Raising chickens isn’t for everyone, but if you want to get started on bringing up your own flock, here are some things to consider.
Before even considering starting your new flock, you must make sure you have the space for them in the first place.
How much space do you need?
Well, this depends on how many chickens you are looking at getting as well as how much space you are willing to give up for them. If you aren’t willing to give up a decent part of your yard, you may start small and go from there. Don’t underestimate the space needed for your chickens. The rule of thumb is usually 4sqft per bird in a coop. They need plenty of room to scratch and forage as well as a good space for them to go up at night. Do your research on what size coop you need based on how many chickens you are planning on getting.
For example of a coop one of my relatives let me post on here. She keeps 8 hens in this coop.
Regulations and rules in your specific area:
Besides having enough space for your new flock, you need to also do your research in your area to make sure you can even have chickens in the first place. Contact your local county official or governing body to help you in this area. Even realtors can help with this because they usually have information on your address and area that you live in.
How many chickens do you get?
While factors like space and regulations go into deciding on how many to get, there are also other factors to consider.
What are you starting a flock for?
Egg production? Breeding chickens and selling chicks? Meat for you and your family? Entertainment and/or pets/hobby?
These are all things to consider when starting a new flock and choosing the number that is right for you. I recommend starting out on a smaller level and going from there.
Egg production over a few days, even with mostly ornamental breeds that don’t lay as much.
What breed(s) to choose from?
This goes along with the questions I asked after the “How many chickens do you get?” question above. Are you getting breeds that are good at laying or are you getting breeds you know are good sellers based on your area? Are you raising meat birds?
These are all things to consider when starting a new flock.
So far, my favorite breeds have been my Golden Phoenix, Polish, Sebright, Buff Orpington, Silkie, Salmon Faverolle, and Black Jersey Giant.
I recommend breeds like the Buff Orpington, Salmon Faverolle, and Jersey Giant for their hardiness in most weather, egg production, and they are also great starting breeds.
I recommend the Phoenix, Polish, Sebright, and Silkie for hobby/pet chicken owners as well as breeders that want to make a profit off of their chicks. Any chick can usually sell well because everyone loves little fluffy chicks, but we have found the “cute” ornamental or exotic breeds usually sell better in our area. These breeds are also great for people looking into showing chickens as a hobby and even for kids looking to raise them for 4H or FFA projects.
Bitsy, one of my silkie hens.
Other things to consider:
While considering starting your new flock, even though this process can be very exciting, remember to consider things like feed costs, medical costs, time spent with your chickens, death, and weather.
Feed costs can vary from state to state, even city to city, but things like buying “organic” or just buying from a local feed store can also factor into these costs as well as how many chickens you are feeding every day. Organic will be more expensive but some people choose to feed their chickens this out of choice. Usually feed sold at your local feed mill will be a lot cheaper and mostly fresh, but not necessarily organic.
Medical costs depend on you and your choice on whether or not you choose to heal at home or take to a vet. Of course healing at home will be more cost effective, but not always the best outcome for your chickens. Taking your chickens to the vet may help heal your birds quicker and more efficient, but cost is usually very high and some vets do not operate on or know a lot about chickens. We personally do not have a vet that works on poultry anywhere near us (the nearest is 2 hours away), even then, we would still probably treat at home. Either way, I definitely recommend researching on different medications and vitamins you can keep on hand in case of illness or emergency if you can’t get to a vet. BYC has a lot of information on different injuries, diseases, or illnesses and how to treat and cure them
Corid is something we always keep around for our flock, especially when raising chicks, as it prevents and can treat coccidiosis.
Putting time aside for your flock is also something to consider when getting chickens. I feel very stronge about this subject and will always say that you will have a better relationship overall with all of your chickens, including roosters, if you put aside some time each day to spend with them. I’m not telling you to kiss and hold your chickens, but at least let them know you are there and not a threat. I personally have always believed that you need to do more than just let them out, feed them, and put them up everyday. At least sit with them a few times a week and socialize with the flock. This has been the foolproof way of having a socialized, non skittish or aggressive flock in my personal experience.
Foggy, one of my old roosters, trying to go for a car ride. He was a great rooster.
