Backyard chickens are said to be the “gateway” animal to more serious homesteading. They are small and easy to care for, you can keep them on a suburban block or any larger property. You can have anywhere from 2-3 to 200 or more chickens.
Pete and I have been keeping chickens for over 10 years. At different times we’ve had pure bred Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns, Isa Browns and everything in between, including hatching our own chicks. We’ve also tried turkeys, guinea fowl and bantam chickens.
Over the years we’ve learnt a lot about these funny little birds and we’ve got very used to homegrown eggs (and home-butchered chicken). Let me share with you a few of our experiences with chickens in the links below. Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or find me on social media Facebook : Instagram : Pinterest : Mailing List
You need to make a few decisions first up. What breed of chickens are you going to get (How to choose a chicken breed and have you thought about keeping bantam chickens?) and how many chickens (Why do we have so many chickens?). If you want to know more I’ve linked to a few good chicken books at the end of this post, but this is the best chicken book I've ever read.
Raising chicks can be a lot of fun. If you can get fertile eggs, all you need is an incubator. You can read more about incubating eggs and how to choose an incubator. After the chicks hatch, you will need to care for them in a brooder and give them special food, read more about raising baby chicks. When they are a few weeks old you can determine the sex of young chickens quite easily.
Hens and eggs
Chickens are really easy to care for, there are just a few issues that you may encounter:
- How to deal with broody hens
- How to stop hens from eating eggs
- Trimming chicken wing feathers
- Why do chickens stop laying in winter?
You don’t have to keep a rooster with your flock, but if you have a bit of space, they can be a lot of fun and they will look after the hens. You will also end up with fertile eggs that you can hatch. Here’s some advice about roosters:
Chicken food and water
Chickens love to eat grass and leafy greens, but they also need grain for energy and maximum egg protection. Some advice on feeding chickens and some thoughts about alternatives, such as meal worms for chickens.
Providing water for chickens can be as simple as a bucket of water, but using chicken drinker nipples is a great way to keep water clean and make less work for yourself.
Chicken pests and diseases
This is not a comprehensive guide, however I have found that neem oil and diatomaceous earth are pretty handy for treating chicken mites and lice. On a larger scale, I’ve shared some tactics for outfoxing the fox
Butchering homegrown chickens
Why stick with chickens when there are so many other poultry to try? I told you they were gateway animals! First we had a go at raising turkeys. Then we got the guinea fowl keets, but soon had to recognise guinea fowl realities. I loved them, but they were just too crazy!
Resources for backyard chickens
Below are affiliate links for books that I personally find useful: