Getting Started with Backyard Chickens

Three years ago I swore I didn’t have enough time, energy, or desire to do things like bake my own bread, can my own jelly, dehydrate my own foods, or basically do much cooking from scratch at all. It’s funny how when you begin to be interested in something it becomes easier to MAKE time.

Well another thing I NEVER would have thought I would be doing is raising BACKYARD CHICKENS! Yes Julie thought I was crazy when I cooked up this scheme, but somehow once I got into growing and preserving my own foods, it seemed like a natural progression to want to gradually work towards being even more self reliant.

I have shared snippets of this adventure on our Facebook page and quite a few people asked for me to share some details so here goes nothing.

Where I Got My Information

Free class at my local library: Keep your eyes open for these types of events. I always grab all the flyers for free classes and this one about raising chickens caught my attention. She went over the basic rules for having chickens in our area, and helped us know what costs and what amount of work to expect. To be honest she scared me a little into thinking it was going to be a much larger undertaking then I was expecting. My husband actually was the one who encouraged me to keep pursuing it.

Story’s Guide to Raising Chickens: This book is sort of like an encyclopedia for chickens. I started reading through the whole thing but it also made me feel a bit overwhelmed thinking about all of the potential problems that could arise. I decided to only look up certain things as they came up, instead of panicking myself about every topic. It has really great in depth information that I have used a lot already.

Minnie Rose Lovgreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens: This book I DID read cover to cover. I got it after I already had my chickies and I think it is great. It makes me feel like I am listening to a cute old lady telling me about how much she loves her chicks and how to take care of your own chickens. I would definitely recommend it for beginner chicken owners 🙂

BackyardChickens.com: This website is full of information and an active forum and it definitely filled in all the cracks as I was doing my research and getting started. We got lots of ideas for building our coop from here.

Getting Started

We started out by going to IFA and checking out all the baby chicks. My kids loved them (me too!). We picked breeds that are good for laying and have nice dispositions. We followed a chart found in our chicken book. We bought a heat lamp, some pine shavings, a little feeder tray, a 5 lb bag of chick food, and a water tower. The chicks themselves were only about $3 each and we bought 6. Total cost for everything was less than $50. We kept them in a cardboard box in our kitchen and I thought they would work well there until the weather warmed up and our coop was finished being built. Little did I know …

Growing Up

Well I soon discovered that the chicks like to perch on the top of the cardboard box (who knew they could fly that high so young?) This resulted in them hanging their bums over the edge and pooping on my kitchen floor. NOT FUN. Eventually they got brave enough to jump OFF the box and run around in the kitchen too. I finally started putting my baby gate over the top as often as possible to keep them contained. It was too much for me when they started escaping and sneaking into the family room. NO GOOD!

I moved up to a rubbermaid bin thinking that would be better than the cardboard box but it wasn’t much of a solution either. Finally I found a HUGE cardboard box and that is where they lived for the next few months. It was such a late cold spring here that I could not put them outside in that weather. I also had to upgrade to larger food dishes because they would knock over or empty the food and water or kick wood chips in the water and make it undrinkable. I was annoyed by the constant refilling. Getting bigger containers and putting them up on bricks helped with that quite a bit.

Moving Out

The process of building a coop and moving the chickens outside was a lot longer than I wanted. We had fights about just buying one versus building one. In the end, my husband’s stubbornness won out. He insisted he could make one bigger and better and cheaper than a store-bought one … and he was right. But in my defense, it DID take him a lot longer than if we would have just bought one. All kidding aside, he did a great job and he just pieced together the plans based on a few coops we have seen and on what I wanted. He got all the materials at Home Depot and the whole thing was about $200. Didn’t he do a great job? Oh and we also upgraded to heavy duty big food and water units that we hang from the ceiling underneath the nesting area. My son is peeking into the nesting box through the door we will use to collect eggs, yay!

Laying EGGS?

My girls are about 4 months old now. I have heard that they start laying anywhere between 4 and 6 months. I am so excited I can’t wait! They eat about a 25 lb bag of food a month right now which I also supplement with a little bit grains out of my food storage for treats and they also go out in the yard every day and run around and eat bugs and weeds and try to get into my gardens. My kids have had a lot of fun with the chickens and I’ve enjoyed them too. They are fun to take care of and I only have to check their food and water about every 2-3 days now. It will be interested to see how the upkeep changes in winter time, and it will be FUN when we get fresh eggs!

