Raising chickens for beginners 101
You may not find a class on raising chickens for beginners at your local college – which is why we’re here to help you get started on your chicken-raising journey. Lots of information about chicken care for beginners can be found online, but it can all be a bit overwhelming. The surest way to succeed is to stick to the basics, purchase high-quality chicken products, and to keep things simple. Omlet has the knowledge and the products to help you succeed when getting chickens for the first time.
Reasons to start raising chickens
If you’re new to poultry, getting chickens for the first time can seem daunting. Hens are often viewed as farm-specific animals whose main purpose is to lay eggs. But chickens actually make wonderful backyard pets that are full of personality and character.
There are so many benefits of raising chickens. These include, but are not limited to:
- Fresh eggs supplied daily
- An exciting hobby that gets you outdoors
- Garden and composting assistance from your flock
- A family-friendly activity that will teach valuable life skills and lessons
Flocks can be raised in urban or rural settings, and don’t require much space. Don’t let where you live keep you from entertaining the thought of keeping hens of your own.
Preparing for your new chickens
Getting chickens for the first time is an exciting and joyous occasion so long as proper preparations are made. There are a few things to consider before bringing home new chickens like:
- How much time you have to devote to their care
- Space requirements for your desired flock size
- Other family pets that may pose a risk to your hens
- Zoning laws and city ordinances if applicable
- Selecting your chicken coop and run
Chickens don’t require as much hands-on care as other pets do, but will still need to be looked after daily. Make sure you have adequate space for the number of chickens you want to keep – giving them as much space as possible. Secure your chickens’ area to prevent other pets or predators from reaching them.
The best beginner chicken breeds
It’s a good idea to research and decide which breeds of chickens you want to keep before bringing any hens home. Different breeds have different qualities and temperaments, but here are some that are known for being great hens for first-time chicken keepers:
- Rhode Island Red
- Plymouth Rock
- Bantams (miniature versions of certain breeds)
Consider your climate, available space, and egg-laying expectations when selecting which breeds you want to keep. Keeping a “mixed flock” is common among chicken keepers, as it adds variety to your egg basket. You may also find “barnyard mix” hens, which are a mixture of several different breeds. These hens are often bred to be excellent egg layers, be cold or heat-hardy, or to have a specific ornamental appearance.
If you’re getting full-grown chickens, select your hens based on temperament and appearance. As with other pets, hens have unique personalities and some may be more in sync with your own personality.
Getting started with chicks vs mature hens
If you want to start your flock from chicks, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the breeds you want to keep. Once you’ve decided on which breeds you want, you’ll need to know where to find and buy your chicks. Common options include local feed stores, breeders, or even online hatcheries. No matter where you purchase your chicks from, be sure they are reputable establishments or breeders for the types of chicks you’ve chosen.
There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether to raise your flock from newly-hatched chicks, or to start out with established hens. Chicks require more time and resources for the first several weeks of their lives. But, raising your chickens from the start can offer several benefits as well.
Raising chicks for beginners
Raising chicks can be a very rewarding experience for any flock-keeper – beginner or experienced. Chicks grow fairly quickly, but do require extra care and equipment until they’re old enough to be more self-sufficient. To raise chicks, you’ll need:
- A secure brooder pen
- A heat lamp or brooder plate
- Chick-specific feeders and waterers
- Chick-feed and grit
With each new stage of raising chicks comes different necessities. Newly hatched chicks will need a special enclosure called a “brooder” for the first several weeks of life. A brooder should be predator-resistant and kept somewhere out of the elements. Garages, barns, or shops are ideal places to keep brooder pens. Chicks will also need a heat source (which mother hens would ordinarily provide) that is adjusted weekly to help them adjust to life outside. You can expect to house and care for your chicks in their brooder until they are around 12 weeks old.
One of the greatest benefits of raising chicks is being able to handle them from a young age. Handling your chicks daily will help to make them more docile as adult hens. After a few weeks of being handled and housed in the brooder, your chicks will be ready to be moved to their permanent home.
Choosing the perfect beginner’s coop
Aside from the chickens themselves, a chicken coop is the most important aspect of keeping chickens. And, as a beginner, you’ll want a coop that works with you, not against you. For example, DIY chicken coop plans may look appealing, but they often lack fundamental provisions for your flock. It’s important to have a safe, easy-to-clean, comfortable coop for your hens.
The process of choosing your chicken coop can be simplified by following these suggestions:
- Decide if you want your coop in a permanent location, or want the freedom of a mobile chicken coop (also known as a chicken tractor).
