Everything You Need to Know about Raising Chickens on Your Yard
So you have finally decided to raise chickens in your backyard. Well, we have to emphasize that poultry raising requires commitment. It will compel you to dedicate time and effort to make sure that the chickens will survive and proliferate dozens of eggs, too!
Of course, there is a multitude of things that would drive you to venture this endeavor. Those eggs that are to be laid by the chicken are tasty and fresh. They are better ingredients than their commercial counterparts when it comes to baking. Meanwhile, you can throw the waste of the chicken and the egg shells in a compost pit for soil enrichment.
You don't need to watch over the chickens from time to time; they can do good on their own. They would just roam in your place, plucking grass, worms, and other insects.
But before these good things can happen, you need to sweat a little bit first.
How to Raise Chickens: Initial Preparations
The first that you need to acquire is a chicken coop. This particular item is a box that serves as the nest for at least three chickens (hens). It should come with a water container and feeder. Moreover, its dimension should be large enough so that it won't cramp your poultry. If you are planning to build multiple chicken coops, you will need the help of the best framing nailer. This tool could help you get the job done!
Of course, your chickens won't survive if you don't feed them. Most of the chicken feed that shops sell today cost around $20 per sack or bag. But the prices still vary, depending on the variety and quality of the feed. Naturally, a bag of feed will only last short if you are planning to raise multiple flocks.
You can expect that your hens will lay eggs regularly through different seasons. As long as they receive sunlight for around 10 to 12 hours, their fertility will be good! You can even harvest eggs on a daily basis!
Also, don't forget to shovel their manure from time to time. It is a constant ordeal that you cannot escape, especially if you are raising agricultural livestock.
If you are planning to leave your turf, make sure that there is someone who will do your chicken-sitting chores. It is a practical approach that guarantees the safety and welfare of your stocks.
Raising Chickens: The Basics
As poultries, it is quite surprising that chickens do well with social interaction. They do not feel scared or awkward around humans. They can just roam around like they don't notice you at all.
To start your chicken farm, you need to invest to at least five to six birds. In this way, your flock won't get bored. Each of the bird should have two square feet of room in your chicken coop. Your chickens cannot rest well if their living conditions are not conducive. The more space you give in their nest, the healthier they become. It is also noticeable that cramp spaces and overcrowding cause diseases to spread at a rapid rate.
Moreover, it is also essential that you have a large backyard or farm to raise your poultry. Specifically, you should have a place that has a 20ft x 5ft dimension or bigger. With this, your chickens can run freely and exercise their wings optimally. You have to expose them to Mother Nature if you want them to grow big and healthy.
Of course, the place should have a fence as well. It would keep your chickens from escaping. At the same time, it can protect them from those sneaky predators. If you are planning to have to install a lumber fence, you might need the help of the best professional chainsaw.
All of these investments will cost you significantly. For example, a fully furnished chicken coop (with the described dimension that we mentioned) would cost around $100 to $200. If you include the fencing into the equation, the price could scale up to $500. But eventually, you can gain back your capital once your hens start to lay eggs already. If you cannot do these tasks alone, you better hire a professional laborer.
What Chicken Breed Should You Choose
Chickens come in different breeds. Examples of these are the Showgirl, Wyandotte, Russian Orloff, and Silkie. When choosing for the breed, also consider the following factors, color and number eggs produced, the temperament of the breed, noise, and adaptability.
If you have limited space, then the type that you should choose must quickly acclimatize confined conditions. Meanwhile, some chicken breeds are not tolerant to high-noise level. If your poultry farm is not in a secluded or rural place, then you must get more liberal kinds of chicken.
Fortunately, many chicken breeds today can survive in any climate and weather. However, some chicken varieties have specific needs. The Minorcas and Phoenix chicken are very dependent on heat. Meanwhile, the Chanteclers and Brahmas breeds are their direct opposite; these chicks love the cold.
All of the chicken breeds can lay eggs. Despite this, you should remember the quantity and egg size do vary from breed to breed. A good example of this is the Bantam chicken. Since it is a small-type of chicken, its egg is small, too.
Many of the breeders today prefer to cater Barred Plymouth Rocks and Rhode Island Reds. They are pretty meek and do not produce too much noise. Their egg production is very high, too. Most importantly, these chickens can deal with confinement with comfort.
Purchasing Chicken According to Age
You can purchase chickens at different ages. No rule requires you to buy chicks or hens. The only factor that should affect your decision is your patience to wait for the eggs. Here are the classifications of chicken based on their current stage of development.
