Starting with Chickens

Thinking about getting chickens? Before you place your order, there are multiple factors to consider.

  • Number one (I highly advise you don’t skip this step, you may regret it)… Check and see if chicken-keeping is legal in your area. Many towns have zoning laws or deeds that have rules about chickens. Some outlaw them completely, some limit the number of hens, some  ban roosters. Make sure its allowed! The last thing you want is to be knee deep in this operation only to be told to dispose of your birds. I know its tempting to become a chicken outlaw… resist it!
  •  Check with your family! As I am still in high school, this was a must, considering they were going to fund my chicken project. If you are a young prospective chicken keeper like me, and your parents are reluctant… well, good luck! My mom said no right away, but I researched for months, set up a beautiful power point presentation, and laid out every last plan. Next thing I knew, we were deciding which breeds to get! Don’t lose hope.
  • Now, research like crazy. Go on BackyardChickens.com and read through forums, buy Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens and read every last word, find as many good reference sources as you can. Find a vet willing to take in chickens in need of medical attention. Make sure you are prepared.
  • Figure out how much you are willing to spend. That way, you won’t lose track of the dollars. Believe me, they seem to fly away quite fast when there is coop building, food/supply costs, and chick shipping. Some may tell you chicken-keeping is cheap. Don’t believe them! I’m sure its possible to make the hobby cheaper than we did, but its a whole lot harder.
  • Egg
  • Decide if you’re prepared. Are you? Chicken keeping is so much fun, and very rewarding. But don’t fool yourself- if you’re investing your emotions into these creatures, be prepared for a lot of stress. Chickens are resilient, but you will definitely have days where it seems like everything is falling apart. Just look at my experience for examples…
  • What will you use them for? Meat? Eggs? Pets? After you figure this out, you can think about the different breeds you will get. Also, take into consideration climate. Don’t get a bird with a humongous comb if you have frigid winters. Stick with small pea combs, and vice versa.

Pea comb

  • How many are you going to get? Do you have a plan to deal with any unwanted roosters? This is vital, because the number of roosters you do/don’t get is really based on luck. I ended up with two rooster out of five supposedly “sexed” hens. If you don’t want to leave it to chance, get sex-linked chickens. This means that they are born looking a certain way, that allows people to tell their gender.

  • Build a coop, or at least start building it, before you get your new beasts. We didn’t follow this piece of advice, and ending up having very messy pullets in our kitchen for far too long! It took an entire summer to build our coop, so plan ahead, for your sanity’s sake.

New coop picture

  • What stage of life will you get your chickens? You can order chicks from a reputable hatchery, buy them from a breeder, get pullets, or already laying hens! There are so many options to consider. Just make sure that wherever you get them has a good history and reputation. In my personal experience, starting with  chicks is very rewarding, but also scary if you aren’t prepared.

My three little hens

Bring your birds home!

All of the chicks... Top: Edith... Middle: Mary and Aida... Bottom: Sybil and Elvia

All of the chicks… Top: Edith… Middle: Mary and Aida… Bottom: Sybil and Elvia

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