- Think of your yard’s space, and how large of a flock you intend to keep. If you want to keep more than 4 hens, you’ll need a large chicken coop.
- Determine how much time you want to dedicate to cleaning and maintaining your chicken coop and run. It’s important to remember that wooden chicken coops all require routine maintenance, updating, and take several hours to clean thoroughly.
Plastic chicken coops don’t rot, peel, or succumb to the elements – so they require zero maintenance. Omlet chicken coops are also incredibly easy to clean: simply remove the droppings tray and roosting rack, dump the bedding, spray or wipe clean, add fresh bedding, and place the components back in the coop. Our coops take all of the guesswork out of chicken care for beginners, and allow you to spend more time enjoying your flock, and less time cleaning and maintaining their coop.
Create space to roam with a chicken run
Chickens crave space – and lots of it. Chickens are much happier when allowed as much space as possible to explore. Chicken runs give your flock a safe space outside of their coop to peck at grass and insects, stretch their legs and wings, and soak in fresh air and sunshine.
A great option for first-time chicken owners is a walk in chicken run. These runs not only give your hens more aerial space for chicken perches, but also allow you to easily walk with your flock. Our chicken coop attached runs can be easily integrated with a walk in run, or you can simply place your chickens’ coop right inside of the walk in run.
We’ve also made it possible to extend your walk in run as your flock grows. Both the length and width can be extended at any time, giving your hens maximum space. You can also add walk in chicken run partitions to create different areas of your walk in run. This is helpful for keeping hens separated if needed or when introducing new flock members.
If free-ranging is more in line with your lifestyle, consider chicken fencing to keep your hens close to home. Chicken fencing can be used to prevent your flock from getting into flower beds, wandering off of your property, or straying too far from home. Configure a pen of any shape with posts that can be repositioned at any time, or anchor the fence to a structure with a wall mount. An easy-access gate allows you to spend time with your hens while they explore their surroundings.
What hens eat & drink
As caretaker of your chickens, you’ll need to decide what they eat and when. Chickens are fairly self-sufficient, and prefer their feed to be left out free choice. To keep your flock fed, keep their chicken feeders full of quality feed.
If your hens are laying age (16 weeks or older), they’ll need to be fed laying pellets or crumbles. Both varieties of feed offer the same nutrients, and choosing between pellets or crumbles is a personal preference. Some hens (especially small breeds) or older chicks transitioning from chick crumbles to laying hen feed may do better with crumbles.
Chicken treats can be offered when bonding with your flock, but should not make up a sizable portion of their diet. Dried mealworms are ideal treats because they contain protein and nutrients that chickens need.
Make sure your chickens have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Place your flock’s drinker high enough that bedding or dirt doesn’t get kicked in while your hens are scratching the ground, but low enough for your smallest hen to access.
Caring for your flock
Getting into a routine will come naturally after you’ve tended to your chickens for a few weeks. Coop cleaning, feeding, watering, and egg collecting are all part of the daily task list for chicken keepers. If you’re unsure about what your routine should look like, here is an example of a daily routine keeping chickens with an Omlet setup:
- Let chickens out of their coop and into their run or fencing
- Clean the coop and refresh bedding
- Feed chickens and top off waterers
- Collect eggs
- Check feeders and waterers (if the weather is warm, refresh with cool water)
- Close chickens in their coop once they’ve gone to roost
- Pick up and store any uneaten food for the next day (this reduces the number of visits from rodents)
Chickens thrive on routine, and will help you establish one that works for both of you. Most chickens are ready to go out of the coop at sunrise, and will naturally go in to roost around sunset. Hens will usually lay eggs in the late morning or early afternoon, but the timing will vary between chickens and seasons. It’s not common for hens to lay eggs overnight, but it’s good practice to check the nesting box each time you visit the coop.
Zoning laws, predators, & protection from seasons
You’ll need to make a few adjustments to your flock’s setup depending on where you live. Luckily, Omlet makes it easy to adapt and overcome obstacles as a new chicken keeper.
Zoning laws and chickens
Before heading out and purchasing your chickens, be sure to check with your local city or county office to make sure that you can keep chickens where you live. Most states leave it up to individual cities or governing authorities such as homeowners associations (HOA) to create and enforce laws about keeping chickens.
Many cities allow chickens to be kept in backyards, but will have restrictions or requirements. These may include:
- Flock size
- Coop type and location
- Prohibiting roosters
If you’re part of an HOA, they may have additional regulations apart from the city you live in. Once you’ve obtained permission with the city, check your HOA bylaws or contact a board member to see if you can keep chickens.
