms the rabbit – in virtually all aspects. You simply have to look back over hostory to see all cultures used rabbits during hard times. Chickens rank second to the rabbit though.

      • Jim says:

        however, rabbit is not a good long term survival food source because it does not contain enough fat and prolonged use as food will lead to “rabbit starvation”

        • Dave says:

          Jim,
          This is false, and you are confused about the term “rabbit starvation” which means that one expends more calories in the hunt for food than they can harvest and consume. It has nothing to do with rabbits. A breeding pair can provide plenty of nutritious protein for a family. The pelts are useful as well.

        • Susan says:

          Not true. We ate more rabbit than anything as a child. Rabbit starvation comes from a lack of fat in your diet overall (starving people eating nothing but rabbit). Fry your rabbit in fat, or incorporate any other fat into your daily diet.

    • JoeAnn says:

      I love the idea of having Guinea hens to eat the fleas! We have had a bad problem with fleas because our neighbors have so many dogs. I have two outside dogs and two yappers inside. They are eaten up with fleas and I have tried yard spray everything. If the hens will do the job, I am getting so chicks to start.

  5. meives says:

    does anyone know of laws that keep you from having hens in your yard in a town?

    • THEBSK says:

      Almost every city has some sort of ordinance against it. This is obviously why we only see “out-of-towners” raising any type of livestock. Check the specific regulations for where you live, as every city is unique.

      Often, a fun little way to get around this is to only have a very few livestock and name them. In doing this they are legally “pets” and can be kept in the city. But again, check the specific regulations in your area.

  6. frank sherman says:

    keep in mind that chicken feed cost money and there may be no supply.rabbits are easy to raise,contain and they will live fine on what you raise in your garden already

    • Doug says:

      Actually, table scraps work fine for feeding chickens. They will finish off almost anything, they eat even mice if they can catch them. (not a fun thing to watch)
      I use almost zero bagged chicken feed, just some during the worse of winter. However I do have endless supply of corn, and wheat in our area, still a person soon learns that if allowed to walk about the hens find most of their own food.

      Chickens are just too easy to care for not to have around.

  7. Mike says:

    Robert…great discussion here…can we get more info as stated above…per Jarret’s please???
    thanks!!!!

  8. MaddCelt says:

    Has anyone tried the recipe listed on here? If so, what was the cost?

  9. D.NORMAN says:

    My brother started out with four chicks after they matured he bought a rooster.That was about three years ago.Now he has over 50 birds and three roosters.He feeds them everything under the sun.They are scavengers big time.Table scraps,fruit,veggies,bugs and sometimes each other.During winter they dont usually lay eggs but sring,summer and fall are very prolific.The eggs taste great.The birds are pretty good until about 2 years old.After that tough and gamey.Hope this helps.Prep well.

  10. Ben says:

    As far as laws go about having fowl in town … you need to check your local ordinances. Some cities have passed City Ordinances prohibiting having fowl in town. Just be sure to check your laws and, if in doubt, you can always call the City Attorney and ask.

    I also would like to know if anyone has tried the recipe on here and, if so, the cost. I have raised chickens in the past, primarily for eggs but also for meat. I have also raised meat rabbits. There is nothing like knowing that you can provide for your family irrelevant to a job or the economy. Great discussion everyone!

  11. Terry says:

    I agree with the others. It says that the homemade feed is cheaper, but I am struggling to figure out how? I would prefer to mix my own to know for sure what they are eating. I don’t know if the local feed stores carry some of these items, but if you do buy from them, it may be cheaper to buy regular chicken feed. We recently traded for some chickens and a tractor to keep them in and are currently trying to keep the costs as low as possible, while still getting production out of them. I do know as kids, that when Winter would come, we would always put a heat lamp in their coop at night, which seemed to help egg production.

    • Jeremy says:

      For our chickens here we just use cracked corn in the winter. Its cheap since we raise are own corn, in the summer we let the chicken free range and cut back on the amount of feed given to them. We have not had a problem with any of our chickens since we started them a few years ago. Also the sooner we can let our chickens free range the sooner they seem to start laying.

  12. Jim says:

    Should you not be able to use a heat lamp (no electricity), then what is required to have them survive cold winters???

