Thinking about getting some chickens for your backyard?
Chickens are great for smaller spaces or people with close neighbors, but are chickens a good idea for you?
Nearly any backyard can be used to raise chickens (as long as chickens are legal in your area). Chickens are a popular backyard animal to keep since they are small and relatively quiet.
Chickens are fun to have around and nobody will work as hard to keep your yard bug free!
You know you would like to have a few chickens but are not sure what all is involved in getting and raising them, right?
Is Raising Chickens For Eggs Worth It? shows you how to figure up a budget from initially getting the chicks through to maintenance feed costs for the hens once they are laying.
Let’s take a look at the things you need to know and figure out before you get started.
Before getting backyard chickens, have a plan
Here are some of the things you need to consider before getting backyard chickens:
- Your schedule
- Local laws
- The weather
- Feed for the chickens
- Breed of chicken
How Much Space Do You Need To Raise Chickens? shows you how to calculate the space needed for your chicken start up, including brooder area.
Backyard Chickens are easy care
Chickens are very easy care! Give them a bit of feed, check the waterer to make sure it’s has plenty for the day and look for eggs if you have layers-that’s it!
But like all animals, including you, they need care everyday.
Everyday means holidays, when you are on vacation, when you are super late getting home from work, when the weather is horrible, when you’d rather be doing something else and when you are sick.
I love including animals, all kinds of animals, in my daily life but they are not for everyone.
Think about what you are doing daily and where the time to take care of the chickens will be scheduled in.
Have a plan with the time for daily chicken care specified.
This is especially important for anyone with kids, if you are planning on the kids taking care of the chickens.
Chicken chore need to be something that is normal part of everyday life for your kids like putting on clothes and brushing hair.
If you don’t schedule it in the chickens will be neglected.
We all find the time for things that are important to us, commit to making time for your chickens.
Know the local laws regarding chickens
I have never dealt with laws prohibiting chickens where I live, but I know some people have a problem with legally keeping chickens in their yard.
Check out the laws for your area to save yourself the heartache of having to get rid of chickens that you have come to enjoy and put time, money and hope into.
Additionally, check to see if the laws completely prohibit or just prohibit noise (no roosters) or birds in specific areas, (not in the front yard, but backyard would be fine).
Chickens need shelter from the weather
While chickens love to be outside in a variety of weather conditions.
They need a shelter that will be safe and secure for the times when they need to pop back inside, like a sudden rain or just for some shade.
Cold doesn’t bother the chickens, but super cold can cause frostbite for some roosters with really big combs.
Chickens can take more heat than most farm animals but they still like to have a shady spot to rest-just like you!
The big weather concerns are rain and wind. Chickens do not like to be wet!
They love to go out and peck around right after a rain, but they definitely want to be inside during the rain!
Wind is also a problem for chickens, if for no other reason than they are not heavy so they have a harder time maneuvering in the strong winds.
Have a pen set up for your chickens
You should have some sort of pen set up for your birds as a place for them to go for food and water and a place they feel safe.
Occasionally you will need to catch one of your birds. Having them in a pen versus zooming around the yard makes this much easier.
Unless you have a pen with an open bottom that you move across the yard for grazing, you’ll need some sort of fence if you want your chickens to get some yard time.
T-post and wire chicken fences can work
This type of fence is actually easier than you think.
Go to your local lumber or farm store and pick up some fence-wire not plastic and some posts.
Don’t skimp on the posts!
You’ll need a four foot high fence and five to six foot long T posts. The posts should be every eight foot or so.
Posts need to be in every corner and anytime the fence changes direction.
Remember not only can your chickens go over the fence they can also go under!
Have the fence well supported to be fully upright as well as tight to the ground.
Electric netting will keep in your chickens
A great alternative to wire fencing is electric fencing, specifically electrified netting. You’ll want the kind made specifically for poultry.
The netting can be moved as often as you need, it is easy to move by yourself and is a good way to give your chickens new areas of your yard.
Be sure to get a kit if you decide to get netting.
The netting kit will include the netting all the stuff you need to work the fence (but might have not realized you would need or just forgot to order).
Movable pens are an option for chickens
If you decide to go with a pen be sure to get one with enough space for the birds to run around on the grass, like school kids at recess.
