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Does it seem like you are meeting more people who say they have backyard chickens? Are you entertaining the idea of starting your own backyard flock? Do you want to raise chickens like a champ and avoid looking like an amateur?
Something pretty cool is happening. More and more cities are allowing backyard chickens. That means more people are wanting to raise chickens to provide their own source of food. Whether it’s eggs or meat. The truth is we are tired of seeing labels as “fresh” when it has traveled hundreds of miles. Fresh is walking to your backyard grabbing a warm egg and cooking it for breakfast.
If your city allows you to have chickens I highly recommend it. If you are here and you know this may be the only choice for you to raise your own food, but birds make you close your eyes in fear, let me share my story.
Two years ago I was seriously scared of birds. When I was a kid 4 years old my parents had parakeets that flew around the house. They landed on my head and freaked me out. That was it. One simple little moment carried on for 25 years.
Now I’m an almost crazy chicken lady. Almost, because who likes to be called crazy. But if I heard myself the way I call my chickens and talk to them like my own kids, then yeah crazy is somehow attached.
We have 36 chickens running around our homestead, with a dog, three cats and two kids. If I can do it. You can do it.
So here’s the thing. They are sweet. They are funny and they can FEED YOU! They are not just going to come attacking you. Unless they are babies and you have bright pink toenails.
The truth is when you can put aside your fear of birds for the fact of giving your family farm fresh eggs there is no hesitation- it is all worth it.
Remember it’s taking one step towards your greater victory.
If you want to find out and read about your city’s ordinances Backyard chickens has a nice searchable list here.
So if you want to raise chickens like a champ where your neighbors are coming to you for advice here are a few of my key steps to follow.
How to Raise Chickens Like a Champ:
Choose the Best Breed for Your Environment
Did you know some chickens will fly over a fence while others won’t think about it? Some chickens personality stops them from attempting such things as well. We started with six Rhode Island Reds. We lived in a city and I was determined to free range them for at least 4-6 hours a day. One slight problem. We had less than an acre of land and they tended to go two doors down to our neighbor’s back patio.
So I put them in my fenced in vegetable garden. And guess what they did? All four would fly out and leave two behind.
You have to research the breed of chicken that will fit your lifestyle.
Are you planning on free ranging?
Will they free range for a few hours?
Will they be cooped up all day? Some of the best backyard breeds are Plymouth Rocks, New Hampshire Red, Black Australorp, & Golden Comet to name a few.
Purchase All Your Equipment & Have It Ready
You will need a chicken coop. There is no way around it. And this again needs to be based on the size of your yard and a number of chickens you are allowed to have. You only need a few essentials beyond the coop.
Feeder, Waterer, Bedding, Nesting Boxes ( Many times can be built into the coop). Heating Lamp. ( Used only for chicks and freezing cold temperatures.) You get can all this equipment from your local feed store or stores like Tractor Supply etc.
Like any pet the most money you spend is upfront. These are all one-time investments, with the exception of bedding as you will need to clean the coop on a weekly basis. I haven’t noticed a difference in stainless steel feeders and the plastic one we have. It truly depends on how many chickens. When we had just 6 we used a plastic feeder. When we had 30 we opted for the heavier gauge stainless feeders.
You can get as frugal as you want with chickens. As chicks you can use an egg carton for food. You can use a mason jar and just get the dispenser bottom. You can use many containers to create you own nesting box. Use a golf ball in the nesting box instead of buying a plastic egg at your feed store.
Get Your Chickens as Chicks.
Yep. The best way to start your backyard chickens is to start with baby chicks. This will truly help you create a bond with them and they are adorable. Plus chickens can stop laying eggs after two years. It’s best to grab them early. I would recommend purchasing chickens from a local breeder. If one is not available your local feed store should have some as well in the spring.
Get Familiar with Your Chickens
I think it is important for your chickens to get to know you. Around here it is clear that I am the ultimate leader in the pecking order. I like for the chickens to know my voice. I like that they don’t go running away from us when we are hanging outside. Chickens are pretty social and it’s fun to strengthen that bond.
Don’t be discouraged if the first several months of your chicken’s life you are not able to pick them up or the fact some may still run away. It does take a bit of time but again keep at it and before long they will be squatting down ready for you to pick them up.
Train Your Chickens to Come When You Want Them To
This is key if you are living in an area where your neighbors are closer then you’d like. When we first got our chickens we used a very long plastic pole to herd them over in our yard. It worked for awhile but then I found something even better. A canister of dried oatmeal. I would shake that jar and then give them oatmeal every time they came. Every time I shook the can I would call; “Here Chick Chicks.”
Now two years later in a new house with only one neighbor my girls occasionally head on over to the neighbor’s front yard and all I have to do is call’ Here Chick Chicks,” and they come running over. I kid you not. There will be a video of this coming soon. This is an ideal trait to have. They learn quickly. Any scratch or special treat will get them to come. Be consistent with the words you are using each time you want them to come to you.
Keep Your Nesting Boxes Clean
You can get away with letting the actual coop slide for a few days past but, the nesting boxes are a must to check daily. First, you don’t really want to reach your hand in your nesting box and grab it out with chicken poop all over it. Depending on how your nesting boxes are set up you may need to clean directly in front of them as well. In one our chicken coops the nesting boxes are off to the side. If they are dirty in the chicken’s path to get in and lay her egg she has a good chance of stepping on the eggs with her poop filled feet. So keep an eye on those nesting boxes.
There you have it. These are my key points when it comes to raising chickens like a champ.