Raising Chickens: An Essential Guide For Starting a Successful Backyard Poultry Operation Continues

"Welcome back! Do you have those chickens ordered yet? Actually, before you get those bantys or Rhode Island Reds ordered, you will need to be prepared! Don't wait until the birds have arrived to figure out where you are going to put them. It's a lot of needless stress on you and the birds! Preparation in this area will most definitely contribute to a successful poultry operation.

To begin, you will need to provide adequate housing for the chickens. You will need to determine approximately how many chickens you will need to meet your family's demand for eggs. On average, a healthy, well-fed hen will produce 1 egg per day. There will be factors that may alter this, such as weather, light, feed, etc. Therefore, once you have determined the number of chickens you need, you can figure that an average sized chicken requires approximately 1.5-2 square feet inside the coup, and approximately 8 square feet outside in order to get

adequate exercise. You will also need to provide 1 nesting box per 4 laying hens. This should give you a rough estimate as to how big your coup needs to be. In addition to building or buying a shelter, you will need to make sure that this shelter provides adequate ventilation, is ""predator"" proof, and is well lit. If you want eggs, you will need good lighting! Your ""outside"" yard will not only need to be built in such a way as to keep the chickens in, but to keep the predators out! This includes predators that burrow, and those that fly. It is suggested that when you build your fence, bury the wire at least 6-12 inches deep, and toe the bottom of the wire out so that if ""something"" does dig, it will hit wire first. Further, you may need to provide a cover over your outside run. In addition, don't forget to provide a place for the birds to ""roost"" inside the coup for their evening snooze.

Of course you will need to have feeders and waterers for your chickens. It is best to have the type of feeders which can be hung from the ceiling. These feeders prevent the birds from contaminating the feed. Chickens require quite a bit of water, so it is important to have waterers inside and out of the coup. Older chickens can drink out of open pails or containers, but it is nice to also have a waterer from a feed store, as they are also designed to keep chicken poop out and clean water in...sorry, that's just a reality! Both feeders and waterers can be homemade and made cheaply. We have feeders made out of coffee cans, and waterers made with canning jars. Your chicken operation does not have to cost you a claw and a beak!

Now, the moment of truth! What type of chickens should you purchase? Really, it will depend on your expectations and needs. Some chickens are dual-purpose. In other words, they are good layers and are more bulky in size, so that when their best laying years are over (about 3 laying seasons), they can be butchered for meat. Some examples of this type of chicken is a Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Golden or Black Sex-Link, etc. Some chickens are better layers and do not get as big. One example of this is the bantam. These are small chickens that lay small eggs, but they are wonderful birds and good ""brooders"". A brooding chicken is one that will lay eggs, and then sit on them, and hatch out her chicks.

This is good if you want to have your own hatchery! I also recommend the Buff Orpington chicken for these purposes too. Many chickens today DO NOT sit on their 's been bred out of them! By the way, you DO NOT need a rooster in order for your chickens to lay  just won't really need the broody type birds in this case! There are many ""exotic"" type birds on the

market as well. One that is very popular is the Araucana. These birds are most noted for laying the pink or light green/blue eggs. We had a couple of Araucana, and the novelty was fun. However, I am more interested in lots of eggs, and these ladies had a tendency to stash their eggs so I could'nt find them! At any rate, there are many breeds, colors and arrays of chickens. Get yourself a catalog and read up for yourself on the many types of chickens. You'll be amazed, and you will be able to choose the type of bird that suits your needs the  next article on raising backyard chickens will include information on raising�� hicks...whether you get them through the mail or the local feedstore."

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