Your Chicken Raising Questions Answered

Did you just start raising your own chicks? Are you thinking about getting chickens and want to know everything before you get started or simply have a burning question about raising chickens? 

What breeds of chickens are best for backyard flocks?

Breeds such as Plymouth Rock, Rhode Island Red, and Leghorn are popular choices for backyard chicken flocks.

If you are interested in a dual-purpose chicken that can be come meat after it passes laying age you can get a breed like Jersy Giants. Check out this list of the best chickens for eggs and meat to find the right breed for your flock.

How much space do backyard chickens need?

Chickens need at least 2-3 square feet of space per bird in the coop. If your birds will be confined to a coop for the majority of the time you will need to invest in a larger coop and run.

How much outdoor space do you need per chicken?

As for outdoor space, you will need at lease at least 8-10 square feet of outdoor space per bird to roam and forage. If your birds can not free range you will need to adjust your plans to have a larger run space for your chickens.

If your birds will be free ranging in your yard they can have a smaller cook and run space that is predator-proof for when you are not around to supervise. If you have a garden as well you will want to have raised beds and some sort of block to protect your garden from your foraging chickens.

What should I feed my backyard chickens?

Chickens need a balanced diet that includes a mix of grains, seeds, and protein. Commercial chicken feed is available, or you can make your own chicken feed from scratch to help ensure that your birds get plenty of variety.

We give our chickens a large number of food scraps from the kitchen including leftover scrambled eggs, as well as fruit and veggie scraps. As a canner that gets clearance boxes from the produce store for $2 I am able to feed my family and my chickens for a very low cost.

You can add herbs to your chicken feed to help prevent illness and even to encourage egg laying.

How often should I clean the coop?

The coop should be cleaned at least once a week, or more often if necessary. This helps to prevent disease and maintain a healthy living environment for your chickens.

There are systems you can build to help reduce how much you have to clean out your coop to make chicken keeping work for people that are too busy.

The deep litter method can reduce doing a full clean to cleaning your cook only a few times a year and makes it easier to compost your bedding down for use in your garden.

Your nesting boxes, on the other hand, should be cleaned whenever they are messy, and at least once a week. This will keep your eggs from being dirty. The deep litter method doesn’t work in nesting boxes. You can however get washable nesting pads that just need a quick hose down for cleaning.

What kind of housing do backyard chickens need?

Chickens need a sturdy, predator-proof coop with good ventilation, nesting boxes, and roosting bars. For the best results bury hardware cloth around the perimeter of the coop and run to help keep predators from digging under and getting to your chickens.

Bird netting can be a cheaper option for topping your run to protect them from hawks and other flying predators.

Do backyard chickens need a rooster to lay eggs?

No, hens will lay eggs regardless of whether or not there is a rooster in your flock. Many cities do not allow roosters but do allow hens for egg production. If you do not have a rooster your eggs will not be fertile and produce new chicks.

If you have a rooster some eggs may be fertile but are still edible unless you choose to allow a broody hen to hatch them out or put them in an incubator.

How long do backyard chickens live?

The lifespan of backyard chickens varies by breed, but most live 5-10 years on average. Your chickens will only be laying for 3 to 4 years so you have to make some choices before you get backyard chickens.

You can raise non-laying hens as pets or use them for food depending on your family’s preference. Some that do not have the heart to butcher chickens will sell off hens in their 2nd year replacing them with fresh ones.

My family sells off some hens and keeps others that are very close to us because it is easier emotionally and financially than killing them off for food or paying for feed over the winter for no layers. 

What should I do if my chickens get sick?

The first thing you should do if your chickens get sick is to quickly isolate them from other chickens. this keeps them from spreading the illness if it is contagious and stops them from being injured by healthier chickens that tend to attack weaker members of the flock.

For many people, the owner is the only care the chickens will receive. Poultry vets are few and far between so you will spend a lot of your time chicken keeping learning how to perform first aid and administer medication to your chickens. 

If possible both in your budget and your availability in your area contact a veterinarian who specializes in poultry care.

Do backyard chickens require a lot of maintenance?

Chickens do require daily care, including feeding, watering, and egg collection, but their maintenance needs are relatively low compared to other livestock. The average care of chickens only takes a few minutes a couple times a day for your chickens. In the winter they will need to be fed at least three times a day to help keep them warmer. 

