If you have a small piece of land or even a backyard, you can have some chickens. It is a trend that is increasingly in vogue in the suburbs across the country. Chickens are no longer just for rural families. With the price of food steadily rising, more stories about the conditions in which chickens live and the meals that seem to go out each week, raising your own food simply makes sense.
If you want to know how to raise chickens, you are in the right place.
Fortunately, chickens are quite self-sufficient. They do not require a lot of work and are not free loaders. Chickens provide food and help control insects in your garden or yard. They are also like mini growers and will help reduce weeds. Chickens are cheap and a valuable resource. See how you can make chickens work for you.
What kind of chickens do you need?
There are two types of chickens that you will have to choose from when you go to the farm store to pick up your chicks in the spring. There are chickens that are raised for the purpose of becoming a dinner for you and chickens that are bred to be excellent layers of eggs. Not all chickens make good egg layers.
We are going to discuss some of the most popular chicken breeds. However, in reality, all chickens will lay eggs and all chickens can be used for meat. It’s about getting the most benefit for your money.
Meat chickens are basically chickens that get fat in a short time. What you should know about how to raise meat is the fact that, in general, you will only have them for about six months at most before it is time to kill them. Young chickens taste better. Chickens that approach the one-year mark tend to be a little tough. You could put them in the pot of stew, but ideally, you want young chickens to get the best meat possible.
There are two main types of meat chickens; Grills and grills. Broilers are around the 4 to 5 pound mark, while toasters are 8 to 9 pounds. Broilers tend to have problems walking. They gain a lot of weight quickly and their little feet can not hold them. Rapid growth, the type of butchering that is needed for the 8 weeks, will have more problems with the legs. Chickens that can not walk will be sick and will not be able to eat. Slow growing, 12 weeks of butchery, they are a bit easier to handle.
You want the hens to mature and get fat quickly, so you are not spending a lot of money feeding them. This is why broilers are very popular. You will not feed them for long.
Some of the best breeds are the following;
- Cornish Hens: some varieties, such as the Cornish Rock, are ready to be cut in about 8 weeks
- Red broilers
- New Hampshire chickens
- Black giant jersey
If you need to know how to raise chickens for eggs, you will have to choose the strongest and most working chickens possible. There are some breeds that will produce 360 eggs per year on average and some breeds that are a bit lazier and only produce about 300 eggs per year. It is really a personal preference.
Some of the most popular egg-laying birds are the following;
- Rhode Island Red
- Leghorn: Absolutely the most reliable egg layer you can get
- Buff Orpington
- Ameraucana or Easter eggs: the colors of the eggs are blue, green and beige
Double purpose chickens
As mentioned above, there are some breeds that can be used as layers of eggs or to slaughter meat around that six-month mark when they are nice and plump. When buying chickens, it is often a bet with some of the varieties. That is, you never know when you can get a rooster or two. Most people just want a single rooster in their flock or no rooster. If you live within the city limits, you may not be allowed to have a rooster. Not everyone enjoys the cock-a-doodle-doo at dawn.
You can identify which of your chicks will be roosters for six months. If you buy dual purpose, often referred to as inheritance breeds, you can sacrifice the roosters for meat and keep the chickens for eggs. You will discover that many of the breeds that lay eggs form this list.
Some common double-purpose breeds are the following;
- Reds of Rhode Island
- Barred rock
- Buff Orpington
- Australorp Black
- Mottled Sussex
How many chickens do you need?
Now that you know what kind of chickens you need, you need to find out how many chickens you need to provide the food you want. This will really depend on the size of your family, the space you have (it will cover in the next section) and how much you will trust your backyard chickens for meat and eggs.
If you are raising chickens exclusively for eggs, a small flock of chickens, up to five, is enough for the average family. Most of the breeds mentioned in the egg layer category will lay eggs every day. That means you can expect 30 to 35 eggs per week. That is quite significant. You can often sell your eggs, to offset the cost of feeding chickens if you find you have too many. You can always choose to kill a couple if you realize that egg production is overwhelming.
If you are raising broilers, raising ten at a time is quite easy. They are small chickens and will be ready to be butchers in a couple of months. However, ten broilers will only be enough for a couple of meals for a family of four. If you are growing the largest variety, ten toasters is enough for ten weeks, assuming you have chicken once a week.
How much space do you need?
