Raising Backyard Chickens—A Beginners Guide

Many of my readers already know I’m very much into sustainability. And now that we’ve finally moved into a bigger home with a large backyard, I jumped on getting chickens as soon as we could.

My husband wasn’t sure if we wanted to get in with all the smell, poop, clucking, etc. But I finally convinced him when I took him and the kids baby animals days (devious chuckle). Who can say no to some fluffy chicks?

Of course, we needed a good chicken run or a place for them to safely lay their eggs. As chicks, we kept them in our basement under a warm lamp. They couldn’t really make it out in the cold on their own at that age. So while we nurtured them, we got to work on the coop.

Get Your Chickens A House

It might be worth it to just buy one. Sometimes they are cheaper and they don’t take as much labor. We made a simple one with upcycled wood, chicken wire, and my neighbor’s old hen boxes. We also put a slanted tin roof over the top so that the chickens would have some protection from rain besides the boxes.

Make Friends With People Who Know Chickens

We have some awesome friends who have raised chickens their whole life. They are my go-to expert on every problem I have with my feather-babies. And it really helps knowing when things are just normal chicken behavior (like pecking each other’s feathers out) and things that are a warning sign of disease.

When Will The Eggs Come?

Different breeds lay eggs at different ages. Read up on your breeds before you commit. But remember, they’re going to do what their bodies do. You can’t speed up nature.

Also, it’s usually inconsistent. Our chickens laid eggs every day for a month straight, were barren for a few days, and then laid eggs every other day. So you know, just go with it. You usually will have enough eggs to last through days they aren’t laying as much.

What Do You Need To Know About Chickens?

Here are some quick tips:
• Chickens are social animals so be prepared to invest in about 4-6 of them.
• Gather eggs every day to make sure you’re not picking up ones that are too old.
• Fresh chicken eggs are amazing.
• Because you can’t tell what sex chickens are when they are young, you might get some roosters. Most city ordinances have rules against roosters. If you live far out in the country and won’t disturb anyone, then have at it. But remember to be mindful of neighbors.
• Speckled Sussex, Cuckoo Marans, and Light Brahmas are a few good chicken breeds to start with.
• In theory, roaming backyard chickens seems like a good idea. But it’s difficult to protect them from predators out there. And predators are as common as your neighbor’s cat and your own very dear Fido. Yeah…we had our dog eat a few of our chickens that got out. So that was tragic. Personally I would feed them high quality poultry feed in their coop. You can definitely tell the difference between eggs of well-fed chickens and ones with a poor diet.
• Keep the coop clean. The kids are great for poop-scoop duty.
• Make sure the coop is spacious enough that the chickens don’t get super aggressive with each other. They need some room to flap their wings. This also reduces health problems and diseases.

Have Fun

This might look different for each family, but it’s important to have fun. My friend’s family enjoys raising the chickens all summer and roasting them for tasty dinners in the fall.

I would like to get to this point, but I think I’ll need to talk to my kids about it first…they might not be on board since they’ve already named them.

We also put some of our chickens in the state fair for fun this year. We didn’t win anything but the kids really enjoyed the process.

I love how the chickens and garden teaches my kids responsibility too. They’re responsible for gathering eggs and cleaning the coop/feeding the chickens every day. It’s been a great learning lesson for them to have lives depending on them.

And most of all, enjoy those fresh, tasty eggs.