Is it really that easy?


10 Years
Feb 28, 2011
I am moving into my first (owned) house out in the High Desert and i will have an acre at my disposal. I keep reading all these posts and books on chickens. I am really interested in keeping them, but is it really that easy? Are there vaccinations they need? Can they have the vaccinations if your going to harvest them? Whats the best way to water them? I think i got the feed thing sorted out. Also i want chickens that can give a decent amount off eggs, but i dont need anywhere near a dozen a day, but i want some that are tame because i am planning to keep a few as pets and not harvest them at all. Please help a newbie! any info/links will be greatly appreciated!
It's NOT easy, but it IS rewarding.

Chickens need food, water, shelter and not much else for minimal subsistence. Within those three categories are a myriad of variables.

Food = commercial feed, kitchen scraps, and treats. If they free range, they can forage for other nutrients found in grasses, seeds, bugs, worms, etc. Commercial feed is formulated for full nutrition, and there's chick starter for their first 8 weeks, grower feed for their next months until the hens lay eggs then you can either change to layer feed or add crushed oyster shell free choice, instead of layer feed. Treats should be no more than 10% of their daily food.

Water is clean water daily. And plenty of it - chickens drink more than you think they do. It's best to have waterers that are raised, (feeders, too) so the birds don't kick dirt into it or poop into it.

Shelter needs to be draft free, but with plenty of ventilation. Your local weather will dictate what kind of shelter you should have for their coop. Interior floor space should be a MINIMUM of 4 square feet PER CHICKEN.

Here's a very handy link to a chicken breed list which will give you a whole lot of information:

And, by all means, check out the BYC Learning Center links and information for a TON of basic information.

I cannot even imagine life without my chickens, now. And I started late, at age 57. All of mine are pets, who live outside in their own houses (coops). The hens provide eggs, and the whole flock provides excellent fertilizer. They also keep the bug population down really well.

They are a source of happiness for me. The eggs are a bonus.
First, congratulations on venturing into the world of raising chickens! Like Linda said, it may or may not be easy, but it is rewarding, and (warning!) it's also addictive!

First things first. Check with your local city/township to see what the ordinances are about raising chickens. You don't want to start making all these plans for what breeds you want to raise and the kinds of eggs you'll get and start sketching coops, just to find out owning chickens is against your local laws. This will also help you figure out how many chickens you want to raise, if your local ordinances are permissive.

Next, determine the purpose of the chickens you want. Sounds like you want a good egg layer that's docile and would make a good pet. With your location, you'll also want birds that are heat hardy and can tolerate those desert summers. Some birds that are docile, hardy/heat-hardy, and lay well are the Sussex, the Rhode Island White, the Plymouth Rock, the New Hampshire Red, the Dorking, the Campine, the Barnevelder, and the Araucana. Think about whether you want a rooster. Your ordinances may not allow for a rooster. If they do, think about how close your neighbors are and about the noise a rooster makes. Be a considerate neighbor, but also remember that roosters have two jobs: making baby chicks and protecting their harem. They'll often face off against predators (and lose their lives doing so) so that the hens can get away. There are some roosters that make excellent fathers (Silkies, for example). It's something to think about. At first, we didn't want a rooster. Now we're thinking of getting one for each breed we raise.

Once you know how many chickens you can legally raise, if any, and what kinds of birds you want, it's time to make a list of everything you'll need. Two lists, actually: one for when they're chicks, one for when they're older. For chicks, you'll need a sturdy brooder (baby chick playpen and crib rolled into one), a heat lamp and bulbs, thermometer, bedding, waterer, feeder, and food. You may also need extension cords (if there are no outlets near where you set the brooder up), bricks (to elevate the waterer/feeder to keep the contents clean), newspaper (to line the bottom of the brooder), paper towels (to place on top of the bedding for the first week or so, and to clean up quick messes), a spare box (to serve as a temporary holding pen for any sick or injured chicks), some sort of black salve/anti-pick lotion (to treat any chicks that have been pecked by its siblings), q-tips (to clean out pasty butt and goopy eyes), a good-sized compost bin or garbage can with a tightly sealed lid (depending on how you are planning on disposing of the chicks' soiled bedding), rags (always good to have around), Polyvisol or Trivisol (human infant liquid vitamins to add to bird water if chicks are looking weak), band-aids (to treat splayed legs and crooked toes), and Neosporin (to help with injuries).

Let's not delve into what you'll need for when they're older yet! But remember you'll need a coop, and a sturdy fence to enclose an outdoor space for them.

Once you have your chick supplies -- and understand that the initial outlay may be expensive, but you only have to really pay for all the stuff once -- you're ready to set up your brooder. Find a draft-free, preferably warm place where you can easily keep an eye on the little things. Many folks here use their bathrooms and garages while others have outdoor brooders. Again, you have to decide what will work best for you.

Ready to order your chicks? Many folks just go to their local feed store or to Tractor Supply Company and select chicks from the tubs they have set up. These little fluffs are very hard to resist (which is why I'm NOT going to TSC tomorrow. Nope. Well, maybe just to look!!!
). The trick to these chicks is that you might not get what you think you are getting, breedwise, and you have no idea how often the little chicks have been handled by other potential buyers. I recommend finding a local breeder (try Craigslist) or ordering from a hatchery. Being in California, you may want to try McMurray, in Iowa (we buy ours from there), or Ideal, in Texas. McMurray has a 25-chick minimum, Ideal a $25 minimum. Meyer Hatchery in Ohio has a 3-chick minimum.

WARNING! WARNING! Set a specific time limit for yourself for ordering your chicks, or you'll start looking at all the different breeds and BOOM! Next thing you know, you're a victim of chicken math and you'll be expecting a shipment of 52 chicks in three weeks.

Anyway, there is some info to start you off with. Have fun!!!!
Well, it kinda really IS that easy. But just remember that any animal you decide to keep is your responsibility for its entire life. Chickens need daily tending. I now plan holidays and/or nights away from home round the availability of those friends I know I can trust to properly look after my flock. Think of what would happen if you suddenly got rushed to hospital and had to stay in for a while. Unlikely maybe, but worth planning ahead for, just in case.
Excellent point! We promised the kids we'd go to Disney World sometime... it's been years now and we still haven't figured it out, although we now have references for a local woman who does farm animal vacation care.
I tend to look at this question in a more basic sense. Think about how chickens might have been raised a 100 years ago. They did it then with very little and you too can do the same thing. As the above poster stated they need the basics, food, water, and shelter. The shelter you provide does not have to be what you see here on BYC. Many people here treat their birds like they were their kids. so my point here is don't over think it, you can get away with less when it comes to chickens.

To specifically answer your question about vacinces, no they don't need to be vacinated. Many people will use medicated chick started, which is what I did. Once they are feathered out and outside I switched to flock raiser, which does not have any medication in it.
I don't know about easy but I find that chickens aren't that hard. I read somewhere in my research that raising 12 was not any more difficult than raising 4, so I took the advice. Ordered 25 from Ideal hatchery!
They were fun and, yes, they were a bit of effort but it was nothing I couldn't handle. They all lived and even thrived. Go figure.

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