There is no right or wrong answer for this. Many people prefer poultry. The free area does not necessarily mean that the chickens must walk around several acres. In fact, most chickens prefer to stay close to their cooperative. Free range basically means that chickens have a good sized area to roam, scratch and look for insects.
Your backyard is a lot of space. Many people will use something called a chicken tractor. Basically, it is a fenced area that moves around the yard. Protects chickens from predators and limits them to a specific area. This is an excellent way to fertilize your lawn, do some weeding and take care of any insects that are on the lawn.
For a flock of five chickens, you would need approximately 100 feet of roaming space. Ideally, you should allow approximately 15 feet of space per chicken. It can be a little less and obviously it can be more. The trick is to make sure you’re not limiting them to a small area where they do not have space to move or that they’ve worked in the field to the point where there is nothing left but chicken poop.
Choose the correct cooperative?
There are all kinds of chicken coops out there. You can make your own with some wood and chicken wire or buy one from wood. Here is a link to a video that gives you the plans to make yours.
Plastic coops are very popular among owners of patio chickens. The variety of plastic is easy enough to keep clean and come in a variety of styles and even colors. Some of the cooperatives are designed to look like mini-houses.
What it comes down to is the size. Size Matters. You need your girls to have room to move. If the rooms are too narrow, you run the risk of illnesses and fights. Leave at least three square feet of space for each chicken. You also need hangers in the cooperative for the girls to sleep at night. They will huddle together, but they should be allowed ten inches of perch space each.
Another element of your cooperative is the nesting boxes. If you only have five laying hens, you only need a few boxes. Usually, not all are put at the same time. In fact, you may have four nesting boxes, but you are likely to choose your favorites and they all take turns placing them in the same box. The box should be around 8 and # 215; 8 inches. They want to feel safe and comfortable while they deal with business. They also like your privacy.
Feeding your chickens
You should feed your chickens a healthy diet to ensure that they gain the necessary weight to become good meat birds and to ensure they have the necessary nutrition to produce eggs. Chickens need a healthy diet that includes a lot of protein. This encourages the production of eggs and will help put the pounds on your meat birds. You can buy poultry pellets at your local grocery store. The pellets are full of proteins and other nutrients needed to keep chickens healthy.
It can complement the diet of chickens with scratch, which is ground corn. If the chickens have limited space, the scratch will be very important for egg layers. They need the exercise of scratching on the ground to stimulate the production of eggs. Corn is essentially a fattening agent, so be careful not to overfeed chickens, especially meat birds. You do not want them to get too fat, too soon.
Chickens should be able to eat all day. Feeding them in the morning is excellent, but it can also be useful to feed them in the afternoon. You want them to go to bed with a full belly. While they sleep and their food is digested, the egg is being made. This is why many chickens lay their eggs in the morning. It takes a full day for an egg to be produced inside the chicken.
Letting the hens scratch and eat insects and weeds throughout the day will complement your diet. Try to make the chicken run on a piece of grass or in an area with weeds. Leftovers are also a favorite for chickens. Avoid giving chickens meat, garlic and onions. They will eat almost anything. The heart of the chopped lettuce, the hearts of celery and the tips of the carrots are excellent for chickens.
The chickens will also appreciate sweets like worms and yogurt from time to time. You can buy flour worms at your local grocery store. Pull a handful and watch the chickens go wild trying to eat them. Yogurt is ideal for maintaining your intestinal health.
If your goal is to be completely self-sustaining, you will have to learn a little about the chickens and what they need to produce them. If you have a rooster, nature will follow its course. However, certain races are simply not good breasts. They get bored and do not sit on the eggs for the full 21 days they are required to incubate. Typically, dual purpose breeds are better for raising chickens than for meat birds or laying birds.
Your chickens will need a quiet place to build their clutch. If you have several chickens that are posing and you have a rooster in your flock, you can help the expectant mother increase her grip faster by putting those eggs under her. Depending on the size of the chicken, it is likely that she wants 8 to 15 eggs in her nest. She will not drop eggs for 21 days, except for a quick drink and some food. She will be fine If you notice that an egg has been expelled beneath it, trust nature. You probably know that the girl died or is not viable and will not waste time.
