Thursday, September 5, 2013

How to Get Started Raising Your Own Chickens

Chrystal from Self Sufficient Mom is back today! I am so excited for this post! If you want to learn more about Chrystal and see another great tip from Chrystal on Dehydrating Fruits & Veggies pop on over here or check out her blog - and be sure to add it to your blog reader!

For those of you that know me, I have tons of chickens, upwards of 45 to be exact! They are so rewarding in so many ways. Fresh eggs are so much better for you. I don’t want to scare you, but the store bought eggs are full of so many things other than yolk and egg whites. Chicken farms are full of unhealthy, unhappy and sad chickens. For the price that you would pay for a dozen free range chicken eggs each week you could have your own chickens that would provide your family with fresh, un-medicated eggs and free pest control.

Many cities and towns have been changing their regulations for owning chickens in an urban environment. Many people who were not allowed to have them are now able to have a small coop with enough birds to provide a family with eggs-a-plenty. Thanks to a great website called many chicken lovers have come together to help push through new legislation to allow the average house to have a few chickens. 

I am writing this post to help those of you who want to own their own chickens get started. First, you will need to find out if chickens are allowed in your area. A quick call to your Planning & Development department of your local town or city will tell you if you’re in the clear. Not to go against the legality of it, but if you aren’t allowed chickens, doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. If you are on good terms with your neighbors and offer fresh eggs, a lot of times you can still get away with it. ;)

Next, you need to decide what kind of coop you are going to need. Typically you need a chicken house that has at least one square foot per chicken and a run that has at least 10 square feet per chicken. Figure out where this pen will go. Other fun ideas are things called chicken tractors. They have wheels and allow you to move your pen throughout your yard if you want to. Back Yard Chickens has many coop and run designs to check out. Some are simple and functional and other are as creative as the people who created them!

After you have your coop and run up and running, you need a place to provide food and water. These can be found at your local feed store or even Walmart. You can also make them yourself. I have a 55 gallon barrel with a PVC pipe that runs through all my pens and gives water to all my birds. The PVC has water nipples on it that allow the birds to drink the water, but not get it dirty. Works great!

When you are ready for your birds, now you need to decide what you want. You are going to need at least 1 bird per family member, 2 per person is better and will give you enough eggs to share with your friends and neighbors. You can order specialty chicks from such sites as McMurray, My Pet Chicken or Privitt. You can buy full size already laying birds from local private people on Craig’s List or local Facebook pages. You can buy chicks from your local feed store, and often they will order breeds that they don’t normally carry for you if you ask. Chicks take a good amount of care and you can expect to lose a few as they are a bit fragile. You can expect to have your first eggs in about 5-6 months. If you buy already laying birds, there is no worry about getting a loud rooster in the bunch and you will have eggs as soon as the birds settle in from their move. 

When feeding your birds, make sure they get what they need. Mature birds need layer pellets or crumble as well as access to calcium and grit. Young & newly hatched birds need Chick Starter Grower crumble or mash.

You can also raise your own meat birds and ensure what your family is eating. It can be a little more expensive than store bought meat, but to know that you are not feeding your family any hormones or medicated meat it worth every penny. I will do another post about this subject soon as it can be a lengthy project.

- Chrystal

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