If you want to raise backyard chickens, you have to ask yourself some key questions before you bring chickens home. Chickens have different needs than a regular pet, and they also need a home since they can’t live in your house. These wonderful birds are a great way to enjoy fresh eggs, just remember they need your attention every day.
To help you decide if chickens are right for your backyard, here are five questions you should ask yourself before bringing baby chickens home.
1. What are the local bylaws for backyard poultry?
There is a question that needs to be answered first before all others. Does the town I live in allow for chickens to be raised in my neighbourhood. This is can be quickly answered with a call to your local town office. Even if the bylaws permit backyard chickens, you should also ask them if there are any limitations. Some communities will regulate the types of chickens you can have, the number of chickens per household, and where on your property you can place your chicken coop.
2. Why do I want to raise chickens?
Many people purchase baby chickens as pets rather than using them for food. Just remember they aren’t the type of pet that you can hold and cuddle once they are grown. Also, you may want to carefully consider getting a rooster unless you want to wake up very early and anger your neighbours.
Chickens follow a light cycle similar to most things in nature. They require at least 14 hours of light in order to lay eggs. In nature, chickens stop laying eggs in the fall and focus their energy on producing new feathers(moult) rather than laying eggs. You can trick the chickens into believing it’s still time to lay eggs by adding a light bulb in their coop. This will allow you to harvest eggs all winter long, but by doing this you stop the chicken’s normal moulting process.
Your hens will typically lay a single egg a day once they are old enough, at 18-22 weeks. If you want to raise a breed that is an egg specialist, White Leghorns are one of the best picks. Chickens that you can either use as laying hens or meat birds include Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Wyandotte and Sex Link. If you plan on eating them once they are fully grown I would suggest not giving them names.
An important note that not everyone knows about is – laying hens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs. Another thing to consider about roosters is that they are aggressive and will challenge you if you get too close. The biggest noise you hear out of a chicken is them bragging about the egg they just laid.
3. What do I feed them?
Once your chickens start producing eggs, they’ll need a lot of calcium in their food. Chickens require proper nutrition to live well and lay eggs, which isn’t always accomplished with table scraps. It’s important to use a chicken feed that is formulated for the age of the birds in your coop. Once your chickens begin laying eggs, their feed will need to be enhanced with a higher level of calcium. Commercial chicken feed is available at your local feed store or from online suppliers.
4. Can I add new birds to my flock?
Yes, chickens of different breeds can live together but you must separate them according to age. Younger chickens need a different feed from that of a laying bird. The high calcium ratio in laying hen feed can actually damage the kidneys of younger chicks. Also, older chickens like to bully and chase younger birds away from the food dispenser.
5. How do I protect my flock from disease?
Take precautions to prevent disease and illness so that your new chicks and grown chickens, don’t become sick.
If you already have some chickens and are adding new birds, it’s a good idea to isolate them for a couple of weeks before introducing them to your existing flock.
Some other safety precautions to keep your chickens disease-free include:
- Wash off your boots with a garden hose if you visit your neighbours coop.
- Get everything ready before you bring your new chickens home.
- Be sure to enclose the top of any chicken run with netting to keep out birds of prey.
- Avoid placing your coop near a water source like a pond or stream.
- Do not let your chickens drink from a stagnant water source like a duck pond.