How to get started??

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by KnightsMist, Jan 19, 2019.

  1. KnightsMist

    KnightsMist Chirping

    Jan 18, 2019
    I'm just planning things out, not getting chickens yet- but what is the best way to get started?? I want to have layer/duel purpose hens for eggs- and possibly to eat??? I haven't decided yet and fear I will get attachwd and not be able to "pull the trigger" when the time comes..

    So how many chicks do you start with, and how many should you add and when to keep a sustainable laying flock?

    I don't know the limit yet of how many I can have (looking into it!) which will obviously influence management. But generally, is it good practice to start with 5-6 and then add 2-3 every year or every other year? Just get the max and cull and replace the whole flock in a few years? And if you keep hens until they stop laying- how the heck do you know who is and isn't laying??? :confused:Assuming that at least some of your hens lay the same color eggs-

    I will have many more Qs but will start with these!
  2. Ribh

    Ribh Songster

    I have dual purpose birds [barred rocks & Australorps] but as a vegetarian never intended on eating any of ours. They are kept firstly as egg layers [they are both great layers] & secondly as pets.

    Birds that are well looked after & happy will continue to lay well into their old age though not as often or prolifically. I have had ISA Brown rescue hens that would normally be culled lay until the day they died ~ & they laid well, several times a week.

    I started my present flock with 5 birds [1 has gone missing & I fear I've lost her.]. That is a nice manageable number that can easily be expanded on & if you have good layers will give you between 20 ~ 25 eggs a week. My neighbours love me! ;)

    If you start with a small flock you will easily learn who is laying & which egg is theirs by simple observation & by spending time with your flock. My rocks usually lay really early in the morning but the Aussies often don't lay until mid~afternoon. All eggs are slightly different. My Aussies have bigger, rounder eggs ~ one of my girls is fond of laying monster double yolkers ~ while one of my rocks lays a buff coloured egg & the other a creamy one; my missing hen's colour was somewhere between these two.

    When introducing new birds it is always best to get @ least 2 together so they have a mate in the pecking order & a hen around their own age as flock dynamics change when birds age or die.

    There are others here who can better answer your questions about culling & flock rotation. As I said, mine are pets as well as egg layers so I don't cull.
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Chicken tender

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I recommend starting with 5-10. Get some sexed chicks of various heritage breeds. Avoid breeds like games, silkies, and polish for sure. Avoid roosters for now.

    Pick either standard or bantam and don't mix them. Always build bigger. Chickens need way more room than the recommendation, especially standard breeds, most are busy active birds.

    After you raise them up your desire to replace the flock when they get older may change. Figuring out whether you are keeping chickens for pets and a hobby or food will help you make those decisions.

    Many who thought they could eat them found out they couldn't.

    Definitely start smaller in case it isn't the hobby for you. Not everyone enjoys chickens after getting them. If you do be careful because it is addicting.
  4. wyoDreamer

    wyoDreamer Crowing

    Nov 10, 2010
    How many chickens to get is related directly to how many eggs your family uses and what kind of chicken you get.

    You are the only one who can answer those questions.

    The hybrid layers from the hatcheries are egg laying machines and lay almost every day - I would guess an average of 6 eggs a week. Some of the dual purpose birds will lay 3 or 4 eggs per week.

    I have 6 hybrid layers at the moment. With 2 adults in the household, we have enough eggs to keep us both fed, the dogs an occasional treat and extra to give to friends. DH has a group of friends that he gives the extra to - and we get Maple Syrup from one of them in exchange.
  5. moniquem

    moniquem Songster

    Feb 3, 2013
    I started my chicken experience last spring. Here is what I did to start:

    • Figure out how many chickens you are allowed to have, every where is different. I was allowed 6, I decided to start with 5....
    • Build coop/run, your chicks will need this pretty quickly after you get them. Don't forget to predator proof!Coop should be 4sqf/bird, run 10 sqf/bird.
    • Get your brooder set up.
    Here is what I learned since starting chickens:

    • Glad I got 5 chicks as one turned out to be a boy, so I gave him away and I did re-home one of the girls that turned out to be a bully. So I am left with 3 girls
    • This is my first winter and the girls have been spending a lot of time in the coop due to rain and cold? Even though my coop is 4X4 I will probably build a bigger coop this spring/summer so they have more room
    • They ruined my chances of growing anything last spring so I will rein them in a bit this year
    • I will most likely get a few more chickens NEXT year to add to the flock
    I've wanted chickens for ever so am very excited to have kept everyone happy and healthy for almost a year. Out of the 3 girls that I have now 2 were laying consistently until the light change and I expect the other to also lay starting this year-but who knows
    I've attached some pictures of the girls dust bathing today.

