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How To Raise Chickens

Are you considering raising chickens? Are you tempted by those cute fluffy balls at your local farm store? The flags and signs as you drive by announcing that chick days are here. Whether it's for those farm fresh eggs or the desire for healthier, cleaner meat, there are some things to consider before you pick up those cute little fluffy butts. It's best to weigh your options and get things in place before you're sucked into those chirping fluff balls at your local farm store.

Where to Purchase Chicks?

First, you need to decide where to purchase chicks. Your local farm stores or local farmers selling specific breeds or barnyard mixes are great options. Additionally, there is a large selection of hatcheries online that offer an array of breeds and options. Many of these have order minimum limits and will ship to your local post office. Chicks don't need food or water for the first 72 hours after hatching and often ship overnight. You will also want to make sure your post office knows you are expecting chicks if it is not common for your area. Also plan to be ready to pick them up as soon as you get that call from the post office.

The Farm Supervisor with his chickens
The Farm Supervisor and his Chickens

What is the Purpose?

When choosing chickens, consider their purpose, climate, and breed. Egg layers are great for those who want a steady supply of eggs, while meat chickens are perfect for those who want a healthy source of protein. Dual-purpose breeds are great for those who want both. Getting chicks from a similar climate helps immensely with their hardiness to know that they can handle the weather that you will experience. Additionally, consider the size and location of the coop. For example, ensure that your coop provides at least 1 square foot of space per chicken.

Before You Bring Chicks Home

Before you have your chicks, set up a brooder box with pine bedding, a heat source, lamp, or heat pad/plate, waterer/feeder, and chick starter feed. We like to add Nutra drench to the water for the first few days to help with any shipping/transport stress. Get ready for a mess; it will not stay just in the brooder box, so before you are fine with it being in your home, know that there will be dust and debris covering everything in the space they are in, including outside the brooder box. Once they arrive, take the time to show each chick where food and water is located, make sure poo is not caking on their bottoms, and ensure they're hanging out in the brooder box comfortably. A noisy brooder box means there is a problem, and they should be spread out and not bunching under a light or staying away from the light. Make adjustments occasionally until they are comfortable.

Pastured freedom color chickens enjoying the grass.
Freedom Color Chickens

Chicken Care and Considerations

When it comes to feeding and caring for your chickens, ensure they have clean, dry bedding and provide roosts. Start to add roosts and more space, watching corners so that they don't crowd. Once all of your chicks have feathered out you can switch them to an egg layer or broiler feed depending on their purpose. It can take up to six months of age before you get your first egg, and usually, it will be small, often known as a fairy egg. Then the girls will find their stride and lay. The first year of laying little will phase them, but after that first year, they will slow down in laying due to age, and they will lay with the season and amount of daylight.

Finally, it's essential to be aware of common chicken problems, such as bumble foot, wound care and predator attacks. Vaseline, some basic wound sprays, and Nutra drench will be the start of your medicine cabinet for them to help mitigate these issues and letting chickens out for a few hours at night helps teach them the coop. Ultimately, the rewards of raising chickens are plentiful, and it's always best to start small and increase year by year.

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