Losses are going to happen. I’ve not known many people that can say they have never lost a chicken. It isn’t fun, especially when you have bonded with them, but this is something to remember when starting a new flock. Death can happen in many different ways, it is inevitable and you must remember this when raising chickens.
Lacey, one of my sweet hens, passed away due to mycoplasma a few years ago.
Weather is another factor in choosing different breeds. You must base this on your specific area, do research for different breeds that do well in weather in your area.
An unexpected amount of snow in North Central Arkansas last winter. We usually get snow, but not so much to trap us indoors! We couldn’t get out of our very long driveway. None of my birds enjoyed this weather and mostly stayed indoors.
After choosing the breed(s) you want to start your new flock with, here are some other things to decide on:
Will you purchase your chicks from a hatchery or feed store? Will you incubate eggs and hatch the chicks yourself? Will you buy from a local breeder? Will you buy full grown chickens? Straight run or sexed?
Purchasing chicks from a hatchery or feed store is one of the best ways to obtain specific breeds at decent prices. With purchasing from a hatchery or feed store (like Tractor Supply), you can usually choose straight run (not sexed) or sexed (male/female) chicks. This may benefit you when looking into having a hen only flock or choosing how many roosters you want over your hens. Remember to do a lot of research on the hatchery you are ordering from, and know that the quality may not be to breed standards in some cases, especially from places like Tractor Supply. I usually avoid ordering from a hatchery or buying from a feed store because we breed chickens and sell chicks and I try to have the best quality. However, if I can’t find a good breeder with a specific breed near me, I will purchase from Meyer’s hatchery because of their quality and healthy chicks.
Incubating eggs and hatching your own chicks is my personal favorite way of obtaining a new breed. Of course you have to own an incubator or have a broody hen before going down this route, but at the end, usually the quality of the chicks is better than most hatcheries or feed stores. Sure, the chicks won’t be sexed so you can’t guarantee whether you will end up with mostly roosters or not, but they can always be rehomed! We enjoy this method because it gives us a chance to actually either see the parents in person or at least see pictures online of the parents and what we’re looking at and judge the quality based on that versus blindly choosing chicks online. This is also a great educational opportunity for your children.
Silkie eggs on “lockdown” in my NR 360
Silkie babies hatching out!
A broody Phoenix hen that hatched chicks from under her.
Buying from a local breeder is also a great choice when purchasing new chicks. You’re still getting to see the parents, but you also get to see the quality of the chicks before you purchase them. This is also a good way of getting a chance to get nice breeding birds that come from good blood lines. Either buying eggs or chicks from a breeder, just always make sure to ask a lot of questions and look for any signs of illness that is present. NPIP certification is also a plus.
Buying full grown chickens has its perks as well. When buying chickens that are already laying or almost laying, this gives you a head start on egg production as well as avoiding having to raise chicks. Usually you can buy started pullets or hens that are already laying for a decent price, even some hatcheries sell older chickens that usually come pre-vaccinated. Roosters are usually really cheap if not free. While this is an excellent, easy way of skipping chick raising, there are also a lot of things to consider. Grown chickens are not going to know who you are or where they are, and it will take them time locked in their area for a while for them to get used to things like roosting and laying their eggs in the provided nest boxes. Another thing to consider is the health of the birds. I would ask as many questions you can and definitely be cautious when purchasing adult chickens. My personal experience has ruined the thought of getting adult birds again because I purchased a few Rhode Island Red hens that were extremely ill with mycoplasma and mareks and contaminated the rest of my old flock as well, even after have them in quarantine for a few weeks. Every single chicken passed away or had to be culled. This was a learning experience, and will not always happen so please do not steer away from getting adult birds as there are many benefits as well.
The Rhode Island Red hens we bought full grown a few years ago.
While there are many factors that go into starting your own flock, it can be a very rewarding experience. Chickens are an absolute blessing to have. They can be amazing pets and make you laugh from time to time. You can make a decent amount of money off of fresh eggs, quality chicks, and even chicken manure for your garden. Your chickens can provide eggs and meat which is a great way at providing food for your family. They can be great bug control in your yard if you have them in a big area or let them free range.
While there are many stressful things to consider, I always believe the pros outweigh the cons and you will absolutely love raising chickens and only wonder why you didn’t get them sooner!
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