Here are 5 Things you need to know about raising backyard chickens
Raising your own backyard chickens isn’t for the faint of heart, but literally anyone could do it with little to no experience. I started my very first flock in April, 2015 and have been going strong ever since. Sure, we have had some casualties along our journey. Chickens are a fickle bird so it’s not always anyone’s fault, sometimes they just die. But I am here to share 5 important things you need to know about raising backyard chickens successfully!
This post contains affiliate links, these are products I personally recommend because I use them or know someone who does. All opinions are my own. If you choose to purchase any of my recommended items, I will gain a small commission that helps support my family and homesteading goals.
Having a sturdy coop really does matter. When you buy a cheap coop, you aren’t saving yourself anything really. You will end up needing to repair or replace it within a few years. Your coop should have an area to roam, and area to have shade, and an area to lay eggs (nesting boxes). A general rule of thumb is that you will need about 4 sqft per bird. If you live in a more rural area, a strong sturdy coop that can be closed and locked will help you keep your birds safe from predators. Even if you aren’t rural, Hawks and Owls can be a risk to your flock. I had a custom coop built. (The other coop you see was a hand-me-down that I only used for meat birds for a very short stint.)
2. Large Water/Food Feeders
You will want to invest in larger watering dispensers and larger feeders, unless you have the time to check on your birds several times a day, and especially if you have more than 3 chickens. Chickens can be a little unpredictable when it comes to eating and drinking. Sometimes they go through it quickly and sometimes they don’t. You never want them to be without either if you want a happy healthy flock. Hanging your watering dispenser and feeder is also a good idea. If you haven’t been around chickens, well let me tell you – THEY POOP A LOT! They will poop in their water and their food. By hanging them, getting poop in them is a bit of a challenge. I won’t say it prevents it completely, but is definitely helps! Here is my WATER DISPENSER and here is FOOD DISPENSER very similar to mine.
3. Water bath & Dust bath
Unless it’s freezing year round where you live, having an open area for water is always a good idea. Chickens can over heat quickly. As we live in AZ we refresh their water pool daily. In the summer time there will be 2-3 birds in their to keep cool. It also acts as extra water on those hot summer days when they run out.
If you don’t know what a dust bath is (because I sure didn’t when I got started), it’s an area with loose dirt your chickens will use to clean themselves. I don’t have a tub for this, but I have seen that done. The bottom area of my coop is dirt. My ladies will dig and scratch down and make a little dirt nest. Chickens secrete oil under their feathers and without a dust bath their feathers start to look pretty gross. You will see your hens toss dirt onto themselves and shake all over. It’s pretty entertaining. We maintain their dust bathing area by refilling their little holes. Not because we don’t want them to dig, but because we know how important it is for them to scratch and dig! Chickens like to scratch to look for bugs to eat. A busy chicken is a happy chicken.
4. Fly’s and Bugs
Ok, I am not going to lie about the flies. They are a big pain in the butt and really cannot be avoided all together. This is a natural part of having a backyard flock. So if you don’t want flies, I suggest you don’t have chickens. On the other hand, there are a few ways to keep them down. Clean your coop often, that’s the obvious way. You can also use Diatomaceous Earth (also known as DE), you will read mixed reviews about this. I do not claim to be an expert on this topic, but we have been using this helpful method for over 3 years now with no evidence of any negative impacts.
Other bugs that can be problematic are mites and lice. I have not run into either of these problems but DE is also known to help with this. Just sprinkle your DE all over the bottom of your coop. You can also try purchasing Mite spray off Amazon.
If you live somewhere with scorpions like I do, you hens can be strung and temporarily paralyzed and bad enough, may cause death. It is possible that a few of my gals of yesteryear may have passed this way. A scorpion sting can be hard to find, and let’s be honest, not everyone enjoys handling dead chickens.
Other critters and bugs such as crickets, spiders, and ants are just more busy work for your chickens. They will hunt them and eat them. Which is a great source of protein for them as well. And like I said before, a busy chicken is a happy one!
5. Choosing your Breeds
I really was a rookie when we started raising backyard chickens. I had no idea that there were so many breeds of chickens. From laying hens to meat birds, there is an enormous variety to choose from. I chose my breeds by the color of the eggs they would lay. I enjoy looking at a rainbow of eggs so I worked with a local breeder to form my very first flock based on her expertise. My first flock included Blue Americauna’s (lay a very blue egg), Black copper Maran’s (lays from a shade of brown to very dark copper), a white Americauna (brown), and a splash Americauna (brown). Since my first flock I have also had the following breeds; Rhode Island Reds, Silver & Gold laced Wyandottes, Buff Orphington, Barred Rock, Speckled Sussex, Silkie, Naked Neck Turkens, and Easter Eggers. I currently have a flock of 11 and am averaging about 7 eggs a day. My production will go up as the weather starts to cool down. We are still in temps above 90.
I hope this helps you get started on your backyard gang! If you have any questions about raising laying hens or meat birds, please let me know! I would be happy to create a chicken series for my #hansenhens.