The pen will need a top to keep birds in and others out, and not have gaps along the bottom for the same reasons.
“Try out” the chicken pen before buying it
A tip before you buy-be sure to use all of the doors and latches.
Pretend like you are gathering eggs, then go pretend fill up the feed and water.
Do you have room to move around or will everything need to be done with you standing outside the pen?
You don’t need to get into the pen for everyday stuff but if a waterer gets knocked over and rolls to the side can you reach it?
What happens when you need to catch one of the hens? You can be sure they will find the hardest to reach corners quite quickly!
If you plan to move the pen can you actually do it? Some pens are much heavier than they look.
Rotate the chicken pen around your yard
The other consideration with the chicken pen is the amount of space that you are willing to give to the chickens to use.
Even a few chickens in a small area will have that area scratched up and mostly dirt pretty quickly.
The pen area will be without grass, or without much grass, until the chickens are kept off of that area for a while so the grass can regrow.
This is why many people choose to have pens that are able to be moved so they don’t ruin a section of their yard.
Your backyard chickens need feed
If you haven’t run across this yet, you should know that the biggest on going cost for keeping chickens (or any animal for that matter) is feed.
It is definitely worth the effort to find a good economical source of feed.
Generally, if you went and picked up your chicks in person that place has feed. Be sure to check into this one before you get birds.
Feed is heavy and heavy things are pricey to ship. Any local farm store will have feed, definitely find a local feed source!
Laying Mash For Chickens goes over why you should be feeding your hens laying mash, not just regular chicken feed.
Chickens can eat a variety of foods
Chickens are amazing in that they can eat a huge variety of foods and do well, so you have options.
The catch is how much will your other options cost? Your chickens would do fine on birdseed and kitchen scraps, along with your grass in the yard.
Whatever you choose to feed them that keeps them healthy is fine.
However, the birdseed is much more money than the chicken feed, so it is worth seeking out the correct feed.
A bit of time in research will save you quite a bit of money in feed costs.
Choose your chicken breed carefully
All breeds of chickens have attributes and drawbacks, but overall a calm chicken will be your best bet to get started in backyard chicken raising.
20 Of The Calmest Chicken Breeds: Family Friendly Choices is an article I wrote that lists out some solid, family friendly chicken breed choices.
Calculate eggs needed for family per week
Unless you eat a tremendous amount of eggs, a coop chuck full of really productive egg laying chickens will overwhelm you with dozens of eggs daily!
Do a bit of math and see how many eggs you and your family eat in a week then get the number of hens that will provide them for you.
Even six hens that are laying well will give you 3.5 dozen eggs per week, every week!
Getting a breed that is slightly less productive gives you tons more choices to get a calmer, friendlier chickens and will still give you plenty of eggs!
If you are interested in what I consider to be the best all around chicken breed, read my article The Best Chicken Breed For People Who Want It All.
Spoiler alert: it’s the Wyandotte and this article explains why I think they are the best choice for beginners.
Predators want to eat your chickens
Chickens are fun to have around and everyone loves them-including predators!
Chickens are an easy target for a hungry coyote or just a bored neighborhood dog. Or in the case of chicks bored domestic cat.
Cats, actually our own barn cats, are where we get out biggest predator losses so keep an eye out for cats hanging around your chick pen!
Chicken coop needs to keep predators out
One of the main functions of your chicken coop is not just to keep the chickens in, it is to keep everyone else out!
A secure coop will go a long way toward reducing predator losses, as will making sure the chickens are in the coop at night.
Adult chickens spending the night outside the coop is when you will see predator problems.
You’ll get away with it for a few days, but once the local chicken eater catches on it will return again and again until it wipes out your flock.
The exception to slowly reducing down to none is when something like a mink takes a fancy to your stock, you’ll see mass death all in one night.
Chickens are backyard superstars!
The main message here is that if you are willing to look after the chickens and have a safe place for them to stay, then get some chickens!
I always feel that a nice yard with no birds looks like a missed opportunity!
Chickens will be on constant bug patrol, eat your kitchen scraps and provide eggs and entertainment.
Enjoy your backyard more-get some chickens!