Once the chicks hatch, you should keep the babies separated from the rest of the flock. Unfortunately, the chickens are not kind to the young and will peck and kill the babies. Let mom do her job. Now, if you end up with a mother who raises chickens and then loses interest (very common) you will have to take control. Take the chickens to the garage or house and place a heat lamp over them. They must stay very hot during the first six weeks of life.
Many people will choose to use incubators to incubate the eggs. This eliminates the problem of a mother leaving her clutch at night and interrupting the entire process. Incubators are an excellent way to incubate and sell chicks to help supplement their income.
Tips for egg laying.
If you are new to the game of chickens and your hens do not seem to be used to it, there are some tricks you can use to help them. Although the placement of eggs is instinctive, it can be difficult for chickens to discover where they want the eggs and how often.
Chickens must be healthy and happy so they can produce eggs successfully.
- Teach the chickens where you want the eggs to be placed in the nest boxes using plastic Easter eggs. They are followers. You will notice the eggs in the boxes and you will find out where they should lay their eggs as well. Once the chickens regularly lay eggs in the boxes, you can remove the plastic eggs.
- Keep the nest boxes clean. Chickens will not want to settle in a box full of poop. Typically, they will not go to the box where they are. However, if one of the hens uses a different box to put on, it may not be as respectful.
- If the chickens do not seem to be posing and are at least eight months old, they may not be getting enough protein. Increase your protein intake by giving them more mealworms. You can also stir some eggs and give them to them. It may look like a cannibal, but it works.
- Chickens need a certain amount of daylight to be able to put. If it is December and the chickens have stopped laying, they probably do not have the proper light. A red heat lamp in the henhouse is the answer. The red lamp keeps the chickens warm and gives them some light without overwhelming them with too much light from a standard heat lamp. It is a good idea to put the light on a timer. Chickens need between 12 and 14 hours of light. As the days get longer, you may depend less on your lamp.
There are some small problems that may arise during your chick rearing. Most problems can be solved quickly and easily.
Other problems, such as a disease that is spreading through your herd, are a bit more difficult to treat and, in general, cause you to start over.
Before coming to the conclusion that you have failed and can not handle raising chickens, here are some additional tips that can help you solve common problems.
- Chickens eat their own eggs.. This is the worst nightmare of all chicken owners. Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to prevent a chicken from eating eggs. Fortunately, only a handful will succeed. The rest of the flock will leave the eggs in peace. You can try to thwart the egg-eater by collecting the eggs several times a day. Do not give them the opportunity. If that does not work, you should be diligent to find your egg eater. Once the culprit is identified, it becomes a meat bird.
- The egg shells are soft or non-existent. If you pick up an egg and end up with a sticky mess, your girls lack nutrition. Feeding them with some oyster shells a couple of times a week will help strengthen the shells. The soft shells are due to the lack of calcium. You can grind the egg shells that you get when you are cooking the eggs and returning them to the chickens. Never give chickens large chunks that look like eggs. This will encourage eating eggs.
- The chickens are fighting. Hens will discuss and have small spats here and there on a main piece of land or food. Many people are firm believers in keeping a rooster in the flock to limit these fights. A single rooster will usually be the boss and will keep the girls online.
- Chickens that seem to be losing many feathers on their backs can be alarming. It is important to remember that the chickens will move for the first time around one and a half years of age. They will look pretty rough with patches of bare skin everywhere. Typically, chickens will move once a year in the fall. Some breeds do not lay eggs during moulting or slow down significantly. This is normal. Their bodies are putting energy into the molt instead of producing eggs. They must return to normal after the change.
- Mites and lice in chickens is a feared problem. The problem can be so bad, it will kill the chickens. Some signs include naked spots, skinny chickens, diarrhea and generally malaise. Keeping the cooperative clean and dry is your best line of defense. There is a powder that you can spread in the poultry house to help keep lice and mites at bay.
Use the dust in the shelters and nest boxes too. The chickens will also do what they can to solve the problem. They will take earthen baths to get rid of the annoying insects. Make sure the chickens have a good patch of loose soil so they can bathe.
Raising chickens is a rewarding hobby that will put food on the table while helping your garden. Chicken poop is an excellent fertilizer and is organic! Many gardeners will allow chickens to enter the garden for approximately 15 minutes each night so that they eat insects and weeds while providing them with fertilizer.
If you’re ready to be a little more self-sufficient and want to grow your own source of protein and meat, chickens are the answer. They are easy to care for and very economical to raise.
DO IT YOURSELF