Beginner’s Guide to Raising Backyard Chickens

Beginner’s Guide to Raising Backyard Chickens

by Jennifer Behm – Chicken farmer| Last Updated 09/09/2020

Whether you’re looking to join the chicken-processing industry or you live on a farm and want to house chickens as pets, making sure that you have the right equipment and knowledge to do so is of vital importance. There are many different types of equipment that you’ll need to make sure that you have, some of it required and other devices not-so-much.

Aside from simply having the right kinds of equipment, you’ll have to know how to use the equipment and how exactly each device can benefit the lives of your chickens. Caring for chickens can be a time-consuming and difficult process if you’re unaware of what to do, but this guide contains all of the information on how to breed chickens and start a chicken farm at home.

All of the information included within this guide is completely reliable and helpful, since I am an individual with my poultry farm myself. I’ve also been in the chicken-farming industry for years, so this information is a combination of my professional expertise as well as my personal advice.

Yard Chickens

What you need for raising chicks?

Step-by-step instructions

Step 1. Choose your chicken breed

First, you’ll want to think about what certain breed of chickens you want to own in your backyard. There are technically hundreds of different breeds of chickens, so you have a large variety to look through. There are four main categories of breeds, including heritage breeds, egg-laying breed, dual-purpose breeds and meat breeds.

egg-laying breeds

Heritage breeds are the most like a pet because they’re natural-breeding chickens. They have a slow growth rate and a productive outdoor life. Not only that, but they tend to live the longest out of all the breeds since they have better well-being and a free-range living environment than the other breeds tend to have.

Egg-laying breed involve chickens that are specifically bred to produce eggs. They have shorter production lives, since hens are capable of laying eggs for a certain period throughout their lives.

Dual-purpose breed are those that offer the most utility. They’re capable of producing eggs for a certain period while also growing at a fast rate so that they can be used for meat purposes.

Dual-purpose chicken breed

Meat breeds are chickens that grow at the fastest rates. They are bred merely for the meat that their bodies provide. They increase in size at a faster rate than all of the other chickens, and they’re usually ready for slaughter in just nine weeks.

Given each of the different main chicken breeds, you’ll want to consider which type of chicken breed you’ll want the most. For your backyard purposes, you’ll probably want to stick with either heritage breeds or egg-laying breeds, since these are the ones that most suitable for at-home raising (1).

Step 2. Choose the age of your chickens

The next step to raising chickens for beginners is to choose the ages of chickens that you want to start with. You can purchase them as hatching eggs, chicks, pullets or as adults.

egg incubator for chicken

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egg candler tester

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Chickens that come as hatching eggs are essentially available as fertilized eggs. They will require the most attention, time and effort, which is why I recommended them more for those of you with more experience. And you’ll also need an incubator for this process, since they’ll need to be cared for without their hens.

Buying chickens as chicks is the more budget-friendly option, since you don’t have to have an incubator or wait as long for them to hatch. In this stage, you’ll probably receive chicks that are one day old, and this is when they’re the easiest to care for. That being said, I most recommend this option as opposed to the others. This is the most common option and is the best for beginners.

Pullets are chicks aged at around four to six months old, and they were reared into adulthood. That being said, you don’t have to worry about having any specific type of feeding method for them. They are essentially sold to you when they’re about to lay their first egg soon.

Lastly, adults are the most difficult to find, and they don’t usually have the longest life with you after purchasing them. You can probably find these at animal shelters or rescue sanctuaries, and I recommend adults to those of you that are simply looking for pet chickens and not productive ones (1).

Step 3. Decide where to get them from

You’ll then want to think about where to find your chickens and how many you want. The quantity that you want and their location typically depends on the type of chickens that you’re buying and what you’ll be using them for. The quantity also depends on personal preference and how much room you have for them. For instance, if you’re needing chickens for egg-laying, then you may only want a few chickens, unless you’re considering selling the eggs.

As for the location to purchase them, the best place to find chickens as a beginner would be a local farmer or a hatchery. You may also want to consider checking with farm supply stores near you, and you can even check for purchasing them online (1).

Step 4. Get your chicken coop ready

chicken coop wire Fencing

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After you’ve found the types of chickens that you want and have a source of obtaining them, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right kind of chicken coop for them. There are different things that you’ll have to consider when finding a chicken coop, including the roof, space, temperature, nesting boxes, roaming pen and the security.

The roof should be both UV-resistant and water-resistant to offer the most long-lasting protection for your chickens. The coop should have enough space so that your chickens aren’t crowded within it. Over-crowding the coop can decrease their overall well-being.

Next, you should have a coop in which you can easily alter the temperature in. For instance, you may want an insulated coop and one that has a source of ventilation. The ventilation can affect the temperature of the coop, directly determining the well-being of your chickens.

