I’ll never forget the first time I got chicks. Going home with them peeping away in the little cardboard box settled on my lap was so exciting.
Now that I have been keeping backyard chickens for a while, I know what’s required. So, what do you need if you want to raise backyard chickens? What supplies should you be purchasing ahead of time?
This article will focus on the essential supplies you need to raise chickens, and I will also discuss what the best breeds are for beginners.
Pick the Right Breeds
Many think chickens are all the same, but that could not be farther from the truth. There are many different kinds of chicken breeds, and their purposes vary. But, for the most part, chicken breeds fall into three categories.
You should know what you plan on using your chickens for before you buy them. Even if you keep them as pets, they will still lay eggs.
- Egg Laying Breeds
- Meat Breeds
- Dual Purpose Breeds
Egg Laying Breeds
Egg Laying Breeds are hens that have been known to be effective at laying large quantities of eggs throughout their lifetime. Now, remember, all breeds of chickens lay eggs.
You need to decide what breed will be best for you. Some of the ones I recommend are:
- Rhode Island Reds
- Plymouth Rock
Meat breeds are bred primarily for meat purposes. As a result, they tend to grow quickly and put on accelerated weight. Most meat birds are ready for slaughter at nine weeks of age. The following is a list of the most common meat breeds.
- Dark Cornish
- Jersey Giants
- Big Red Broilers
- Ginger Broilers
Dual Purpose Breeds
Dual Purpose hens are precisely what the name sounds like. They can deliver the goods throughout their lives. Dual-purpose breeds are excellent egg producers, and they also grow big enough to be used for meat later in their lives. Some of the more popular breeds are:
- Buff Orpingtons
Decide What Age Chickens You Want
Most people start with chicks. They are adorable and fun.
Another great thing is they bond with their humans right away. So I think that is the best choice for those who are new at keeping chickens.
Some more experienced people may start by getting pullets, which are chickens between four to six months. Think awkward teenage stage, because they can look very silly as they grow into themselves. Pullets are a little older and won’t take as long to start laying eggs.
Some of us even adopt adult hens. You will often find these at shelters or sanctuaries as people sometimes get into chicken keeping and then realize it’s not for them.
Another option for adopting an adult hen is to consider battery hens. These hens have lived an awful life in a factory somewhere and would be thrilled at the chance for a new home.
What Supplies Do I Need?
Now that you’ve decided what breeds and what type of chickens you will have, it’s time to think about all of the other things that we are responsible for when it comes to keeping chickens.
The brooder is only needed if you have chicks that are not ready to join the adult chickens. Most chicks will stay in the brooder until they are about six weeks old.
The brooder should be wide enough for your chicks and tall enough as they will attempt to fly out once they are able. A screened cover should be placed over the top to prevent it.
A cardboard box works fine, but I have found it best to use a large plastic tub.
Chicks need heat and a lot of it. They cannot regulate their body temperature because they don’t have feathers until they are around seven weeks of age. Most people use a heat lamp that stays over the brooder at all times to keep them from catching a cold.
For their first week of life, ideally, the temperature in the brooder should be at 95 degrees, and it can be reduced by five degrees every week until you’ve reached a comfortable temperate, usually around 72 degrees.
The Chicken Coop
Your chicken coop does not need to be fancy, just practical. A simple structure made from wood will do, but ideally, more thought should be put into it. They do have prebuilt coops, but most are pretty flimsy.
If you are handy, you can easily make a lovely chicken coop with all the necessities. So what are those necessities?
The Proper Amount of Space
Chickens will need enough space to live together peacefully. If they get too crowded, they can exhibit anti-social behaviors such as pecking one another.
Adequate Shelter From the Elements
Your coop’s most basic function should be a refuge to get out of bad weather in the forms of snow, rain, or the beating sun. It is also imperative that your coop is waterproof because any water getting into the enclosure can wreak havoc on your girls.
A Comfortable Temperature
Your coop should always have a good temperate, warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Both are not easy to accomplish, but it’s worth getting it to a decent temperature for your hens.
This can be achieved with plenty of warm straw bedding in the winter and plenty of ventilation in the summer.
A Place to Roost
Roosts are essential to chickens as it is where they go to sleep. At night, in the coop, you will find the chickens lined up on the roost as they prepare to fall asleep.
Once your hens are of egg-laying age, you will need to be sure you have comfortable nesting boxes for them. The general rule of thumb is that you will need one nesting box for every three hens. But you can certainly have more!
Roaming Pen or Enclosure
Attached to your coop, having a safe roaming pen for your chickens is a good idea. Some people choose to let their chickens free roam, which is totally fine, but you do have a higher risk of a predator getting to them.
A chicken coop can only do so much to keep your girls safe because, unfortunately, predators are everywhere. And they aren’t shy about sneaking into your yard to steal your chickens. However, a properly installed fence that is buried 18 inches under the ground surrounding your coop can work wonders.
You can use several varieties of chicken feed, but the recommendations are generally that you can feed them starter feed crumbles until they are about eight weeks old.
You can then put them on starter/grower feed until they are fourteen weeks. Then, for weeks 15-18, they can be fed a finisher feed. And from 18 weeks through adulthood, they should be on a layer feed.
Water, of course, is essential for every living thing, and the water should be at room temperature. However, it does tend to freeze during the winter unless you have an electric water heater, which can be purchased at any feed store or online.
Like any other pet, you may want to have some delicious chicken treats nearby to feed to your birds once in a while. Chickens love eating treats, and it’s a great way to bond with them while teaching them how to do something.
It’s also a great way to be entertained by watching them savor the goodies you give for them. Once they understand the concept of the treats, they’ll come running when they see you.
Getting backyard chickens is a fairly big decision. It’s vital to do some due diligence to know what breed you want and how to house, care for, and feed them properly.
These are the general ideas for chicken keeping, but several of these things can go into much further depth.