Monday, 11 August 2008

Raising Chickens - First Steps

There are many benefits to raising chickens; they can make great pets, they provide natural bug control, they give you several eggs each week (and potentially meat), and they provide endless hours of therapy and enjoyment in watching them cluck and peck around.

For many people, raising chickens is their first step to becoming more self sufficient. Chickens need relatively little care, but there are a few things you may want to consider before placing your order :

Do you have the space : A coop needs to allow at least two square feet per chicken and they will also need a secure run allowing at least three square feet per chicken (the bigger the better - particularly if they won't have a chance to free range safely). Their coop doesn’t have to be anything palatial, but some care will need to be taken to ensure that it is dry, free of drafts and safe from predators.

It doesn't hurt to allow some extra room - you never know
when you might need it!

Do you have the time : Chickens need relatively little care, but they do need to be locked into their coop safely at night, and let out again in the morning. They also need fresh water and feed every day, and the coop should be cleaned out regularly.

Cost : In terms of the monetary cost of feed and bedding, hens usually more than pay for themselves with their eggs (not to mention the enjoyment they bring as pets). The cost of buying or building a coop and run however, may take a few years for them to 'earn'.

How many : How many chickens really depends on how many you think you would like, have the space for, and can look after. Chickens have a group mentality so having at least two or three is better than having just one. With most egg laying breeds you can expect to get four to six eggs per week from each hen (this number will probably decrease as they get older). You don't need to have a rooster to get eggs but if you want one then the normal ratio is one rooster to every ten hens.

Neighbours : Some local areas have rules on keeping chickens so you should always check for any restrictions before building / buying your coop. Even if you are allowed to get chickens, it may be a good idea to have a word with the neighbours first if they are very close by - particularly if you are thinking of getting a rooster.

A Rooster can add a lot of colour and excitement to your flock - but will your neighbours mind being woken up at 5am (or earlier) every morning?

Free Ranging : Chickens enjoy being able to free range, but if they are not in a secure area, and / or you are unable to keep an eye on them, it is not always safe for them to do so (predators, including your local neighbourhood dogs, can make their presence felt very quickly). If you are able to free-range safely then nothing in your garden is safe – they will eat / dig up / dustbathe in everything! If they can’t free range safely then they will need a secure pen – fresh air and exercise is as important to a chickens well-being as it is to our own.


I have some tips for raising day old chicks here.

Below is a video from keeping chickens newsletter subscriber Carol H of her baby chicks first day :


Nico said...

Thanks for your blog! I will be checking it often, and posting my own foibles of having my first flock on my own blog. I need all the help I can get!

Jules said...

Hi there, hopefully you are about. We have free ranging chickens on the farm we are on, not ours the landlords. I have just found a wee chick that can't keep up with it's mum and other chicks and she has just ditched it, it seems to have trouble walking. It's about a week old I think. I have put it in a wee box with a feather boa (LOL) and have been giving it linseed, almond and sunflower seeds ground in water by the dropper. Any help you can give would be great.

Unknown said...

Hi, I have a short video showing the basic care for chicks on my blog which hopefully will help :

Chick food is usually left out all the time and fresh water should also be available for them 24/7. Sometimes the legs get so weak in a chick that it just sits like a blob because it cannot get up onto its feet (known as 'spraddle legs') - using a bandaid to hold the legs apart at a comfortable distance (making an 'H') can sometimes help a chick stay upright. You can buy feed specifically for chicks which may make things easier for you if you are thinking of keeping it (it also in theory has the right balance of vitamins and nutrients etc. which may help if the chicks leg problems are related to a vitamin deficiency). The chick will also need to have some grit available to help it process its food. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

how old do they have to be before you can clip their wings?

Unknown said...

Hi If you can, it's probably best to wait until they are at least 3 months old before you do it for the first time. They won't have their adult feathers until around 8 weeks. Some breeds, even fully grown, do not fly very high so you may find that you don't need to do it at all (with young chicks it is sometimes easier to simply cover their brooder / pen so they can't fly out). There is some info about clipping wings here :

Dale said...

Hello Gina: We are getting 4 chicks, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Buff Orphingtons. We currently have a BO rooster (about 10 m/o) and a 4y/o BR. Are there any precautions we need to take with the chicks with these older chickens? How do we introduce them or should we get rid of the older ones? Thanks. DJHeis

Unknown said...

Hi, There is no sure way but it seems to help if they can get used to each other from a distance and then be mixed when of a similar size and at night. There are a few tips for adding to a flock here : Hope that helps. Gina

Anonymous said...

Wat should I do if wild roosters start coming in my flock do I keep them or do I make them stay away oh I already have one rooster