  

Hopefully that helps you get a little look into what it’s like to have (and get started with) Backyard Chickens. Thanks for sharing my adventure with me 🙂


  • Bravo,
    Bros! keep going like this, more good info again.
     

  • This is
    so interested! Where can I find more like this?

  • This is
    cool! And so interested! Are u have more posts like this? Please tell me,
    thanks

  • Chickens are great addition to one’s backyard. Moreover, these creatures have a lot of good things to offer as well – and they’re cute!

    Chickens nesting boxes and chicken houses

  • Whitehartkennel

    So many people are getting into chickens these days. I had always been fascinated with the possibility of raising chickens for eggs but had never taken the plunge until by chance last February my husband and I visited the co-op ,Lynchburg Grows here in Lynchburg VA. Anyway they kept a beautiful flock which produced eggs for sale to their co-op members. March 1st.we visited Tractor Supply for dog food and low and behold it was their “Chick Days ” well I couldn’t resist and the rest as they say is history. There we purchased six ,2 day old Production Reds chicks (cousins to Rhode Island Reds) along with all our equipment and feed . I raise and show Norwich Terriers so had nice puppy playpens with covers so initially housing them was no problem till about 10 weeks of age. While they were busy growing we busied ourselves converting a nice outbuilding to our insulated coop which has a covered porch for shade and a big chain linked yard with fencing we had on hand in which they can explore safely. We also Joined the Backyard Chickens” list and learned a lot they are great! I also highly recommend two books ,Raising Chickens for Dummies and The Chicken Health Handbook , every newbe chicken owner should have these in their library!
    Three weeks ago we ordered 6 more chicks from Meyer Hatchery in Ohio. 3 Barred Rocks,one White Rock and two blue Andilusians all will be good layers.It’s been pretty hot here in Virginia but despite the heat we were presented with our very first eggs this past Monday morning. Three perfect gems ! I can’t tell you how neat that is. Bottom line we are so happy we got into this little hobby !

  • Meg

    I love it!  We got our first chicky babies March 2nd of this year, and as of July 1st, one of them has been laying an egg a day! We had 6, but lost two within 24 hours (we think they were sick) and then a fox got the 3rd.   we are down to 3.

    We are complete newbies when it comes to the chickens, but I’m surprised at HOW FUN THEY ARE!  We are looking forward to getting our 3 eggs a day, and getting 6 more next Spring.

    When I read this blog, I laughed because it is EXACTLY what we went through.  We had the chicks in a small box in which they outgrew within a few days.  upgraded to a bigger area, to which they outgrew in a few weeks.  And on…and on… 

    We even built our own chicken tractor kind of like yours (but not as tall).  It’s just been a ton of fun the last 4 months we’ve had them around.

  • Kim

    They look like some Ameracaunas, some Red Sex Links and maybe a Buff Orpington. Those are my guesses 🙂

    Mine always take longer than 4-6 months to start laying. 4 months would blow my mind!

    I’ve had some that flew pretty high. It’s easy to clip their wings if you have to. You just clip one though. It keeps them from flying high but allows them to fly close to the ground or up onto things to get away from predators.

  • David

    PULLETS(YOUNG HENS) are a real test of patience. Just like raising a toddler and then progressing to a teenager. I see a lot of similarities. Often times I am amused at what they do; others times I am tested. But they when out in the end. I have 4(our allowed max here) of sex linked raised from day 1 almost at egg laying stage now just cannot wait.  You need to read online about home remedies and treatment when they get sick to be prepared. Thank goodness the internet has a lot of info available.  Please continue to share helpful experiences with those in need so all can benefit.
    IN HIS GRIP
    DAVID

  • Shannon

    You definitely need to read or listen to Chickens In the Headlights by Matthew Buckley. It is hilarious and you and your kids would absolutely love it! Especially that you’re raising chickens.

