Raising chickens is the new 'fad' in urban farming. I mean they’ve been around forever, but never as romanticized as they are now. Now don’t get me wrong… raising chickens is amazing and they give you eggs and meat, but they do require some work. Nothing wrong with a little elbow grease for healthy food in my books.
Raising Chickens - Why We Finally Decided
Our turning point for finally deciding to raise chickens was, firstly, having land. We just moved out of our condo this summer, so we finally have a spot (10 acres in fact) for them to run around! Secondly, they are the best, most attainable, and cheapest animal to get when starting a homestead or farm. And thirdly, we eat a lottttt of eggs. Like seriously it's just the 2 of us, but its like we're a family of 4! So we thought, saving a little money, and getting some cute chickens who give us eggs = win-win! Read more about how we got here, here.
Oh and one more thing... we had a little chicken raising inspiration - Justin Rhodes from Abundant Permaculture. It's pretty much a wholesome family homestead reality tv show, but on YouTube! He has made raising chickens look so easy and inspiring that you'll want to get chickens, like right now! My hubby and I love watching, it's another reason we're starting our own farming journey.
But before you go out and get 50 chickens, let’s get into everything you'll need first:
You need plans for basically everything in life right? With raising chickens, it's the same, but definitely not as detailed as that 5 Year Life Plan you got going on, on the side. Now is the time when you sit down with yourself, your spouse, your kids, etc., and talk about all of the responsibilities. Who will do what, where the chicken coop will go, who will watch the chickens when you go on vacation, how will we get fresh water to their coop? If you can positively answer all of these questions, then go for it!!
I know I said raising chickens is the best place to start when beginning your homestead or farm journey, but they still do require some work and time. I would say about 15 minutes a day for chicken chores. It's the type of thing you would grow into and it would become part of your daily routine. If you can give up 15 minutes a day, then you're golden! 15 minutes a day to let them out of their coop in the morning, give them food and fresh water, hang out with them a bit, make sure they're healthy, clean the coop out from the night before, and let them in at night. Doesn't sound bad, right?
Coop & Run
This is one of the most important items! When raising chickens, it's so crucial for your sweet birds to have their own cozy spot to nest and perch. There are so many different shapes and sizes of coops so it will depend on how much space you have and what your budget is (seriously some chicken coops are crazy priced). But on average you can grab one off Wayfair or Amazon, or make it a fun DIY project. We are refurbishing a metal shed for our chicken coop - stay tuned for the how-to post!
Inside the coop, you'll need about 4 sq. ft. per bird, a place for the birds to nest and lay the eggs, and perches for them to sleep at night and keep each other warm and comfy. Inside the run, you'll need about 8 sq. ft. per bird, and an enclosed area. This area is usually attached to the coop and contained by chicken wire so the birds are safe from prey and can't fly out. This is usually where you will feed them and have their water bowl. If you have land, then your birds can free range. In that case, you'll want, in addition to the run, a movable fence or enclosed backyard for them to free roam!
Feed & Water & Heater
Another important thing here. Basic chicken rights... hehe. Food and water will keep your chickens healthy and happy. For water, consider getting a base for your mason jar or something like this. That works best for a few chickens, if you plan on getting a lot, check out my post on chicken water reviews and an easy DIY.
As for a feeder and feed, I would get a bucket and feed your chickens kitchen scraps. It's the cheapest, and easiest way to give them nutrition and fill their belly's. You can also get a couple bags of organic or non-gmo chicken feed to supplement with (and something to hold the feed in, there are lots of cool chicken feeders available). You can also just let them free range, depending on how many you have. We have a handful of layers right now, and just let them wander on the property, you'd be surprised how much food they find!
We live in Ontario, so chickens during the winter need a heater. They can withstand the negative temperatures but need a little help. We are still in decision-making mode as to what heater we will get, but it will be important. Another thing to note is that if your coop isn't warm enough then you'll need a water heater as well so that it doesn't freeze.
It takes a village to raise a child right? Well, maybe it's the same for raising chickens. It's always good to know people, whether online or in-person who have raised chickens before. If you have questions or concerns you will know where to go. We would love to answer your chicken questions from what are learning as start our journey - if you any! It also doesn't hurt to get to know local farmers down the road, who knows maybe they will sell you some of their straw - which is great to place at the bottom of the coop for warmth.
Well, I hope that helped you in getting a sense of raising chickens, and what you should have ready before purchasing them. If you want to download the checklist, click on the link below. I'd love to hear what other things you've found you needed or how your chicken journey is going in the comments!