Chickens are domestic bird species that cannot fly. There are over 150 breeds of chickens that come in different colors, sizes, and patterns. Chickens are mostly seen in farms and provide two sources of food — their meat and the eggs they lay.
Chickens are useful to humans and are either kept as pets, for breeding, egg production, or food production. Water, food, shelter, and basic health are amongst the things you need to consider before raising a flock.
Chickens start laying eggs at 18 to 20 weeks on average. Some breeds tend to start laying eggs when they are older. Chickens also stop laying eggs during winter or shorter daylight periods.
In this article, we will discuss the things to consider before raising backyard chickens and how it doesn’t take much of your time. We will also tackle when chickens start laying eggs and when they go off lay.
Six Things to Consider Before Raising Backyard Chickens
Like any other living creature, backyard chickens also have basic needs like food, water, and shelter. Raising chickens in your backyard can be a tough thing, so before getting any, make sure you’re all set. If done correctly, raising chickens doesn’t take much of your time. Here are the things you need to consider when raising backyard chickens.
1. Water Needs
Provide your backyard chickens with clean and fresh water every day. You might sometimes notice that your chickens will leave their poop around their water source. You might also see them drinking in the muddle puddle after a rain.
Chickens also love to scratch, and sometimes, they scratch debris, like straw and dust, into their water feeder. Thus, you need to clean the water feeder as often as possible.
It is recommended to buy or make a water feeder with nipples, and if possible, a horizontal, side-mounted one. This feeder won’t leak like bottom-mounted water nipples and doesn’t have a large hole cup that collects dirt and sawdust.
The size of the water feeders depends on how many chickens you have. You only need to refill the feeders every other day, again depending on the number of chickens you own. If you live in a freezing climate, make sure the water doesn’t freeze.
2. Food Needs
Aside from water, backyard chickens also need food. The majority of their everyday food comes from the food you will give and the rest is from the ground they are foraging.
Chicken feed usually comes in crumbles or pellets and also depends on the age of your backyard chickens. You can have a mixed chicken feed or buy it commercially. Just make sure the quantity of the ingredients gives proper nutrients to your flock.
Grits are small pieces of rocks that are used in the chicken gullet. It is crushed into small pieces so it can be digested by chickens. If you let your chickens free-range, you don’t need to purchase grit. But It is best to keep one just in case.
Oysters or Egg Shells
Oysters and eggshells are used to increase the calcium level in your flock, especially that of laying hens. Indeed, laying hens need more calcium when they are starting to lay eggs. This will also help them produce harder shells.
Also, it’s important to have a chicken feeder, and preferably a hanging one. A hanging feeder keeps chickens from scratching the feed out on the ground.
3. Shelter Needs
Chickens can live and survive on their own and adapt well in the backyard. If you shelter them like they are in the wild, your chickens will be happy.
Allow your chickens to sometimes free-range. Most chicken raisers let their chickens out of their coop for they think it is the best and most natural way to raise chickens. You can install a fence around your backyard to limit the area where your chickens can free-range.
Having tall fences is ideal to keep predators and critters out to keep your chickens safe. Trees and other covers are also an essential part of shelter while your chickens are free-range. It also protects them against top predators, like eagles and hawks, and provides shade to protect them against the sun and heat.
Chickens also like to roost up off the ground, which gives them protection against critters walking on the ground, especially at night. The chickens that are highest in the pecking sequence get the highest roosting posts.
Make sure to provide shelter for roosting with a coop. If there are trees that can support the weight of your chickens, it would be a great alternative. One of the advantages of using a coop is that it has a lock and can guarantee the security and protection of your flock.
4. Clean the Coop
Cleaning a coop means collecting your flock’s manure. You can collect their manure weekly from the floor, roosting place, nesting boxes, and others. You can also use some vinegar or a commercial product for chickens to clean their coop.
5. Basic Health
Temperature check is also important when raising chickens in your backyard. Do a daily temperature check, especially on your hens, and make sure the ventilation isn’t blocked. Areas that experience harsh winter weather will probably require using a heat lamp. Just make sure it’s high enough to avoid it being pecked by your chickens and secured so it doesn’t fall.
