What to Know Before Getting Baby Chicks or Chickens
So You Think You Want to Raise Chickens
Maybe you're tired of being subject to rising prices at the grocery store and are looking for ways to be more self-sufficient. Or maybe you've got extra time on your hands and have fond memories from childhood at your parents' or grandparents' farm. Or maybe Easter is looming and you're thinking that a chick would be the greatest Easter present. Whatever your reasoning, it's on your mind and you've decided to look into it before making that jump. Or maybe you've already made that jump and you're wondering what all this will entail.
Raising chickens can be a very rewarding experience with lots of learning opportunities, accomplishments and benefits to go with it along the way. But it's not a maintenance-free job and it shouldn't be taken lightly. Make sure you know what you're getting into before making the commitment.
Know the Reasons Why
Believe it or not, it's not a good idea to walk into a pet store, feed store, hatchery (or whatever the place may be) and buy a chick on a whim--though chances are that if you're at a hatchery, you probably thought about the possibility beforehand.
Still, some research and preparation should take place before making the decision of getting into the hobby of raising chickens in order to be successful at it. You have to know more than just the fact that they're adorable.
Yes, baby chicks are cute. The thing is, they are also incredibly fragile, so they don't make great pets for little children and they don't stay baby chicks for long. Many breeds double their size their first week, and then triple their original size their second week. In fact, by 18-25 weeks they reach sexual maturity. So what does that mean? Well it means if you've got hens they're laying eggs. If you've got roosters, they're crowing. And that's just the beginning.
So don't buy a chick just because you think they look cute and cuddly. They are cute, their fur makes them look cuddly, but they really aren't the cuddling type. Plus there's the risk of salmonella when you bring them up close to your face to give them little kisses, so you should never do that. Also you should also always wash your hands after handling them.
Find out if Your City Allows Chickens
Believe it or not, getting a chicken isn't like bringing home a puppy, gold fish or kitten. Not all cities allow you raise them unless your area is zoned for it. You can find out if it's permissible by checking zoning maps on your city's official website or by simply calling your town hall.
If, when you call, you find out that you aren't zoned for it, don't lose hope. You can ask if you can get a variance permit and you can even rally your neighbors together to change the minds of your city council if they say no.
Know What Supplies Are Needed
I get more into what is needed in my other article: Supplies to Get for Your Baby Chicks. But just realize that like any living creature you bring home, there are things that a chick or even full grown hen or rooster needs to be healthy and happy. Do your homework before making the jump and you'll have few hiccups while taking on this rewarding endeavor! Books are a great place to start.
Books on Raising Chickens
Know What Kind of Chicken You Want
Who knew there were so many breeds? I certainly never did before deciding that we wanted to get into this popular hobby. Not only are there breeds, but there are also kinds:
Meat Birds are raised for the purpose of slaughter. They aren't long living and you don't want to let them live much past their prime because they can blister, die of heart failure and have other health issues. Definitely not one you want to bring home and name to keep as the family pet.
Egg Layers are for just what the name suggests. They lay up to 300 eggs in their first year, though that first year is said to be the best and most productive and it does lessen after that.
Dual Purpose Birds are good for meat because of their good size, but they're also good egg layers too.
Show Breeds are for looking at. People choose these birds for exhibitions and as pets.
Bantam Breeds are the tiny versions of the bigger breed of chickens. When choosing our chicks, I noticed that some chicks of the same age were half the size of the chicks we were looking at. These were the Bantam chicks.
Within these kinds of chickens you'll find different breeds: Wyandottes, Ameraucanas, Arcaunas, Orpingtons, Sex Links (they get that name because you can tell their sex from their coloring), Leghorns, Cornish, Easter Eggers, etc. There are way too many to name here. Each breed is known for feather traits, egg color, temperament and so on. So do your homework there too before deciding which chicks to bring home.
Also know that if you want females, they're called pullets. Males are cockerals. You don't need males to get eggs from your hens, unless you want those eggs fertilized. It's said that hens are happier with a rooster around though if they've never had one, they don't really know what they're missing. Realize that roosters do crow, and not just at the crack of dawn. Also, while some areas might allow hens, those same areas might not allow roosters.
Know Where to Put them When they Get Bigger
Yes, as I mentioned before, chickens do tend to have the habit of growing bigger. So they can't stay in that brooder forever. Depending on the weather in your area and the tolerance of the breed(s) you choose, chicks can be moved to their permanent home in the chicken coop between about 5 and 12 weeks. Make sure that your coop doesn't get below freezing on the inside and has good ventilation too (especially during those summer months).
More on Raising Chickens
- Raising Chickens for Beginners Part 1
Raising chickens is becoming more popular even in the cities. There a few things you should to make getting chickens a good experience.