Raising chickens isn’t difficult, and more and more city-dwelling people are doing just that. The reasons are many, not the least of which is they have control over the quality of your eggs and chicken.
You control what the chickens eat, and so you can be sure they are healthy and strong, producing eggs that are higher in vitamins and nutrients than any factory-farmed, store-bought egg could ever be.
So how many chickens do you need? Three laying hens will provide more than a dozen eggs a week. A typical laying hen will lay 220 eggs per year.
Backwoods Home Magazine has a great little book called Chickens, A Beginner’s Handbook and also an article posted on their website. With credit to Jackie Clay, here are some highlights on the subject of raising chickens from chicks:
- You can raise chickens from eggs or from day-old chicks. We buy chicks from our local farm/feed store. They should be available from March through May.
- The brooder box for the chicks should be circular in shape so the chicks can’t crowd up in a corner and smother each other. It should have tall enough sides so the chicks can’t hop out, and be draft-free. An empty steel stock tank works great.
- Attached a heat lamp about 18 inches above the brooder area. Again, a stock tank is perfect for this as the lamp can be attached to one side for warmth. The chicks need a temperature between 90-95 degrees to stay well.
- The bedding should be a newspaper for the first day or two. Chicks will eat wood shavings, and sawdust will give them respiratory problems. If you buy the heavier meat bird chicks, the newspaper should only be down the first day since it’s slippery, and these heavier chicks will slip and hurt themselves.
- After four weeks when they have feathered out, you can move the chicks to their permanent quarters of a coop with round bars for roosting.
- Don’t provide nest boxes until the chicks are at least 4 months old. Otherwise, they will get into the habit of roosting in the nests, and you’ll have to clean a lot of chicken poop off of your eggs each day.
- Keep the feeders full with chick starter feed. Chicks can starve to death very quickly, so check it every day. Also, sprinkle a little grit on their food to help them digest it.
- Also keep the waterers full, and use a small waterer created specifically for chicks. They can easily drown in anything bigger. It’s also a good idea to put a little bit of sugar in the water and dip their beaks in it to show them how to drink.
Resources for Further Reading
- Frugal Living Freedom’s Raising Chickens page. Highly recommended – lots more detailed information on chickens and how to keep them.
- Backwoods Home Magazine: Chickens, A Beginner’s Handbook
- Backyard Chickens
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow