Raising your own chickens can be a lot of fun, profitable, and create a great way to bond with your kids. The eggs taste better than store-bought eggs, and can create nice cost-savings for your family. The healthiest chickens get a nice balance between nutrient-rich feed and natural items like grass and bugs. You can even taste what your chickens eat in the eggs!
Chickens are social animals so plan ahead to have enough space and budget for keeping three or more birds at a time. Most hens will lay one to two eggs every three days, so you also don’t want to start with too many and end up with too many eggs on your hands.
Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Be sure to check your local ordinances about raising animals in your yard. There are both noise and waste issues that may impact your neighbors.
- Chickens are the most productive in their first two or three years so start with younger birds. But know that it will take longer to reap the rewards if you start by raising chicks. Young adult hens are available through breeders or others raising backyard chickens.
- It’s not recommended to start by hatching your eggs. You need to have a rooster, for starters.
- Each medium-sized chicken needs about 3 square feet inside the coop and about 8-10 feet outside to feel comfortable and be happy. Over-crowding is a key factor in diseases among flocks.
- Look for secondhand wood to build the coop on sites like RubyWantAds.com to save yourself more money. Plans are online with a simple search, or draw up your own!
- Recognize that healthy chickens can’t stay in the coop all the time:
- They will need to have space in the backyard. If your space is too open, then consider setting up an enclosed chicken run with chicken wire.
- They need access to eat grass and bugs, and scratching around for them is part of their natural activities to help them stay physically and mentally healthy.
- Be sure to give them lots of room to spread their wings regularly and get sunshine.
- Chickens are great for your garden:
- You can use their manure to fertilize your garden. You have to clean it up anyway, so you might as well compost that nitrogen-rich poop for fertilizer. In 6-months, each chicken typically produces about 1 cubic foot of free manure.
- They are great weeders, too. If you let them loose in your patch, they will happily uproot weeds down to the roots, peck away at any insects they find, and eat your rotten overripe vegetables. Their scratching activity will go a long way to mix up the soil for you, too.
Have fun with your chickens, your garden and your kids. Raising chickens is a great family activity.