Also, check if your chickens are not feeling well, are unable to walk, talking to each other, or if their feathers and legs are normal. If your chickens show any signs that they aren’t fine, call a professional for some help.
6. Egg Collecting
The best part of raising chickens in your backyard is collecting nutritious eggs. Remember, if you feed your chicken organic and healthy food, they produce nutritious eggs. Make sure you have a basket or egg apron when collecting eggs to avoid breaking them.
Chickens tend to fly off if they are in a new place, frightened, or think they lost their way. If you want to keep your chickens in your yard and not bother your neighbors, you need to know how to keep your backyard chickens from escaping.
Why Do You Want to Raise Backyard Chickens?
Before you get your chicks or chickens, ask yourself why you want to raise backyard chickens. For meat? For eggs? Or as pets? These questions might seem silly, but some people don’t realize how much taking care of chickens requires time and effort.
Chickens need care and attention as much as any other pets. Once you’ve decided that you can raise backyard chickens, the next step is choosing the right breed. Chickens come in different breeds of various shapes, sizes, and colors. The Rhode Island Red, Wyandotte, Ameraucana, and Orprington are the most common chicken breeds to raise in a backyard.
We will expand on these breeds below.
1. Heritage Breeds
Heritage chickens are defined by the Livestock Conservancy as natural breeding chickens. They have a slow growth rate, long life span, and are productive in outdoor settings.
2. Egg-laying Breeds
These hens are bred to produce a large number of eggs throughout their short lives. Leghorns and Australops are good examples of prolific egg producers.
3. Dual-purpose Breeds
These breeds of hens are the best of both worlds in terms of utility. They are productive egg layers and grow large, making them ideal as meat sources.
4. Meat Breeds
These breeds of chickens are bred for meat purposes. They grow very rapidly and put on weight at an alarming rate. They are ready to be slaughtered in around nine weeks.
Before buying chicks or chickens, make sure you know what breed is suitable for you and your environment. Whether you want backyard chickens as pet, egg producers, or meat producers, it is still best that you research the ideal breed for you.
One of the things that you need to consider when you plan to raise chickens in your yard is the kind of chicken that you want to keep. Do you want a chicken that lays a lot of eggs, one that is a good source of meat, or maybe you are looking for a new family pet. Read our article and allow us to help you choose the best chicken breed for your backyard coop.
When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs?
A one-year-old chicken is called a pullet. It will begin laying eggs at about 18 to 20 weeks old or more. Although, some breeds begin laying eggs when they are older. A healthy chicken can lay eggs in its first two to three years. After that, egg production will start decreasing.
Hens can only lay one egg per day. With factors like day length, weather, nutrition, and predators, daily egg production is mostly at stake. Egg production depends on the length of the day. For instance, most hens won’t lay eggs if they receive less than 12 hours of daylight per day.
Older hens produce few yet larger eggs. In chicken production, it is a big problem because the size and consistency of supply are important. But, if you are only raising backyard chickens for your family, this issue isn’t major.
Extending the laying period of your hens is feasible too, simply by light hooked to a timer in the hen house. This allows hens to have extra hours of artificial daylight. However, the natural pattern for most hens is to stop laying eggs during winter.
When this happens mostly depends on the chickens. In some raiders, their chickens did off lay when days grew shorter during fall and season changes. They will lay fewer and fewer eggs until they simply stop one day.
The lifespan of a chicken varies between five to seven years, although some breeds live up to 20 years or more. Skunks, owls, raccoons, hawks, snakes, bobcats, foxes, and opossums are the primary chicken predators that you need to look out for.
Chickens are one of the most beneficial animals to raise. Once they are mature enough, they can provide you with eggs and meat. Keeping chickens is not that challenging as long as you know what you are doing. You just need to keep an eye on them and provide their daily needs. With enough preparations, raising chickens in your backyard will be a piece of cake.
Now that you know what to do when raising backyard chickens, you’ve probably realized that it doesn’t take much of your time. With enough supply of water and healthy feeds, raising backyard chickens comes easy. We hope this article gave you the idea and confidence that you need to pursue your backyard-raising project.