That said there are a lot of things you can do to help reduce your workload when caring for your chickens like setting up automated waterers and larger feed buckets to help ensure if you get busy they will be fine all day. 

How many eggs can I expect from my backyard chickens?

The number of eggs produced by each hen varies by breed and age. On average, a healthy hen can lay up to 300 eggs per year with most breeds laying about 250 eggs a year. Check out this list for the best egg-laying chicken breeds

How much do backyard chickens cost to maintain?

The cost of maintaining backyard chickens varies based on factors such as feed costs, bedding materials, and veterinary care. On average, it can cost around $500 per year to maintain a small flock of 3-5 birds.

Maintaining your chicken flock can cost less with a few strategies like free-ranging your chickens during the warmer months and feeding them food scraps.

The majority of the cost of raising your own chickens will affect you in the first year when you are building them a shelter and run as well as regular maintenance. 

Once your flock is established the majority of the cost of maintaining your flock will be in the cost of feeding your chickens and bedding.

Do backyard chickens require a lot of time and attention?

Chickens do require daily care, but the amount of time and attention needed is relatively low compared to other pets or livestock. Most chicken owners build relationships with their chickens and like spending time with them.

The more time you spend with your chickens the more they will trust you and the more easily they will come to you when called.  

Can I keep chickens in an urban or suburban area?

Yes, many cities and suburban areas allow backyard chickens, but it’s important to check local ordinances and regulations before starting a backyard flock. Where we live in the city of Detroit MI you can have chickens.

Raising chickens in Detroit MI does have some regulations including the distance your chickens must be from your neighbor’s home as well as how many chickens you can have and that all chickens must be hens because of the noise roosters make. On our side of town chickens were common long before they became legal a few years ago. 

How long does it take for baby chicks to start laying eggs?

Most breeds of chickens start laying eggs around 5-6 months of age. The best thing you can do is treat your chickens as normal pets until they start laying so it is easier to have patience. If you are raising chickens for eggs you will need it.

Set a reminder on your calendar to start checking for eggs for about 18 weeks. If you would like to skip the wait you can purchase 1-2 year old laying hens for about $25 in most areas. 

Are backyard chickens noisy?

Hens are generally quiet, but roosters can be noisy. Hens tend to sing a very loud song while they are laying but are generally quite otherwise.

Roosters tend to be very loud and can be found crowing even in the middle of the night. If you live in a residential area, it’s important to check local noise ordinances before keeping a rooster.

How do I keep my backyard chickens safe from predators?

Chickens can be vulnerable to predators such as raccoons, foxes, and hawks. as well as domestic animals like cats and dogs. Remember just about everything that eats meat eats chicken.

To keep your backyard flock safe, it’s important to secure the coop and outdoor run with sturdy fencing and locking mechanisms and to provide a covered area for your chickens to retreat to in case of danger. Hardware cloth is by far your best friend when it comes to protecting your flock. 

What should I do with excess eggs from my backyard chickens?

You can eat or share excess eggs, or sell them to friends, family, or local farmers’ markets. You can water glass eggs to store them fresh for use over the winter when your chickens are laying less often. There are several ways you can store your farm fresh eggs

How do I introduce new chickens to my existing flock?

Introducing new chickens to an existing flock should be done gradually, to allow the birds to become familiar with each other and establish a pecking order. It’s important to monitor the birds closely during the introduction process to prevent fighting and injury.

Before introducing any new chicken you should quarantine them for at least 30 days. Chickens are great at hiding when they are sick and can spread illness throughout the entire flock if introduced too soon. 

Can I raise chickens for meat in addition to eggs?

Yes, some backyard farmers choose to raise chickens for both meat and eggs. However, it’s important to check local laws and regulations regarding raising and slaughtering poultry for meat. When looking for chickens to raise for meat check this list of the best chickens for meat.

What are the benefits of raising backyard chickens?

Raising backyard chickens can provide a source of fresh eggs, reduce household food waste, and provide an opportunity to connect with nature and learn new skills. Raising your own chickens can be very beneficial for your entire family.  For the best results get everyone involved in their care. 

Raising your own chickens may leave you with a lot of questions. I am always happy to answer questions. Feel free to email me, follow and message on social media, or comment with questions you may have. 

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