Keeping Chickens 101 : Part 1
Keeping chickens is a hot topic right now—no wonder with so many disruptions in our food supply and rising egg prices. I've had many questions and messages from people wanting to know about chickens! So, it makes sense to start the Keeping Chickens 101 series before spring chicks appear.
I love this time of year because baby ducks, chickens, and quail will soon fill my incubators! Nothing is more precious than a little ball of yellow fuzz that lets out tiny peeps. Once my kids hear that sound, chick cuddles are soon to follow.
So, I know how tempting and what kind of magical spell can come upon you as you lay eyes on those baby chicks this spring. But before you find yourself with ten yellow puff balls running around your kitchen floor, let's go over some Chicken 101 knowledge!
Why do you want chickens? :
Establishing why you want chickens is the first step and one of the most important!
I have gotten messages and calls and have seen countless people go to a feed store or farmers market and come home with 5-10 chicks without a plan, a why, or what they will do with these chicks once they are grown. Guess what?!
I have also been guilty of making impulse chick purchases because the breed was rare or looked so cool. But I didn't have room for or needed them. I knew this could be a bad idea; it usually is!
Even though I blame the magical powers of those fluff balls, I have to do what is best for the chickens and me. I need to know the purpose of those chicks once I get them home.
What purpose do you want your chickens to serve?
So let's go ahead and establish our reason for getting chickens.
What will be the chicken's purpose? Here is a list of things to think about:
- Do I want eggs? Meat? or both?
- Do I want them as just pets with a bonus of eggs?
- Do I want chickens for my garden? (pest control, compost for the garden)
- Do I want chickens to be self-sufficient and have a small homestead?
- Do I want chickens just for meat?
By knowing the answers to these questions, you can then make better decisions about what type and breed you would like to get for your backyard flock.
Here are some technical/real-life things to also think about while reading the rest of Chickens 101:
- Do you have space to keep chickens? How much is available?
- Chickens are flock animals so you will need three at least.
- Do you live in a location where you can keep chickens? If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA, you might not be able to have chickens.
- Also, know your city's ordinances. Our city allows chickens, but only hens and no roosters.
- How much time do you have to devote to chickens?
- Are you ready for the upfront investment?
Now, let's go over the different types of chickens!
Egg Layers, Multi-purpose, and Meat Chicken Breeds:
- Egg Layer is the name/type used for breeds known for their egg production.
- A good egg layer will produce 281 - 365 eggs a year.
- The most productive years are in the 2-3 year range. They can lay up to 10 years, but don't count on them for your daily egg gathering.
- Most chickens start laying when they are between 5-7 months old. So, if you get your chicks in early spring, say March, you should see eggs around September.
- Egg production depends on temperature (45-80° is best) and how much sunlight per day. This is why chickens will lay during the winter, but production might slow to one egg every other day. In the summer, a hen can lay up to two eggs daily.
- You DO NOT need a rooster to get eggs from a hen. But, if you ever want to hatch chicks, you must get a rooster.
- Egg Layers are not known for producing a large-size meal for the table, but the meat is fine if that is an option for you.
- Multi-Purpose chickens are known for producing eggs and providing meat for the table.
- They produce fewer eggs in their lifetime than egg-laying specific breeds.
- Multi-Purpose also has less meat than meat chickens.
- They are the best of both worlds for a homestead or a self-sufficient lifestyle.
- Most meat birds are going to lay fewer eggs.
- They are prized more for their meat than for eggs.
- Some meat birds are bred just for meat and will not produce eggs at all. These birds are expected to be butchered at 8-10 weeks. Those breeds are Cornish X and Red Broilers.
- Tip: If you are not prepared to process your chickens for meat and want eggs, it is best to avoid meat breeds.
Know Your Chicken Breed:
- Know all you can about the breed you are purchasing.
- Some chickens can get large, which will lead to space issues later.
- Is the breed a hobby/pet breed? They are usually more sought after and bred for their looks, not egg or meat production.
- Small chicken breeds are not high-production egg layers, or they lay small eggs.
- Larger chicken breeds produce bigger eggs.
- Some breeds are calmer/friendly, while others are territorial/mean.
Breed Check List :
- Breed Name:
- Color or Markings:
- Will they do well in your climate?
I have a bonus at the end of the blog for you! Here is a sneak peek:
Where & Who to get your chicks from:
- Ensure the person or place you purchase your animal from is reputable. Unfortunately, I've encountered situations where people have purchased too young or sick animals. Some sellers try to get rid of unwanted or ill stock.
- You are usually safe will a well-established and reputable feed store, hatchery, or local homesteader.
- A good breeder will ensure you have all the correct information before leaving with the new family pet or homestead animal.
- Also, ask if the breeder would be willing to take back the animal if it is not a good fit for your family. We offer to take back any animals from our homestead that doesn't quite work out with a family.
You will be surprised how many local homesteaders and chicken lovers you will find if you ask around. Local people/contacts are an excellent resource for any issues or questions. They likely have experienced the same thing in their chicken-keeping journey.
Bringing Your Chicks Home will be the second part of our Chickens 101 blog series. You DO NOT want to miss that one. It will be packed full of helpful information! Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get an up-to-date blog post!
You can also follow us on YouTube as we will be adding our upcoming spring adventures which always includes chickens, chicks, and hatching eggs!
Just click the image below:
Now you have some homework/research to do. Like always, I can't help but create a check-off/ guide list! So, here it is! Just click the image below to download your Free Printable PDF to help find the best chicken for you!
Just click the image below:
Thank you for stopping by the Wildwood Wonder Modern Cottage Homestead!