Raising backyard chickens for beginners. We asked The Rootsy Community what they thought a beginner needs to know to be successful. We call it CSA, Community Supported Answers!
The Rootsy Community is awesome! This month’s Community Supported Answer (CSA) is about backyard chickens. We know it can seem overwhelming when you are just getting started and so we went ahead and collected your terrific ideas.
Thanks for sharing your success tips (and even failures) and help beginners who are raising backyard chickens for the first time!
What are your best success tips to help those who are raising backyard chickens for the first time?
:: Carrie says: Plan ahead! Make sure you have everything you will need for your chickens before you get them. When she got her first chickens, she made a list and made sure that she had everything ready to go. Except for the chicken coop, which caught her off guard. She thought there was plenty of time to make her own coop while the chicks grew in the brooder, but she found that she was wrong. It took twice as long as expected to build she own coop, and she had to make a temporary shelter.
:: Kathryn says: The best thing is to not start out with too many chickens at the beginning. Having a smaller flock makes it easier to learn as you go.
She started out with three chickens and then jumped up to twelve really fast. In her small yard, twelve birds were just too many and it created problems. Once she dropped her numbers back down to three to six birds a lot of the issues she was having magically gone away. Find out more about her adventure in this article – How Many Chickens Do I Need?
:: Melissa suggests these 5 must have supplies before you bring your chicks home (or get them in the mail). We’ve added a few of our own too. These are just beginning supplies, you’ll also need to make plans for when they outgrow the brooder and need more space. You will be able to find all these things at a local feed store.
- A secure brooder area – You can use a small dog kennel or even a bathtub.
- Brooder lamp heat source – make sure it has a clamp to easily secure it from above.
- chick feed – You can find starter feed at the local feed store.
- Plastic Poultry Waterer and clean water
- Bedding – pet bedding or pine shavings work well. Make sure it is all natural so it will be compostable.
- Plastic Flip Top Poultry Feeder – this makes it easy for filling and cleaning.
Purchasing and Raising Chicks
:: Melissa from Fainting Fox Farm suggests that after the chicks arrive in the mail, you should provide water and a chick starter supplement. Before putting chicks into their brooder she dips their beaks in their water. Dip, don’t hold them under. You want to encourage them to drink and let them know that water is readily available.
Hydration is critical. If chicks have been shipped in the mail they may have gone 12-24 hours without water. This is less of an issue with store-bought chicks but depending on store policies and frequency of water changes chicks may still go several hours without water. Find out more in her post, Raising Chickens for Beginners where she even breaks it down with a weekly list of things to do.
:: Jessica M says: Learn signs of illness and do not buy sick or chicks exposed to sick stock. They will die or be very costly. She learned the hard way and bought healthy appearing chicks, but they were already exposed to sick chicks at the feed mill. All the chicks became very ill and died within 2 weeks. She ended up having to cull all of them, which was not a very happy day in their household. Since then she’s purchased day-old chicks from a reputable hatchery and have no issues!
:: Rootsy says: Local hatcheries should be your first choice, however, these major hatcheries have perfected mail order chickens to all parts of the country. Don’t overlook your local feed store too!
Feeding, watering & care
:: Tracy Lynn says: The easiest way to keep a chicken happy and healthy is fresh water every single day. (sometimes more than that if you have sloppy poopers like she does!) Every time you go out to the coop, just take a jug of water and change things out. Simple, easy, and super beneficial!
:: Rootsy says: Just because your chickens are being raised in your backyard and well cared for doesn’t mean they’re immune to illness. Even the best cared for bird may get the sniffles, or have trouble passing an egg. Every chicken is susceptible to internal and external parasites. The difference between backyard flocks and commercial flocks is that you get to decide the best course of action for treating these issues.
Chicken coop care
:: Rosemary says: Prepare your sight and where you will put a coop. Make sure its adequate for your weather and that you have provided enough insulation, ventilation, sunlight and make it secure from predators. It’s all about the site: not too shady, but not all sun, and ensure it’ll always be on dry land.
It’s best to have nesting boxes prepared for eggs, have a roosting bar or two, and decide what bedding you will use in your coop. She finds shavings to be best.
:: Rootsy says: If you live in a cold climate, be prepared to offer some protection once the weather turns. This may be several months away, but planning ahead is key. When you’re keeping chickens in cold climates, insulating the coop is a great idea. This will help your flock warm it with just their body heat much easier and will help with drafts.
:: Rosemary says: Be predator prepared. If you have air predators consider a chicken cage versus free range. If you have land predators again the chicken cage is a great idea.
:: Rootsy says: The list of predators that want to eat your chickens is long! You can learn more about predator management in this publication from Extension.org. The most common are dogs and coyotes, house cats, raccoons, skunks, opossum, and hawk. Learn to identify predators by the signs they leave behind.
What do new chicken owners need to know to be successful? That it’s completely possible to do this yourself!
The Rootsy Network
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