So you want to raise chickens?
What's your motivation?
You have to ask yourself a simple question? Why am I wanting to raise chickens (no really are you crazy these things are addictive)? Are you looking for fresh eggs? Were you thinking about a new type of pet that won't mind a cuddle now and then? Maybe even you are wanting meat and eggs from the feathered foul? So what is it? Eggs? Meat? Play? Show?
Chickens love to eat!!
Breed all about it
A few examples of different common breeds is a good place to start when you are deciding what type of chickens you want based on your reasoning for wanting the birds in the first place. I will only list a few for each because, frankly, there are so many breeds we could be here all day.
Dual purpose (which means these birds can be used for meat and eggs): Jersey Giant, Barred Rock
Eggs: Brown Leghorn, White Leghorn
Cuddle Buddies: Silkie, Buff Orphignton
Show Birds: Pheonix, Polish
This is a very small (teansy tiny) example of the different types of chicken you may feel are a good breed for your needs.
Adorable Fluff Nuggets
Sleep tight...don't let the fox bite!
Next up on your chicken adventure is deciding how you will be keeping your chickens. There are few common options that you should be thinking about and looking into which option is best for you.
This can mean may things depending on the chicken keeper. You can free range your flock all day and night. Basically allowing them to fend for themselves while you provide water and occasional food as needed. The problem with this method is that the birds are usually not so inclined to be friendly, you will have to search all over for your eggs, and predators will be a major issue (I mean what predator doesn't want a lovely chicken dinner?)
You can also free range your fluffy butts (term of endearment for the feathered friends of mine) during the day and then lock them in a secure coop in the evening. This allows for the chickens to get the bugs and vegetation that they need/like with less risk (I say less because there is always a risk with chickens. If you have predators or even cars in your area there will always be a risk to the birds). When you free range during the day with a lock up at night leaving the door to your coop open you will find your eggs (usually) nicely laid in your nesting boxes that you of course placed in your coop. You will also have more interaction with the birds which helps with their temperament. This is my preferred way of keeping birds and I enjoy watching them roam around the property with all their crazy antics during the daylight hours. I tuck them in every night at dark and count to be sure that we are not missing any of the flock.
Free ranging with supervision is also an option. With this option you allow the chickens to free range and roam around with you watching them. It is a lot like babysitting and for me not a practical option but an option non the less.
When you use this method you have a chicken coop and a run (which is a fenced in area on the outside of the coop) you run less risk of predators. Less risk but still risk (again chickens are yummy for other animals). When you use a coop and run you will need to use more feed and be cleaning out your pens more often. You will also need to add some oyster shell because the chickens will not be pecking all over and picking up the different things they need to be able to break down and digest their feed properly. I personally feel that this is a good option for people, but also feel the need to see my chickens out playing in the grass chasing butterflies (ya know for their dinner).
Now that you have some housing options we can talk a bit about how you are going to obtain these chickens of yours.
You can use a hatchery (there are many online and most have pretty good reputations). I have personally used the McMurray hatchery ( https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/index.html ) in the past and received very healthy chicks in the mail. CONVENIENCE that is surely one of the plus sides to using a hatchery that can send chicks right to your post office !!
You can also check adds on sites like Craigslist.com to find chickens in your area that you can pick up. You must be so careful when choosing this option. Checking the birds eyes, vents (the butt yeah gross but necessary) for mites or lice (gross little bugs). You want to be sure that you are bringing healthy birds into your life.
Another option is to wait for spring time! Right around Easter most feed stores have adorable little chicks for sale. They even have multiple breeds and can sometimes even order a breed that you are looking for! I have also used this option during the last spring season (much to my husbands dismay when I showed up not once but twice with more chickens).
Do you plan on raising chickens in your future?
Well there you have it...
I hope I have given you general information that will help your start thinking in terms of what you really want to do with chickens in your life. There are so MANY options when it comes to raising chickens that it can be really hard to even start the process. So many different people doing so many different things. You will find your way and raise your flock in the way you see best just like any other parent. I wish you the best in your journey and hope that you will decide to become a chicken addict like myself.
Welcome to the flock!