    50590562_2258743030803182_1806529705021538304_o.jpg 50454581_2258743484136470_8404827763604717568_o.jpg 50309756_2258744070803078_4196078358364160000_o.jpg 50224026_2258743690803116_6933902709988786176_n.jpg
  6. WindingRoad

    WindingRoad Songster

    Nov 21, 2018
    #1 Get different breeds then you can tell the difference between who's laying and who's
    not sometimes. Listen for the egg song. Hard to describe but you'll get an ear for it.
    But really what you need to know it what do chickens need.

    #1. Shelter and protection. Good protection. Read up here on coop designs. Sounds like you really want a fair amount of chickens. If I were you I'd build bigger and that way you won't have to cobble something together. Make sure your coop ( the part you put them in to sleep at night) is super secure from predators. Did you know some racoons can open a lock. The kind with the little slide that goes down to secure it. And make sure you have good ventilation. Chickens give off a lot of moist air, breathing and pooping. Have nest boxes in your coop and some roosts. Nothing fancy for roosts. Some tree limbs. I live in Western Maine near Sugarloaf. It gets COLD here and my chickens have done fine this winter. They have a down coat on. They roost and cover their feet with their feathers. And some of them tuck their heads under a wing to keep their comb from frostbite.

    #2. Feed. I don't know if you are getting grown birds or chicks or plan to hatch but they need good feed. They won't lay until they are some where around 16-20 weeks depending on breed. Cackle Hatchery on the net lists the chicks they have for sale. And they have a nice description section. Tells weights at maturity how many eggs they lay a year. Probably the best layers lay around 200 a year so don't plan on an egg every day from a chicken. Some don't lay as much in the winter due to less daylight. That's normal. If you plan to free range again be prepared for predator from the land or the air. Also, dogs might be your worst enemy. If you free range you might want to put up electric fencing out side your enclosed area. Don't let your chickens near it.

    #3 Water is just as important as feed. Keep a fresh supply all the time. You can get 2-5 gallon waterers. Get a couple of concert blocks and put your feeder and waterer on them so the birds don't fill them with poop or scratch bedding into them, Some like the nipple waterers

    That just scratches the surface, There is a lot of prep before you get chickens.

    Good luck. Remember predators are every where. Protect your chicken because if you don't all the other stuff is just stuff. And remember DRY chickens are happy chickens. And you don't want fried chickens in the hen house either. Be careful of extension cords etc.
  7. Mach 1 Padilla

    Mach 1 Padilla Chirping

    Jun 5, 2018
    I started with 6 chickens from the feed store. Bought a small coop from Walmart, and while they where growing built them a bigger coop.

    Feed is not as important as people make it out to seem. Chick feed and in about a month crack corn its cheap and they love it. If your worried about their vitamin intake just buy something you can add to their water. every once in a while throw in some weeds or grass clippings if they wont be free ranging.
  8. turtlebird

    turtlebird Songster

    Dec 11, 2009
    Best way to get started? You can either enter in slowly, dipping your toes, then up to your knees, then to your belly and plug your nose and dunk your head, OR you can dive in, swan style or cannonball! This is an excellent site to learn all that you need to know. So read, read, read. Learn about coops, bedding, ventilation, lighting, health, health concerns, breeds, temperaments, climate considerations, etc. Ask a lot of questions, but the learning curve is still high until you have birds in the coop. So just start. However it works best for your personality. You will make mistakes. We all do. I started with maybe a dozen and a half ladies, different breeds, whatever was pretty. I figured out that way what i like and what I don't. You will more than likely suffer from chicken math. That is sort of normal:p. You will eventually figure out what works for you. I raise dual purpose ladies so after three years, they bless us one more time by being the most fantastic stewing hens that you just can't buy anywhere. Butchering day is not really fun for anyone, just remember to say thank you. Roosters? They show up in orders, sometimes by accident, sometimes as a bonus. I happened upon my hands down 'never fail' favorite breed of rooster with that hatchery bonus bird (silver spangled hamburgs). A good rooster, if you can have them, does a great job keeping the peace in the flock. They also are great protectors. Leave them alone when raising the chicks. Most of all, have fun! They are pretty wonderful creatures. Oh, and let us know how things go. We like pictures :D
    Wee Farmer Sarah and Ribh like this.
  9. Ribh

    Ribh Songster

    Yes! Pictures are great!:D
  10. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Now I have never done this, but it does sound like such a good idea. First year get 3 of white egg laying birds, second year get 3 of brown laying birds, third year get 3 of green laying eggs. Then you will know exactly who is laying and who is free loading.

    Or you can measure them between the pelvic bones.

    Mrs K
    Curnow and Wee Farmer Sarah like this.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: