A few weeks ago I walked into the local Tractor Supply store and heard the distinctive high pitched cheeping of chicks! Seeing those cute fluff balls made me want to purchase a few right then and there even though I was totally not set up for spring chicks yet. Many other people fall into that snare, and end up bringing home baby chicks that they have no idea what to do with! Every year thousands of chicks are purchased (especially around Easter) but never reach their first year of life.
So, before rushing off to the feed store, please consider the following factors and apply them to your life to see if you are truly ready to start the fun and exciting hobby of raising backyard chickens.
Make sure you check out the local and city laws before planning your future flock. Here are some common restrictions you may need to look into:
- number of birds
- are roosters allowed
- building permits
- property boundaries
Do you have the time, money, and equipment to construct proper housing for your flock? There are many pre-built coops out there that you can buy and have delivered to your house or you can choose to make your own. Consider the following necessities when constructing your coop:
- space- allow 1 1/2 -2 square feet per laying bird
- feeders- make sure the feeder can accommodate the number of birds that will be eating from it and the amount of food they will need for at least a day and a half
- waters- easy to clean waters are always a must and also be sure to have the proper amount of waters for the number of birds you get
- roosts- provide enough roosting space, usually 8in. per bird, so that they can safely roost at night
- nests- nests are essential for raising a laying flock, allow 1 nest for every 5 hens
- light and ventilation- both are necessary for a healthy, productive flock
- litter- litter that can easily be cleaned or removed is a great asset to keeping your coop clean
Make sure you have access to the proper rations for raising your chickens. Check a local mill or feed store and see if they sell starter/grower ration, layer ration, and crushed oyster grit. Also make sure you have proper funds set aside for purchasing feed for your birds. A 50lb bag of good quality layer ration usually costs between $20-$30. My flock of 18 layers, 2 cocks, and 1 cockrelette go through 100lbs of feed in roughly 1 month.
Raising baby chicks to adult hood takes time, as does raising any baby animal. Be sure you are willing to spend time each morning and evening feeding, watering, and cleaning your baby chicks. Even when they get moved to their coop, you will still have to clean the litter, feed, and provide fresh water for them at least once every day.
Although there has been a many a brood of chicks raised without fatalities, at some point in your chicken raising hobby you will face the cycle of life. Baby chicks are especially fragile, but even full grown birds succumb to either mystery deaths or one of the many poultry diseases. Do not be dis-heartened though! With the proper care and housing chickens can live for over 10 years, some even to 20 years!
Caring for and raising any kind of animal requires work, and backyard chickens are no exception. Be prepared to get up every morning to let them out, clean their coop, and feed and water them. As well as making sure to close them all in the coop at night to keep them safe from predators. Consider if you are physically able to haul water for them or carry feed bags to storage bins. Of course, you can always use a wheel barrow and other equipment to make the task easier!
Caring for your flock will take daily and yearly commitment. Think about your work hours or schedule and make sure you have enough time to care for your flock before rushing off to an activity. If you like going on vacations, have someone who would be reliable chicken sitters for your flock while your away. Chicks require quite a bit of commitment and will require close attention for the first few weeks of their life.
Now, if you still want to get chickens and you have all the necessary requirements, then congratulations! Your ready to start you chicken raising hobby! They will provide you with endless hours of entertainment and hopefully lots of eggs!
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