Omlet has a chicken coop for every size flock to accommodate size regulations. And, with optional wheels and handles for every coop and attached run, you can move your Omlet chicken coop around your yard to comply with guidelines. Since our coops aren’t permanent structures, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a permit or a cement pad to place one in your backyard.
Chicken predators are an unavoidable part of keeping a flock. No matter where you live you’ll encounter predators that will try to take advantage of hens that aren’t fully protected. From coyotes, foxes, and bears in the country, to racoons, hawks, and even neighborhood dogs and cats inside of city limits, you’ll need to fortify your flock’s home. Some common predators you may encounter include:
- Hawks or other birds of prey
- Cats and dogs
- Snakes (mainly in search of eggs, but some species will go after hens)
Make sure your chicken coop doors are secure and have mechanisms that can’t be pried open by pesky paws. Installing an automatic chicken coop door adds an extra layer of protection between your hens and predators trying to get in a closed-up coop. The horizontal open and closing mechanism helps prevent the door being pried open – unlike vertical opening doors.
Omlet has also taken protective measures against racoons. Raccoons are known to use their hand-like paws to turn knobs and levers, or reach through wire to get to their prey. The tightly spaced wire across the bottom of our Eglu Cube attached run prevents them from reaching your hens. The Eglu Cube also has raccoon-resistant access door handles that also double as child-safety locks.
As outdoor pets, your chickens need different care during different times of the year. Most chicken keepers elect to cover their chickens’ runs to protect them from the elements. Omlet’s line of heavy-duty chicken run covers offers protection from rain, snow, wind, and harmful UV rays. Our solid covers are perfect for providing shade on a hot summer day, while our clear covers allow sunlight to filter through to warm your hens during the chilly winter months.
The temperate weather of spring and fall is favorable for hens, depending on your location. And while most breeds of chickens tolerate both high and low temperatures, if your area experiences extreme temperatures you’ll need to take additional measures to keep your hens comfortable.
To keep your hens cool in the summer, make sure they have plenty of water and shade. Offer treats to help your hens cool off, like frozen corn or fresh melon. Omlet’s chicken coops keep hens cool through thoughtful design, and will help your flock weather the warm summer nights.
During extreme cold temperatures in the winter, consider adding an extreme temperature jacket to your chickens’ coop. While our Eglu chicken coops are designed to keep the inside temperature at a comfortable level, your hens will appreciate the extra layer of insulation during the bitterly cold months. Be sure to also offer your hens plenty of perching space as reprieve from the frozen ground. Offer warming chicken treats to keep their metabolisms up and to promote egg laying.
Encouraging egg production as a beginner
Egg-laying breeds of chickens will produce approximately 1 egg every day and a half. That means that during peak laying age (around 2 years old), high-producing egg layers can give between 300-350 eggs per year. But do they need your help to accomplish this?
Many first-time chicken owners wonder what they can do to encourage hens to lay eggs. The main components to help keep hens happily laying are:
- Quality feed
- Fresh water
- Adequate space
- A clean environment
- Feeling safe
If these needs are being met, your hens should lay on a regular schedule, routinely providing fresh eggs for your family. Once collected, fresh eggs can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge for several weeks. You may want to display your hens’ hard work in your kitchen by using an egg skelter. This handy device not only shows off your flock’s natural works of art, but also helps you organize and use your eggs from oldest to freshest.
What first-time chicken keepers should avoid
Chickens can make wonderful, entertaining pets that offer enjoyment to any family – so long as expectations are realistic and preparations are made. Before diving into the world of chickens, remember:
- Chickens may want to interact with their human caretakers, but aren’t as hands-on as other pets, and may not crave attention
- Buy a quality setup that won’t rot or deteriorate over time – it’s worth the investment
- Flocks are kept outdoors year-round, so be sure adjust their accommodations accordingly as the temperatures change
- Don’t attempt to raise your flock from chicks unless you have a safe place for a brooder, and can spend 2-3 months at home to look after them until they can be moved into their permanent coop and run
- Always check with governing authorities for permission before obtaining chickens or a coop
- Research the breeds you want to keep before bringing them home
- Most importantly – have fun!
Begin keeping chickens with Omlet
Getting started with chickens doesn’t have to be stressful. Let Omlet help you on your chicken-keeping journey. Explore entertaining elements like our Chicken Swing or Customizable PoleTree Chicken Perch for endless entertainment for both you and your flock.
This entry was posted in Chickens