Have you ever looked out across your backyard and wondered what it would be like to have your very own flock of chickens roaming around? Keeping chickens is a surprisingly low-maintenance hobby. Plus, the fresh eggs and hours of entertainment a flock can provide make the investment more than worth it for a lot of people. However, while backyard chickens come with many benefits, they also come with a lot of responsibility. You’ll need to do several things before you bring your first birds home. Here’s how to prepare to raise chickens at home and start your own happy, successful flock.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
The more you know about chickens and chicken-keeping, the more prepared you’ll be to handle anything your first flock throws at you. As a result, the first steps in how to prepare to raise chickens at home should be research, research, and more research. Learn about the best kind of feed for your chickens, how much space your flock will need, and what type of chicken coop would fit well in your yard.
In addition to the daily knowledge and equipment you need to get started, you should also educate yourself on the more obscure parts of chicken-keeping, such as common chicken diseases and how to care for your flock throughout the winter. This is also a great time to learn about your city’s laws and regulations regarding chicken-keeping. You might be surprised at how many places will allow you to keep chickens in your yard—even in large cities—but you’ll still have to follow some rules regarding fencing, keeping roosters, and other details. You don’t want to pay any fines or deal with upset neighbors after your chickens arrive, so make sure you read up on all the relevant regulations ahead of time.
SET UP THE HOME
Establishing your coop, your run, and the rest of your flocks’ space is one of the most important parts of starting your chicken-keeping journey. Before you bring home any chickens—or even eggs to hatch—you need to set up their living arrangements. There are many different styles of coops and runs, so make sure you consider the space you have and the flock you want in order to find the best option available.
The setup of your yard can play a huge role in how and where you keep your chickens. The most obvious factor is the amount of space you have. Do you have the room for a large coop? Is there a preexisting fence you can use to fence off the run? Do you have trees or bushes to serve as a natural windbreakers during harsh winters? All these elements can be extremely beneficial when you’re choosing a location for your chicken coop and run. You should also think about how close you want your chickens to be to your home. A closer coop makes it easier for you to wander out for your daily chores. It also helps you keep an eye on your chickens from the comfort of your window or porch—an entertaining pastime.
CHICKEN COOP AND RUN
Once you’ve planned out your yard, it’s time to put a chicken coop in it. Once again, you have plenty of options when it comes to the best coop for your flock. Choose the size, the materials you want to use, and even whether you want it to be mobile, stationary, or somewhere in between. You can purchase building plans for a coop or just buy a prebuilt coop. In addition to the coop, you should also build a protected run so that your chickens have plenty of space to roam. If you have the space—and if it’s legal—you can also let your chickens free-roam throughout your yard.
A big part of establishing a chicken coop is keeping it safe from predators. Chickens have a lot of different natural predators, so make sure you build safeguards against all sorts of invasions. Overhead mesh or netting is an effective way to deter airborne predators. Chicken fencing keeps many ground predators away. Just be sure to bury your fence about a foot into the ground. This will prevent foxes and other burrowing predators from digging underneath the fence to get to your chickens. A raised coop is also a great way to deter predators, as it makes it harder for snakes, rodents, and other small intruders to find weaknesses in your coop’s foundation.
PREPARE FOR DAILY LIFE
Once you’ve set up your coop in your yard, it’s time to outfit it for the chickens’ day-to-day lives. Find a good feeding and watering system that works for the size of your flock. Automatic feeders and waterers are great for making sure your birds always have access to vital resources. On top of food and water, you also want to provide a place for your hens to nest and lay eggs. This keeps your hens comfortable and ensures they’re laying eggs in a regular space, which makes it easier for you to collect the eggs every day. On top of the essentials, you can also get roosting bars, toys, and other comforts to keep your birds happy and entertained. No matter what equipment you get, just make sure you know how to clean and maintain it. A clean coop is essential to your chickens’ health—and it makes for a nicer, far less smelly experience for everyone involved.
REACH OUT TO OTHERS
There’s a lot of value in community. Other backyard chicken-keepers can be excellent sources of knowledge and advice, now and throughout your experience with keeping chickens. Plenty of online communities and resources can also answer your questions or simply give you places to share your stories and experiences. You don’t have to reach out only to people with chicken-keeping experience—recruit a friend or family member to help you take care of the chickens one day, and see if they take to it as much as you have. You can also share the joys of your new flock with neighbors and other friends by giving away delicious, farm-fresh eggs. Keeping chickens is a lot more fun when you have other people around to enjoy the experience with you.
At Stromberg’s Chickens, we also want to help you along in your chicken-keeping career. Check out our coops, feeders, and chicken nesting boxes for sale, along with any other supplies or information you need for your incoming flock. Once you’ve made all the necessary preparations for your birds, you’re all set to start many successful, rewarding years of raising backyard chickens.