    • Robert says:

      There are certain breeds of chicken that can survive very well in cold temperatures. You don’t need a heat light unless temperatures fall below zero and in most cases a wind free zone that is built with the amount of chickens you own in mind will suffice. Chickens produce their own heat. Designing a space that is just big enough will maximise this factor.

  13. Ron says:

    Way back when I was a kid, almost everyone around had chickens. I was raised in the country. I know that one of the things that was done to help keep them warm in the Winter was to keep putting down thin layers of straw or hay and not clean the coop out till Spring. The combination of the composting manure and straw/hay would provide enough warmth to keep the coop above freezing.

  14. Tennessee says:

    In my opinion rabbits are a better option. No, they don’t produce eggs for breakfast but they do produce more meat for less feed. They also produce manure that doesn’t have to be composted before adding it to your garden. You can feed them grass, weeds, tree leaves and garden scraps if necessary. They can be used to heat a greenhouse during the winter to keep your veggies from freezing. Keeping a few does and a couple of bucks can provide a family with a supply of meat, fertilizer for the garden and a bartering animal if they need something they can’t grow on their own.

    Another good animal to keep around is goats. The dwarf varieties don’t eat much, give a decent supply of milk and provide meat, too. Their manure is good in the garden as well, but it has to be composted before use.

  15. Bonnie Nash says:

    DIVERSIFY! people. Have both. One type of animal may not work for you.

  16. jessy says:

    We are just starting out….we have raised chickens in the past but its been awhile ….what is a good number to start out with? We own 90 acres so space isn’t an issue and we will be raising them to eat…also if we are raising them to butcher as soon as they are big enough does it matter if the are hens or roosters?

  17. but what if... says:

    But what if its off the grid with mass chaos/anarchy? How will you protect them from looters who havent prepared? How will you get the feed when ur supply runs out? It was easier in days past because there wasnt mass chaos. Watch the Book of Eli for a glimps to what it may be like

  18. Vickie OBrien says:

    For more information on raising urban chickens go to the backyard chickens website. Good info. Also the raising chickens for Dummies is a wealth of info. I started last year with 10 birds and am increasing this year to 30. Plus 30 for meat in the freezer. Eggs are good for bartering with also.

  19. Denise Chaney says:

    Just a little “rabbit trail” here. Guinea are great birds. One thing though you must buy small birds and train then to roost in their own safe pen at night. We bought some adult birds and they for decided they liked the neighbors yard better (it was 1/2 mikes away) and walked over. Nothing we did could make hem come home and stay. They eventually left his place and nested in the trees in the woods never to be seen again. An old farmer told us about raising them from chicks. Also we learned never get just one turkey chick. The will not survive alone but will pine away for more of their king even if placed in with baby chicks.

  20. Sonoffreak says:

    will the chickens go in to their coop to lay eggs if they roam free?

    • Doug says:

      Yes, and no. :-)

      With your first set of chicks, you will need to keep them locked up, until they know where is home. If possible have a small light that stays on a bit after the sun go down, this encourage the chickens to roost at the same place (inside your coop). You will have to have some sort of nest box for the hens when they get to the age to lay. What you use for a nest box is personal choice. Some folks just use an old 5 gallon bucket mounted to a wall. Anyways, give the hens what they want a secure inside location, last place to go dark at night, off the floor roost, they will make it home. Now, they should want to lay at that location, and most will.
      However, at times one or two hens may lay elsewhere. This is more of a problem if you have multiple roosters. One rooster takes a few of his favorite girls out each morning to wherever. I have at times gone out in the yard to find a hen with new chicks following her, complete surprise to me.
      Often I can find an off site nest by paying attention during the day to any hen making noise, or calling. The hens will at times call out after laying an egg. If I hear a hen in another building, I will sometimes check it out, just notice where the noise is coming from, if the hen is already outside, check out the building early the next day, if she enters must stay still watches where she goes (often well hidden). Then collect eggs if only a few, if a large number of eggs already, I sometimes just let her finish her new family.
      My experience is they will almost never lay out in the open, so if you only have a few out buildings you should be ok.

  21. Doug says:

    Actually, table scraps work fine for feeding chickens. They will finish off almost anything, they eat even mice if they can catch them. (not a fun thing to watch)
    I use almost zero bagged chicken feed, just some during the worse of winter. However I do have endless supply of corn, and wheat in our area, still a person soon learns that if allowed to walk about the hens find most of their own food.

    Chickens are just too easy to care for not to have around.

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