So, you decided to get chicks (or chickens) because they are so cute and you can have your own eggs! Well, you should really think before you act.
Here are some things to think about before actually getting your feathered little friends:
1. Where do you live? -Chickens need room to graze, so if you think you can just buy any old coop and leave them in there, think again. If you have a limited amount of outdoor space then chickens might not be the best pet for you. If you do have a large yard, then see
2. How many chickens do you want? -Of course you are going to want a lot of chicks, because they are so darn cute! And the more chickens, the more eggs right? Well, having only three chickens will get you at least 2 eggs a day. Thats 14 eggs or more a week! Chickens do need to be in groups of two or more, so don't think you can just get one chick and it can "bond with you child", because it won't. I would recommend getting at least 3 chickens, in case one dies, your chicken won't be alone.
3. What chicken coop should you get? -There are many types of chicken coops you can buy, or you can build one yourself. If you are thinking about building one, then check out some of the coops built by our fellow BYC members. If you want to buy one, I would recommend going on mypetchicken.com
4. Where should you keep your chicks/chickens? -If you are getting a few chicks, then they must be kept indoors until they have enough feathers to withstand the outdoor temperatures. A cheap, easy place to keep your chicks would be in the bathtub! Just block the drain, and fill your tub with about three inches of bedding. The walls of the tub should be high enough for the chicks to not be able to fly out. You can attach a heat lamp to the shower head, because the temperature needs to be 95 degrees, going down 5 degrees every week. However, this is a little challenging, so once the chicks are 3 weeks old, you can just turn the heat lamp off for a few hours a day. Once your chickens are old enough to go outside, they should be kept in a SAFE, well built, coop. You will have to do your own coop research, for it all depends on the size of your yard. Your chickens will eat a lot of grass! So, if you don't have a fenced in yard, then you can put them in an outdoor pen during the day for them to graze. However, the walls of the pen should be pretty high, for chickens can and will fly up and over the walls. You can solve this problem and keep them safer by putting netting on the top of the pen so they can't fly out.
5. What do chicks/chickens eat? -Chicks should be fed a medicated chick food diet until they are at least 10 weeks old. To help with their digestive system, make sure you mix in chick grit with their food. Try not to give your baby chicks too many treats, however when they get a few weeks old they will begin to like chasing bugs. Young chickens won't eat many treats, but don't worry, they will once they get older. People tend to feed their chickens watermelon, cantaloupe, raspberries, bugs, oyster shells and dried worms as protein. I have found that my chickens love to eat different types of vegetables. Once your chickens are older, they should be fed food depending on what they are used for. Laying hens should be fed a feed that will aid in their egg production.
6. Pullet vs Cockerel, Hen vs Rooster? -if you haven't heard these terms yet, you will soon. A pullet is a young hen, and a cockerel is a young rooster. It is extremely hard to determine the gender of your chicken until it is a few weeks old. So, even if you order female chicks, there is still a possibility you will get a rooster. This wouldn't be a problem if you live on a farm, however if you live in the city or a neighborhood where chickens aren't necessarily allowed, then you don't want a loud crowing rooster. Also, a rooster will fertilize the eggs laid by your hens. You can still eat these eggs, just don't wait too long to collect them from the nesting boxes. And yes, a hen will still lay eggs without a rooster. So don't think you need to get a rooster in order to have eggs, because you don't. If you can't risk the chance of getting a rooster, then maybe you should get pullets. Pullets are like teenager chickens. They are in that awkward stage of beginning to feather out, but they are still cute. By getting a teenage chicken, you will have a better chance of being sure it is a male or female.
7. What type of chicken should you get? -There are so many different chicken breeds out there. Here are a few that I would recommend: Easter Egger, Rhode Island Red, Cuckoo Maran, Wyandotte. You will want to get a chicken that fits your life style. Focus on the details of the breed, not just the way they look.
8. How to keep your chickens safe and alive? -Strange question, I know. But, what many people don't realize is that chickens DO have predators. A hawk or raccoon would love to snack on one of your precious chickens, even if they are full grown. Also, there is a threat that you can't see, and that is TEMPERATURE. Your chickens will most likely die from it being too hot then too cold. In the summer, make sure your chickens have shade and fresh water! You can even spray them with water to keep them cool. If you get chicks in the spring, then by winter they will be fully feathered. Chickens will often huddle together to keep warm during those cold times.
9. Are you dedicated to owning chickens? -Chickens are a lot of hard work. You have to clean their coop, replace their bedding/nesting box bedding, fill their food bowl, fill their water bowl, make sure they are healthy, allow them to gaze, and so much more that you will soon find out. Before you begin your big adventure of owning chickens, I must warn you that they will eat all your grass! So, that nice little lawn you have will soon be dirt within a week. And, chickens are dirty! They poop a lot. Chickens live for 8 plus years, so you must be fully dedicated to taking care of them. You will learn and figure things out as you go, and if you have any questions then you have come to the right website.
Chickens are fun, I promise.
Here are my three Easter Egger chicks.
One of my Easter Eggers roaming around the yard.
My hen Easter Egger, she lays pink eggs.
Blue and pink eggs from my Easter Eggers.
After one week of grazing.
Outdoor pen since my yard isn't fenced, however I have expanded this since then because my chickens were getting too big and needed more room.
Yes, their coop is dirty! I swear I cleaned it last week! I have their feeder off the ground so they don't make such a mess with their food.
Make sure your coop is raccoon proof!
I decided to put the coop up on these bricks so that to clean it I can just lift up a corner and hose down the bricks. Because there is no grass in their coop, I put them out in the pen a few hours every day.