Are you thinking of getting some chickens this spring? That’s a great idea and a lot of fun, but before you get your first baby chick, let’s look at what you need to know before you get chickens so that you can enjoy the journey, and not be taken by surprise.
What you need to know before you get chickens
Some things you should know before you dive in:
1. Is your neighborhood chicken-friendly?
Dot your i’s and cross your t’s
Check with your county or HOA to determine if there are any restrictions on owning chickens where you live. Don’t assume because a neighbor has them that everything is on the up and up.
This will avoid unnecessary heartache down the road.
Many HOA’s will not allow roosters, so keep that in mind when you are considering whether to buy chicks or older birds.
If you have neighbors in close proximity, maybe give them a heads up on your plans and assure them there will be many freshly laid eggs in their future. Doing just a bit of research and planning upfront will ensure that you start off on the right foot.
2. Do your due diligence
Research, research, research
Do your homework BEFORE you bring your birds home. There are many “egg”celent books out there about raising and caring for chickens, as well as Facebook groups where you can ask questions and build community with chicken owners in your area.
If you can find a local breeder that can become a mentor to you, that is worth its weight in gold. There is so much to learn and the more prepared you are, the better your experience will be.
Books about raising chicken
A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens: Best Breeds, Creating a Home, Care and Handling, Outdoor Fun, Crafts and TreatsThe Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens: How to Raise a Happy Backyard FlockMy Chickens Lay Eggs101 Chicken Keeping Hacks from Fresh Eggs Daily: Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for You and your HensThe Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Happy HensBackyard Chickens: A Practical Handbook to Raising Chickens
3. Home sweet home – prepare a place for your fluffy friends
Make sure you have everything set up BEFORE you bring your birds home. Those little balls of fluff grow faster than you think.
Having your coop and run ready will eliminate any stress and panic when they are ready to transition from the brooder to their permanent home.
Also, be sure to fortify your coop and against predators. Remember, everybody likes chicken! And not just wild animals, the neighborhood dogs too. A strong, well-built coop and sturdy run is your best line of defense for your feathery friends.
4. Janitorial duties
Chickens require daily care and maintenance.
- They should have access to food and clean water at all times.
- Their coop and run need to be cleaned regularly to ensure the health and happiness of your flock.
- Be prepared… chickens poop ALL THE TIME. You’ll need to have a plan in place for waste disposal. If you can, compost all of the old bedding and droppings. This makes an excellent fertilizer for your garden, and it’s free: a bonus by-product of owning chickens.
- Always remember, a clean environment equals a happy, healthy flock.
5. Gardener’s friend or foe
The short answer to that is both. Chickens can provide a dormant garden with a much-needed displacement of the soil, especially for those folks focused on Back to Eden, Lasagna, or any sort of no-till gardening.
Chickens love to scratch and peck and scratch some more. They are really good at it which is why they should never be turned loose in your active garden.
Chickens will destroy plants and peck at your prize vegetables.
The same goes for your flower beds. These should be off-limits to your flock during the growing season.
Composted chicken waste and eggshells make a wonderful fertilizer, so save that poop! it’ll come in handy.
6. Chickens are not cheap
Like any animal you commit to caring for, chickens come with necessary expenses. Housing is probably the biggest expense you will encounter upfront.
A well-made, sturdy coop and run will cost a good chunk of change but is absolutely worth it in terms of your sanity and reassurance that your flock is safe and sound at all times.
Other expenses to consider are:
- Feed costs – chickens do eat quite a bit. Especially if they are unable to free-range.
- Bedding – you’ll need a good supply of fresh bedding on hand as coops require regular cleaning.
- Medications and supplements – it is good to have these items on hand in case illness should arise. That way you are prepared for whatever may arise.
7. You may need to be your own chicken doctor
Chickens, like any living thing, will fall ill from time to time. Knowing just a bit of first aid and at-home remedies will be extremely beneficial should your chicken begin to feel under the weather.
Finding a veterinarian who sees chickens can prove to be difficult as most vets do not learn about them in school. If you do manage to find a vet that sees poultry, be prepared to open up your wallet.
A little bit of knowledge and know-how will go a long way should you need to play nursemaid (this Facebook group has some really good info about keeping and raising chickens).
8. Where should you buy your chicks
Choices, choices, choices
Always buy from a reputable source. This is, without a doubt, the most important thing to remember when buying your birds. There are several different options when purchasing chicks.
- You can order directly from a hatchery and have your babies sent to you in the mail.
- Local feed and farm stores will have chicks available at certain times of the year, usually in the spring months.
- If you are interested in a specific breed of chicken there are online breed clubs you can contact to find a breeder in your area.
When considering where to purchase your birds keep these things in mind.
- Chickens are highly susceptible to disease and illness.
- Buying from a source that takes steps to ensure the safety and health of their birds will ensure that your experience raising chicks is positive and enjoyable.
- Ask questions, do your research, prepare ahead of time and you will have a wonderful journey with your new little balls of fluff.
So, now that you’re aware of what you need to know before you get chickens you’re ready for a fun and wild adventure.
There is much to know when taking on a flock of chickens, but the rewards absolutely outweigh the challenges.
Start small, be well informed, and do your research and you will be rewarded with extremely entertaining companions that also provide you with breakfast.