Are you fascinated by chickens? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Chicken fascination has swept the country in the past few years, which has been helpful in raising awareness about knowing where your food comes from and eating local. If you’re interested in getting some chickens, there are a few things to consider.
First, you should consider where you live and how much space you have for chickens. Space is not as big of an issue as you might think, but it must at least be considered. More and more people who live in town are raising chickens and benefiting from home grown eggs. For the most part, chickens are not bothersome to the neighbors unless you have a rooster. Check into you town’s ordinances to find out whether chickens are allowed in your area. In most places, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Once you have the green light to get your chickens, you have to decided how and where to buy them. You can raise them from the time they are newly hatched, or you can purchase older chickens that are either very close to maturity or are already mature. In the spring, most farm supply stores will have chickens available for purchase. You can buy them there, or you can buy them online from one of several reputable hatcheries such as Murray McMurray Hatchery, Meyer Hatchery, or Welp Hatchery. If you buy them online, keep in mind that you will typically need to order at least 20 chicks and be ready to pick them up at the post office as soon as they arrive (often at 6 a.m. in the morning!).
Once you have your chicks, they will need to be kept safe from predators until they are big enough and old enough to defend themselves. Whatever you put them in, be sure to cover the top with a screen of some sort. Your chicks will also need a heat lamp to keep them warm unless it is the middle of summer when you get them. Additionally, you will need chick food and water along with appropriate containers for them to eat and drink out of. These items can be found at your local farm supply store such as Tractor Supply or Rural King.
After about 4-8 weeks, your chicks will be ready to be moved outside. You will want to be sure you have a proper coop ready for them to live in. A portable coop and chicken run can be very helpful in making sure your chicks have fresh grass and new bugs to eat every day. If you would like to build your own coop, there are numerous plans available online. Otherwise, coops with runs will also be available at your local farm supply store.
Once your chickens reach approximately 6 months of age, they will be ready to start laying eggs. Remember, this is only an estimate, so be patient. The eggs will come. At first, they will be small, but as time goes on, they will get larger. Often eggs from backyard chickens can be very large, and double yolks are not uncommon.