Keeping Chickens for the First Time — What You Need to Know

Keeping Chickens, What You Need to Know
Posted in: Poultry Care

If you’re thinking of keeping chickens in your backyard, you aren’t alone. The number of people keeping chickens was already on the rise when the lockdowns of 2020 brought about an even greater interest. While most people want to keep chickens for the eggs, there are also those who raise them for meat or show. Some just like raising the chicks from eggs and watching them grow.

Whatever your reason, there are some things you need to know before you purchase chickens to put in your backyard. This includes choosing the breeds, setting up chicken runs and roosts, and knowing what and how much to feed them.

How to Choose the Right Chickens

Image by Xuân Tuấn Anh Đặng from Pixabay

Image by Xuân Tuấn Anh Đặng from Pixabay


As a beginner, you want chickens that don’t require much maintenance and are easy to manage. Going with some of the most popular breeds will make it easier to manage them and get good results. Each area of interest has certain breeds that are tried and true.

Keeping Chickens for Eggs

If your main interest in keeping chickens is to get lots of natural eggs, you should pick a breed that produces an abundance of eggs yearly. However, if you also want friendly chickens that your kids can treat as pets, you might opt for a breed that produces fewer eggs but has a gentle personality.

Rhode Island Red – These are some of the most popular chickens around. Each chicken produces about 250 eggs yearly without a lot of maintenance from you. The hens are friendly, but the roosters can be aggressive.

Buff Orpington – This breed is popular for both egg-laying and as pets. Hens produce a minimum of 180 eggs each year, although their production is usually lower during the summer.

Leghorn – Leghorns are ideal for producing eggs all year round. You can expect hens to lay around 250 eggs yearly. However, unlike the Buff Orpington, they aren’t very friendly and don’t serve well as pets.

Barred Rock – Barred Rock chickens are sweet, docile birds that lay large brown eggs — more than 200 per year. This is a good breed for anyone who wants an egg-layer and a family pet!

Keeping Chickens for Meat

If you are looking for chickens to raise for meat or dual purposes (eggs and meat), you will look for different characteristics. Instead of considering only egg production, you also want a chicken that grows larger and is known for its good flavor. Some good choices include:

Cornish Cross – This breed and its associated hybrids are favored among those who raise chickens for meat only. They have a better flavor than those used for dual purposes, and they boast a super-fast growth rate.

New Hampshire Red –  This breed is an excellent meat producer. Although they do not always grow as large as other broilers, like the Cornish Cross, the New Hampshire Red will still produce a respectable amount of meat for your family. Fully-grown roosters weigh up to eight pounds, giving you plenty of meat to work with.

Keeping Chickens for Showing or Exhibition

If you choose to keep chickens for show or exhibition, it’s probably more for personal satisfaction than profit. Chickens are judged on characteristics like their weight, number of toes, comb type, and a lot more. Some potential breeds for showing include:

Silkie Chickens – Silkies are an old breed with a unique look. They come in a wide variety of colors and fluffy feathers that extend to their legs.

Sebright Bantam – These chickens have an elegant look that is almost checkered. They have either brown or all-white feathers lined with black. Their small size and long legs give them a unique look that resembles an ostrich.

When Chickens Need a Coop

The biggest reason you need a chicken coop is safety from predators at night. While they are usually happy to roost in trees, areas with predators make it difficult to keep chickens alive.

Chickens instinctively seek high roosts. So, if you keep them up in a coop, they need roosts up high. They don’t need roosts for sleep as much as to make them feel safe. As for nesting boxes, hens will lay eggs even without them. However, that will make your job harder — you could end up searching for the eggs instead of going directly to the boxes.

The coop is the indoor space for the chickens, while a chicken run provides outdoor space. It allows them to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and foraging without exposure to predators.

How to Feed Your Chickens

Especially in the spring and summer months, if left to free-range outside their runs, chickens will forage on grasses and bugs. The extra nutrition and enrichment are encouraged! However, it is always recommended to provide suitable feed in addition to this. Doing so ensures your chickens are receiving a balanced diet, which will result in great performance and egg quality. 

Refer to the chart below for information on how much to feed laying hens according to your chickens’ age.

AGE

TYPE OF FEED

QUANTITY

0 – 8 Weeks

Starter

7 ounces per bird per day

8 – 20 Weeks

Grower

.25 lbs. per bird per day

20+ Weeks

Layer

.30 lbs. per bird per day

You may also need to add supplements to your chickens’ diet for optimal nutrition and as a treat. When setting up feeders for your chickens, don’t forget to provide a supply of clean, fresh water. All types of chickens, including laying hens and meat producers, need plenty of fresh water in any season. Use a large container that keeps water clean and supplies your entire flock.

Shop Grange Co-op to Get Your Chickens Off to a Good Start

Grange Co-op offers a broad range of products to get you started with your new interest. Get top brands of chicken feed, stylish chicken coops, and more. Contact us or visit in-store for help finding solutions for your new hobby!

April 11, 2022
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