  • Cobbsmom

    Raising chickens is a very rewarding experience for children and you are very blessed to be able to do so.  It has taken many years and battles with City Counsel to allow residents to have a limited number of chickens in the backyard.  Only those with an acre or more of property within the city are given permits.  After reading everything you can and visiting a few home-based chicken coops, please consult your city or county for regulations.  I considered having a bee hive but the regulations and necessary insurance made the cost too high.  I had to also get the permission of neighbors on my entire block to sign an agreement before my petition would be considered.

  • Cathy

    Oh, how exciting to be waiting for that first egg!  I used to sneak out and look but when it finally happened I left it so the kids could find it “first”.  😉  We took the plunge about 2.5 years ago and have no regrets…we love our 9 girls and their beautiful eggs.  Storebought eggs seem so pale and tasteless once you’re used to home-raised ones.

  • Dontwantgivenout

    nd we need to replace them-hard to move with oval wheels(they bent from the weight). Get yourself a few- they are fun- cant wait for eggs! And I am getting breeding bunnies next wk-will can the meat and know what I am eating!

  • TulsaFeathers

    I bought four of my own backyard chickens in late April. I ended up with two roosters that I took to my brother in Texas. I kept the two Bantam hens. I’m going to the flea market today to pick up a couple of Easter Eggers. I already had an enclosed pen that we built up years ago around an old swingset. We kept my daughter’s cats in there for 6 months when she had her first child. I figured if cats couldn’t get out of that pen, then cats couldn’t get in either along with other predators. So, we have moved our chickens outside to the pen but haven’t built a house for them yet. We’ll be doing that soon before they start laying. I’m really enjoying having my girls as I call them. I have perches for them and they sleep high up in the pen. There are also a lot of vines growing through the fencing and they like to perch high up in those. I couldn’t find them one day and they were quietly peeking out at me from the vines. They were so cute.

    I got most of my information about raising chickens on http://www.backyardchickens.com, too. It’s so much fun and very little effort to keep them. I’m really looking forward to those first eggs. My coop is named “Momma Ham and Eggs.” Good luck with your chickens. If you’re on BackyardChickens.com, my name is TulsaFeathers. Happy Friday! Momma Ham

  • Debbie

    I kept chickens for a year or so while we lived in Utah (can’t have them in our current place, or I for sure would have some here). Answering some of EH’s questions:
    1. Not if you clean it out every week or so. The shavings are great for the compost pile!
    2. Not loud when they’re little, but they do let the world know when they’ve laid an egg. Compared to barking dogs, though, they’re wonderfully quiet.
    4. Ours would fly, maybe 2 feet off the ground, across the yard. We had 4-foot fences and they never went over them.
    I highly recommend chickens. They’re the best!

    • E H

      Thank you so much! I am in the process of moving to Utah, and I am very interested in back yard chickens! Now just ot convince my husband…

    • E H

      Thank you so much! I am in the process of moving to Utah, and I am very interested in back yard chickens! Now just ot convince my husband…

  • E H

    Awesome! I have been wanting to do this for so long! Thank you for the inspiration. Now to convince my husband it isn’t a bad idea. I have a couple questions.
    1) Does the chicken coop get stinky? I remember a smell from our chicken coop growing up.
    2) Are they loud? How much nosie do they make?
    3) What kind of chickens did you get? i have been researching them and there are just so many to choose from! I see your kids holding them. I would want mine to be friendly enough that I didn’t have to worry about them pecking at my girls.
    4) when you let them out, do they try to fly? Or did you get their wings trimmed?
    If you could try to answer these it would be great! Best of luck with your chicken adventures!

    • Lburgfire

      1.Mine dont stink.
      2. Only the rooster is loud
      3. It looks like they have red rock chickens
      4. They always try to fly. But we have a top on the pen.

    • Schatzie Ohio

      The only problem with smell is after a rain.  Keep the area dry and no smell to speak of.  I have found the Rhode Island Reds and the Golden Comets are more aggressive .

    • Schatzie Ohio

      The only problem with smell is after a rain.  Keep the area dry and no smell to speak of.  I have found the Rhode Island Reds and the Golden Comets are more aggressive .

    • Schatzie Ohio

      The only problem with smell is after a rain.  Keep the area dry and no smell to speak of.  I have found the Rhode Island Reds and the Golden Comets are more aggressive .