When I first told Julie I wanted to get chickens and blog about it, her response was “Jodi, that’s not FOOD STORAGE MADE EASY!” So here is my preface, you don’t have to raise chickens if you want to do food storage. If you are just getting started, make sure to review our “Why Food Storage” series and sign up for our BabyStep Checklists which will walk you through getting your food storage (minus the chickens) over a series of emails for one year.
Now, if you are interested in having chickens either for fun, for food, for self reliance, or for an educational experience for your kids … READ ON! (Hint, it’s easier than you think)
Getting Started with Backyard Chickens
The beginning phases of getting chickens is soooo easy and super fun! If you have an IFA or other agricultural supply store in your area you can grab everything there including your chicks. I took my kids and was in and out in 30 minutes, not a big deal at all. You can also purchase all these things online if you don’t have a store in your area that sells them.
Baby chicks will need to be kept very warm, so it’s best to keep them inside or in a heated garage in the beginning. We keep them in the kitchen because we like to play with them. When they get a bit bigger and stinkier I’ll probably move them to the basement. A large cardboard box or a rubbermaid bin will work for the first few weeks. As soon as they get big enough to fly up and perch on the edge of the bin you will want to either find a way to cover the box or move them to a bigger container. We have a very large box we’ll be upgrading them too when they get bigger.
For the first 6 weeks or so you’ll need to keep your chicks very warm and the best way to do this is using a heat lamp. You’ll need to rig the lamp up so it sits at the top of your coop. Some of them have little clamps, others have loops you can use to hang them. I used a kitchen chip bag clamp to hold the cord to the box and keep it from falling in. We’re high tech around here. My lamp was $14.50 and the bulb was $3.99 at IFA. Looks like they are a bit cheaper online.
I got a small 3 lb hanging feeder and rigged up a way to hang it in our box. Once the chickens are bigger and in their coop you’ll need something bigger, but I didn’t want to have a huge feeder in my little box so I opted to buy a small one now and upgrade to a bigger one later. Mine was $7.50 at IFA. You can also find it at Amazon. For food, I bought two five pound bags of poultry chick starter food. That should last a little while until they get bigger and start eating more!
Last time I had chicks their water container seemed to be a big mess and they’d always poop in it. This time I bought a brooder nipple bottle to hang on the side of the box. I LOVED it until after a few days it just caused the box to disintegrate on that corner because the chicks would cause it to drip out when they played with it. If you were using a plastic bin this would still be a great option because then the birds don’t perch and poop in the water. I put in my old water container instead now.
When we raised our last batch of chicks we bought a big mix of breeds and ended up with a few that were our favorites. So this time we bought 2 Rhode Island Reds and 4 Buff Orpingtons. When we got home we noticed they had accidentally snuck 5 Buff Orpingtons in the box though, so we got a bonus 😉 There are LOTS of varieties out there but these ones seemed to be nice with our kids and have consistent laying so we went with them. Our chicks were $3.79 each, I know you can order these through the mail but we think it’s fun to go to the store and get them right then!
My total cost was about $70. You could be a little more or less depending on where you buy your materials and chicks, and how deluxe you go on things. It only took a couple of hours to get everything purchased and set up at our house. It is EASY to get started. It gets harder as they start to outgrow their box and you have to keep them contained. It’s also another post entirely when you get into the details of how you will transition them outside, build a coop, keep them out of your vegetable garden, etc. I’ll keep you updated throughout our little adventure 🙂
-Jodi Weiss Schroeder