Getting Started with Backyard Chicken KeepingMay 28, 2023
Getting Started with Backyard Chicken Keeping
So many people I speak to tell me they would love to have chickens in their backyard but they don't know where to start.
I honestly believe chickens are the gateway "drug" to homesteading. And that's not a bad thing.
They are easy to manage and the return is quick and complex at the same time. You will have the amazing bonus of true free-range eggs, as opposed to the "free-range" eggs from the shops, which are not really free-range at all!
Plus you get the extra bonuses of pest control, fertiliser production and ground turnover.
Most importantly, no one can deny the joy of being a chicken mum or dad! These little dinosaurs have quirky personalities that you fall in love with. They will become part of the family if you let them.
If you have not been around chickens before, there are a few things you need to know. I know I said they are easy to manage but like all livestock, they still require some work and knowledge to keep them happy and healthy.
If you don't have time to read or would like a more detailed discussion you can listen to my podcast on this exact topic HERE
Choosing the right breed: Different breeds of chickens have different personalities and egg-laying capabilities, so it's important to choose a breed that fits your needs and preferences. I have a free webinar you can watch to help you decide which chicken breed is right for you that you can find HERE.
Setting up a coop: Chickens need a safe and secure place to sleep and lay eggs, so setting up a coop is a crucial step in getting started with backyard chicken keeping. It is vital that you have this prepared before getting started. The different types include full-enclosed, partially enclosed or the pasture-raised model that we use. Your coop will need to be preditor-proof and have shelter for your flock.
Providing proper nutrition: Chickens need a balanced diet of feed, water, and supplements to stay healthy and lay eggs regularly. Chickens are not vegetarians, they are omnivores, and they require protein from all available sources. Bugs, worms, mice and insects are all part of a natural chicken diet. I use commercially prepared laying pellets as I don't have the time to put together a homemade meal for my girls. If you would like to know more about nutrition you can listen to my podcast on the topic of chicken nutrition HERE
Managing waste: Chicken manure can be a valuable fertilizer for your garden, but it's important to manage it properly to prevent odour and pests. With our pasture-raised model, we don't collect the manure rather we let the chickens deposit it in the field for us. In urban areas, the best method I have seen is to have gravel in the open area and use a kitty litter scope to collect the manure. It is very clever. Inside you can do something similar with coffee grounds, recycled from your local cafe of course, and the scope will drop the coffee grounds and hold the manure. The manure then needs to be composted until broken down.
Ensuring good health: Regular checkups, vaccinations, and parasite control can help keep your chickens healthy and happy. Observation of your girls daily is the best option. You will notice if something is not right. However, if you have enough adequate good feed and shell grit, clean water, dry warm area to roost and monitor for parasites, you will elevate 99% of problems.
Providing space and exercise: Chickens need plenty of space to roam and scratch, so providing a fenced outdoor run or free-ranging area is important for their well-being. Allowing the chickens to free range is vital for the bird's mental health. Chickens need to be chickens and do all the things nature has taught them to do. A great way to help them is when you turn over your veggie garden beds allow the chicks to go in and dig the soil. They will clean out pests, drop manure and aerate the soil for you. If you can’t them daily access there are other things you can do to help. Set up a swing in their coop, freeze corn into ice blocks on hot days, thread a rope through the cabbage and hang it in their coop.
Egg production and collection: Collecting eggs regularly and storing them properly can help ensure a steady supply of fresh eggs for your household.
There is so much debate about egg storage and I’m not “health department qualified” so I can only tell you what I have always done, and none of my family has even gotten ill.
We do not refrigerate our eggs, and we do not wash them.
I also have a podcast about eggs! You can listen HERE
Winter care: Cold temperatures and snow can pose challenges for backyard chicken keepers, so it's important to have a plan for keeping your chickens warm and healthy during the winter months.
Like all livestock, they do acclimatise to their surroundings and can tolerate a lot more than their human handlers give them credit for. However wet and windy conditions and extremes of heat can play havoc with your flock. You must ensure they have shelter from sun, rain and wind. They may not choose to use it, I have watched my girls stand out in the pouring rain! Eventually, they will decide they have had enough and seek out shelter.
Legal considerations: Some cities and towns have zoning laws or regulations that govern backyard chicken keeping, so it's important to research and follow any applicable rules.
Roosters are just about 100% not allowed but check with your local council. Mojo Homestead is rural zoning so I can have roosters here, but when we were on the small farm we could only have them if no neighbours had issues with them. Luckily our neighbours were fine with our boys, their coop was not near anyone's house which made it easy.
Joining a community: Joining a local chicken-keeping group or online community can provide valuable support, advice, and camaraderie for backyard chicken keepers.
I have been keeping chickens for years and still every now and again, my girls will present with some crazy weird issue that I've not seen before.
On these occasions, I go straight to the communities I am part of as I know someone will have seen or heard of it before me. They are so valuable!
You can also be part of the Mojo Homestead community too! Sign up for our FREE Guide to Keeping Backyard Chicken HERE, and you'll also go on our Newsletter mailing list.
I would love to help you with your Backyard Chicken Keeping journey.