Tips on How to Raise Backyard Chickens (and did you know you can rent chickens?)
It is baby chick season! If you’ve thought about buying a few of the fluffy chicks that are in stores right now but not sure what to do next, keep reading. Our family did everything wrong (according to all the chicken books) and we have survived an entire year AND just bought 5 more adorable babies. There is also a way to just borrow some chickens…I’ll explain in a bit.
Day One: I call it the day we saw “the sign”. We really were just going to look at chicken coops because we were “thinking” about getting some chickens at some point, but we pulled in to the chicken store and there it was…a sign that said, “Baby Chicks Are Here!”. My heart immediately melted. We brought home 6 beautiful babies that we were told would be hens.
Tip #1: Don’t get too attached to the chickens. Sometimes people make mistakes and our 6 girl chickens turned out to be 4 girl chickens and 2 boy chickens…a.k.a. roosters. Once we heard that they weren’t going to be quiet, they went to a new home. (I know they are just chickens, but I did have to stay inside the house when they left because it was a sad moment.)
First Few Months: It’s too cold outside for the chicks to live out there yet, so yes, you will have chickens in your house. Our babies lived in a plastic tote at first without a lid. As they got bigger, their home needed to get bigger too. We found a really large plastic tote and created a top for it with chicken wire so they wouldn’t fly out.
Tip #2: If you have other animals in the house, they probably won’t be very happy. Dogs, especially.
Tip #3: Find a chicken coop while the chicks are still little. We ordered one online and saved some money but we did this research just a tad on the late side. There are a ton of sites and Pinterest ideas if you want to make your own too.
Time to Get Ready to Lay Eggs: Once our coop was built and it got warmer out, our chickens went outside. (The house smelled so much better after that.) Chickens need a place to lay eggs and we found out that those are called ‘nesting boxes’. We got those ready and looked for eggs every day…and eventually saw our first egg when the chicks were 4 months old. It was magical!
Tip #4: You can get supplies for the nesting boxes at stores like Fleet Farm, or you can try to make your own.
Tip #5: I did read somewhere that chickens might need some help knowing where the nesting boxes are or what they are for. I really am not sure how the chicken brain works but we put a white golf ball in each nesting box to help the chicks learn.
5 Tips & Advice from the kids:
- They like lettuce and plants. (the stuff you don’t want to eat – the chickens will!) You can’t feed them beans though, they will explode. (we haven’t verified this)
- They like to be warm in the winter. (you will need a heat source of something…we have a heater that we purchased that sits in the coop)
- They like earwigs, worms and bugs.
- They are loud – especially around the time that they lay an egg.
- Sometimes they will peck at each other and you, especially if they are laying on the eggs. (there is a time when they might be brooding. They aren’t sick…just very protective of their “babies”)
What’s this thing about renting chickens? It is true! A company called Our Backyard Chicken rents out chickens and everything you need for a season (May/June until November) or on a monthly basis. You will have 2 hens to care for that will lay a total of 8 to 14 eggs a week. Plus, you will learn all about chickens! You can learn more from their website at www.ourbackyardchicken.com
Questions? Just ask me on my Facebook page! From a mom perspective…I love our feathery babies and having chickens has been a great way to teach responsibility to my kids. They all take turns making sure the water is clean and full, the food is available, and check for eggs. They also get special bonus points (including a few bucks) if they have the initiative in cleaning the coop. ;)
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