Chicks (Day Old)
They are usually accessible to different hatcheries. Most of the suppliers that we know sell one chick for around $3 to $4. At this stage, you have to wait for around six months before they will hatch their first eggs.
It is a 5-month old chicken that is ready to lay eggs anytime soon. Obviously, their cost is higher compared to day-old chicks. But on the other hand, you don't have to wait for a long time before you can get those prized eggs. You can put them directly in the chicken coop, too. You can order pullets directly from the hatchery or trusted farm supplier.
Honestly, getting mature birds is not that easy. You can only have them if there is someone you know that wants to replace their old maidens with new ones. If you cannot encounter this opportunity, you have no other choice but to purchase chicks or pullets instead.
Luckily, the process of rearing chicks is not that complicated. You also don't need to become an animal expert before you can show your tender love and care to them. The first thing that you need to acquire is a chick starter so that you can feed your favorite chickens regularly. Aside from this, they require a regular source of clean water to drink.
You should house your chicks in a brooder pen (draft-free) that comes with a red brooder lamp. The lamp should be running at all times, as it will keep the temperature at around 92 degrees Fahrenheit two inches from the top of the floor. Aside from maintaining the optimal temperature, the lamp also prevents cannibalism and picking.
When you can notice that the chicks start to feather out, you have to lower the temperature of the light by 5 degrees Fahrenheit. You should do this on a weekly basis or until such time they reach six weeks of age. After that, you can replace the chick starter to a grower mash.
Your chickens require food and water regularly. You have to set up 4 inches of pine shavings on the ground. Next, cover it with multiple layers of newspapers. You can scatter the feed on this platform. You also need to make feeding troughs in pen. Take out one paper sheet each day. When there is no more paper, your chicks would have spotted the trough already.
Hatching the Chicks
If you want the practical route, you should learn how to hatch chicks. At some point, it would become illogical if you continue purchasing chickens. Since you have a poultry farm, you should be capable of having your product. In this matter, you need a buff and healthy rooster to complete the fertility process.
Before you go to your supplier, make sure that you are aware of the agricultural regulations of your locality. Some states allow people to raise hens, but never roosters. Hens can lay eggs even if there is no rooster. But of course, these eggs are not fertile.
You will also need to get a broody hen. In technical terms, broodiness describes the innate nature of the chicken to sit on the eggs until such time the latter with hatch. This instinct is present on hens. But it is somehow rare to get chickens that would brood full time! If you have a broody hen, it will indeed harm your hands if you attempt to take out the eggs. One breed that is exceptionally broody is the bantam. In fact, this chicken will set on other chicken's egg, too!
You can complete hatching the chicks with the help of a home incubator. The eggs take around 21 days before they hatch. Make sure that you will monitor the entire hatching process. If you let the chicks stay in the incubator for too long, they will die out of picking or dehydration. If you are not too confident with this approach, then you should let the hens deal the hatching process.
Tips for Making Chicken Coop
- Some growers say that having a flock of chicken with different ages is okay. We have to agree on this idea. It is rare for older hens to pick young chicks. Of course, this could change depending on the living conditions of the chicken. Usually, picking happens when the chicken coop is overcrowded. Therefore, your coop should be spacious and generous in ventilation.
- Do not hesitate to use a red bulb on the chicken coop. Albeit the popular belief, red bulbs don't cause injury to your chickens and chicks. In fact, white light is the one that causes pecking. Specifically, open areas on the chicken's body are evident when exposed to white light. Therefore, it is a right trigger to react.
- The pen should have cardboards on its every corner. With this design, you can quickly make angles that would prevent the chicks from packing and aggregating. The cardboards will stop suffocation from happening.
- Meanwhile, the waterers of your chicken coop should be shallow and clean. Do not let your chicks drown in the water they are drinking! We recommend that you should install a one-gallon waterer in your pen if it houses a hundred chickens. If you have pullets, the ratio should be six chickens to one-gallon waterer. There should also be a long feed trough so that you can cater all your pullets simultaneously.
These are the things that you need to consider and prepare if you are planning to raise chickens. It will never become a one-night success, as it will take months before you can have a fully-functional poultry farm. Of course, the maintenance and cleaning are never-ending processes. Therefore, you will need to commit to this endeavor.
But don't worry. Overall, raising chickens is very fulfilling and satisfying. Once you can have your first eggs and hatches, you will get addicted to it. Aside from being a pleasurable activity, it is a good source of income, too. Chickens will certainly lay "golden" eggs if you take care of them correctly!