Most coops will also come with a nesting box, which can be used for your chickens to lay eggs. That being said, you’ll need a coop that comes with at least one if you’re planning on collecting eggs. Roosts are also important to consider in general, since this is essentially the resting area that all chickens will sleep in. You’ll need this area to be comfortable and protected.

fox proof

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From there, make sure that the chicken coop has some sort of security that keeps your chickens protected. Over night especially, there’s always a risk of predators gaining access into the chicken coop. Strong, durable wire enclosures and metal lathes can help to prevent this from happening.

Lastly, you’ll want to think about the outside roaming pen that’s attached to the chicken coop. You must have a space for your chickens to roam around and stretch their legs to remain in a healthy condition.

Step 5. Purchase equipment and gear for chicken coop

Once you have the chicken coop figured out, you’ll then want to consider what types of equipment you should have inside of the coop to care for your chickens. First, you’ll need a brooder box that can hold your chicks while they’re still extremely young. If your chicken coop doesn’t have one, then you can simply use a large cardboard box.

Other than the brooder box, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right bedding inside of the chicken coop. There are many different types of chicken bedding on the market, varying according to the types of material that they’re made of. For instance, since chicken bedding products are made with excelsior while others are made from hemp plant remnants. Regardless, you’ll want a chicken bedding that’s able to absorb the moisture from the chickens’ waste as well as one that’s soft, comfortable, easy to clean and can easily be spread around.

The coop should also be warm, since chicks, in general, don’t have feathers to keep them warm. Most chicks don’t grow true feathers until they’re around six to seven weeks old. That being said, I recommend that you use a heat lamp to provide the warmth that they need. It should essentially be around 95 degrees during their first week with you, and then you’ll want to gradually decrease the temperature by around five degrees as time goes on each week.

chicken brooder

As for the water, your chickens will need water more than they need anything else. The water can be kept in any plastic container within the chicken coop, and it should be kept around room temperature that’s not too hot or cold. When you first place them all together in their cage, you’ll want to dip each of their beaks into the water container to ensure that they know where it is.

Lastly, you’ll want to make sure that you have the right chicken food to give them. There are a variety of different types of foods for each of their different ages, so you must give them food for their specific age.

For instance, for chicks that are under eight weeks old, they’ll need crumbles of starter feed. For between eight and 14 weeks, they’ll need a mixture of starter feed and grower. For those between 15 and 18 weeks, they’ll need finisher feed, and those beyond 18 weeks can simply have layer feed.

You’ll want to consider whether you’re going to give them chicken food that’s been medicated or not. Coccidiosis is one of the most common and deadly diseases for chickens and some feed comes medicated from this disease. That being said, I recommend that you use medicated chicken food if your chickens haven’t been vaccinated.

Step 6. Cleaning the coop

You’ll want to make sure that you become familiar with cleaning the coop, since you want the chickens to have a safe and healthy environment. To clean, you should be removing the waste daily, and there’s usually a pull-out waste tray for that. Other than that, you’ll want to shovel out and replace the dirty feed every time it gets wet, which can be anywhere from a few days to a week or two. For more assistance, here is a YouTube video on how to clean the chicken coop.

Step 7. Routinely care for them

After you’ve situated all of your chickens into their cage, there are a few things that you should be doing routinely to keep up. You should be giving them fresh water a few times a day since hens require up to a cup of water a day. And you should be giving them fresh food every day. In the morning, you’ll want to let the chickens out of the roosts to roam. And in the nighttime, you’ll want to lock them back up and collect the eggs.

toys for chicken

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Сhicken raising – Pro Tips:

  • Learn about the regulations for having chickens in your area
  • Research the different types of breeds that are best for the conditions you’ll provide (some do better in warmer or cooler environments)
  • After the chicks are in the brooder box for 8 weeks, place them into the chicken coop that should given them 3-5 square ft of floor space
  • Train your other pets to behave around the chickens before leaving them roam together (expose your dogs and cats to the chicks, while supervised)
  • Most chickens can lay eggs for up to 4 years, but they can remain alive for years after that (think about what you’re going to do with them afterwards)

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Overall, raising your chickens in your backyard can seem like a time-consuming and tedious task, but the effort put in has large rewards. It only takes getting into a routine, and then you’ll feel comfortable in your chicken-farming process. Not only will you have a constant supply of eggs for your household, but you may also be able to sell some of the eggs that you collect as well.

Even more, you’ll have pets that you can care for and provide a great home to, increasing the overall quantity of their lives. This complete guide can make it extremely easy to care for your chickens at home, and I hope you found it helpful and enjoyable to read in finding out how to breed chickens. If so, you’re more than welcome to comment your thoughts and opinions about this guide, and you can even share it to allow others to benefit from the read as well.