Raising chickens for beginners
Chickens are great for people that are looking to get back to nature. My family and I love nature and we love living in small town USA in the heart of central Florida. Chickens can be great pets, supply you with an ample supply of eggs, can be a great source of meat when need be, and can add a little extra income to the family if you decide to sell the eggs.
At our home we have nine chickens at the present time. They range from two months old to five months old. We started this batch of chickens from when they were one week old. We built our own coop and chicken run from scratch and it cost us about $150.00 and then I put on another chicken run to give the hens more room to move around when we are not home. This cost about another $50.00. So for $200.00 we have a large hen house and two chicken runs for them to play around in.
Disclaimer: I am not a chicken expert; my family and I am novice at raising chickens.
Raising chicken from babies
When we purchase our chicks I waited until I could purchase then when they were sexed. This means that there is a very good chance that I will not be purchasing a rooster. Where I live my neighbors probably would not enjoy hearing a rooster at sun up or any other time of the day. I have been fortunate so far that I have not brought home a rooster yet. Where I purchase my chicks I always ask to make sure that they feel confident that there are no roosters in the mix.
Chickens first few weeks
For the first three to four weeks after they come home we keep the chicks in a large rubber made storage container, depending how many you bring home will determine how large of a container you will need. They are way too young to put in the coop when they first arrive at home. While in the storage container I have a bed of pine shavings or shredded newspaper about two to three inches thick for them to run around on and to sleep on at night. Being here in Florida we do not need any heat lamp for them to stay warm but depending where you live you may need to purchase one to help keep them warm till they are a couple months old.
For the first three months chickens need what is called chicken starter food or sometimes called starter crumbles. I personally purchase starter crumbles that has additional nutrients mixed in for healthier chickens. Most starter crumbles contain about twenty percent protein. Starter crumbles can be purchased in both medicated and unmediated varieties; I personally use the medicated formula. Chickens can get an intestinal disease very easily that can be deadly and this is where the medicated feed comes in to help protect the chicks from catching this deadly disease.
When chicks get about eight weeks old then I switch them to grower chicken feed which contains less protein usually around 16 – 18 percent protein. I will keep them on this till they reach about 18 weeks old, this chicken feed is not medicated.
When the chickens reach about 18 plus weeks old I will switch them to layer feed. Layer feed is 16 – 18 percent protein but it also contains calcium the calcium is for helping with eggshell production.
I may catch some flak from some of you readers out there but I do give my girls cracked corn with their feed, about a 50/50 mixture. I have done this with all my hens from the time they reach about four weeks old till present. We also give them treats like meal worms and food scraps from the dinner table. We are not production farmers and we do have good solid and healthy chickens that are spoiled.
You will see all over the internet about giving your chickens treats. Some people are in favor of giving them treats and others will say that it is not good for their diet. In our home we do give treats to our girls. Treats can range from various items but we give ours insects that we come across in the yard or we give them dried meal worms that we purchase at our feed supplier.
There is a question that I get asked all the time, “do I need to have a rooster in order to have eggs”? The answer is simple – NO! If you are wanting to increase your flock by having baby chicks from eggs then you will need to have a rooster, but No rooster is needed for just having eggs. The first time that I went to cook an egg from one of my chickens I could not believe how much richer and tastier it was than the eggs that I use to purchase at the store. You will really love the eggs that your girls will leave you when you start raising your own chickens.
If your families are the type that have a manicured lawn you may think twice about having chickens. Chickens will destroy a yard in no time if they are left free to run around. Chickens love to dig, just like dogs. Chickens will scratch and dig everywhere looking for insects they love to take dust baths. Now don’t let this discourage you from raising chickens, there are ways to keep them contained from ripping apart your lawn.
Now if you are like us and don’t care as much about our backyard as we do our front then chickens can be your best friend. You see chickens eat anything and everything, our back yard has a tremendous amount of weeds, ants and other insects. Our girls feel like they are in heaven when we let them out to run around, they love eating the weeds, and digging up any hills but we do have to be careful because they will eat other things that are not has healthy for them like trash.
Many of you may think that I am a little crazy but you will see if you decide to raise chickens you will get attached to them like your own children. You will find yourself naming them and talking to them just like your children and of course you will spoil them.
Raising chickens is not rocket science but it does take a little trial and error before you figure out what is best for your girls. Just like having children, you can read books and get advice from people but the best way to find out what to do is just jump right in and go for it. Here are some good resources for getting started raising your first flock of chickens.