You’ll face a number of basic challenges and questions as you plan your backyard chicken farm. This article provides solutions to these issues for your immediate job, which requires only basic equipment and a small flock.

It will also serve as an introduction to the more advanced stages of small-scale chicken growing and rearing.

Getting Your Backyard Ready

Remove all waste and trash. Fill up any marshy areas where illness might thrive. Make sure your family dog’s outdoor home is placed at a safe distance from the location of your poultry coop and run. Fill any holes that might collect rainwater and serve as breeding grounds for disease germs.

Equipment Requirements

Prior to the arrival of the hens, numerous vital, basic pieces of equipment, as well as housing facilities, should be prepared. These are the following:

  • 1. A place to keep your hens. There are a variety of styles available, ranging from sophisticated prefabricated hen houses to low-cost, extremely functional handmade coops. {In the next chapter, you’ll find construction blueprints, materials lists, and more}. Disinfecting the hen house entirely and thoroughly is practically essential, since improvised temporary quarters can be drafty and filthy.
  • 2. Next to the hen house, the hens should have access to a wire-fenced run. This allows them to get exercise and sunshine without the risk of wandering or being attacked by dogs, cats, or other animals. It also prevents them from entering flower beds and gardens.
  • 3. Baby chick brooding equipment.
  • 4. Chick and adult bird feeders and waterers
  • 5. Scratching material or litter for flooring. Peat moss, shavings, straw, sugar cane litter, and other materials may be used.
  • 6. Furniture for the chicken coop.

How Many Chickens Will You Need To Supply Eggs For Your Family?

If you have a flock of 6 to 15 laying hens, you should have enough of good fresh eggs and the odd chicken meal on your table. (You may expect each hen to produce 160 to 175 eggs per year with adequate stock and care.)

How Do You Get Your Flock Started?

You may start your flock “from the ground up” by purchasing hatching eggs that will be hatched either naturally by a hen or artificially in an incubator. (Because of the price and care involved, this approach is not advised for beginners.)

You may also buy day-old chicks (for $1.95 to $2.95 apiece) and grow them to adulthood for egg-laying or meat production. (This approach is popular among novices, but it, too, needs caution and attention.)

Buying well-developed pullets is the third and arguably easiest approach. Purchase them a few weeks before they are ready to lay if at all possible. (You won’t need a male bird if you’re simply interested in collecting eggs.) For good laying pullets, prices will range from $2 to $6.50.

Depending on how well she is raised, the breed, and other factors, a pullet, or young hen less than one year old, will begin to lay at five or six months old.

All prices mentioned in this post are estimates.

When Are You Able To Begin?

You may start feeding your family with fresh eggs and hens at any time of year, whether it’s spring, summer, winter, or fall. If you’re starting with young chicks or hatching eggs, though, you should do it in the spring to take advantage of the warmer weather. However, raising winter-bred hens is not difficult.

If you’re starting with mature pullets, late summer or fall is the optimum time to get started. This is just for economic reasons. The farmer will generally have them for sale at this time, and the pricing will be more fair.

A dozen pullets is a good starting flock for someone who wants to get into poultry. If you want to breed and rear chickens, don’t buy a male fowl.

Without a male, the hens will lay just as well, there will be no crowing to disturb the neighbours, and there will be more space and less feed to purchase. Infertile eggs will last longer, thus the eggs will be better. (The vast majority of our commercial eggs are non-fertile.)

How Much Space Do You Need To Raise Chickens?

If you’re simply interested in producing eggs and maintaining laying hens, you’ll only need enough room for your hen house, because laying hens may be kept confined in a well-designed home at all times.

Allow roughly four square feet for each laying hen while designing your chicken coop.

However, for newborn and developing chicks, you’ll need more room for a brief “run” where they may exercise and get some sun. (The chicken run is a wire-fenced yard adjacent to the chicken house.)

You’ll have no problem growing a flock of 6 to 15 chickens if your backyard is 20′ x 20′ or even less.

The region should be well-lit and devoid of trash, waste, and other junk. If possible, offer gravel and “green food” such as grass, etc. for the birds, but these may be purchased and set in the yard.

Where Are You Going To Get Your Chickens?

Because of the current emphasis on chicken breeding as a method of supplementing the wartime food supply and avoiding growing food expenses, most of the better pet stores in your town or city now sell young chicks, hens, and roosters.

Leading department shops in major cities have created dedicated sections for backyard poultry raisers, where you can get not just birds and supplies, but also expert guidance. Baby chicks are available at many feed and hardware stores.

You could have one or more chicken hatcheries or farms in your neighbourhood where you can get your stock.

In most cases, though, finding everything you want listed in the top poultry publications is an easy affair. Baby chicks, hatching eggs, pullets, and cockerels of all kinds are available here from trustworthy, professional hatcheries and poultry farms at normal market prices.

Where Are You Going To Get Your Food And Supplies?

Often, the same pet store or department store that sells your hens will also offer feed, coops, and other items, but the selection may be restricted. If your neighbourhood has a Feed and Grain store, he will most likely fix your food problem and may also offer a full range of chicks and chicken yard equipment.

What Is The Best Chicken Breed?

You’ll want a bird with a robust constitution, doesn’t take a lot of care, lays at least 160 to 175 eggs per year, and provides excellent table fowl for your purposes (assuming you want to raise chickens mostly for eggs with the odd bird-on-the-table).

You won’t be able to discover this perfect bird by purchasing a certain breed because there is no such thing as a best breed.

Professional chicken breeders, on the other hand, meticulously choose and breed for high egg production year after year, producing strains or families of good layers with higher market quality.

Your pullets or foundation stock will not disappoint you if you choose the greatest breeder or retail supply source selling chickens grown by this sort of breeder.

Ask the guy who sells you eggs about his flock’s average annual egg output, average annual loss by death among his laying chickens, how his hens lay in the second year, the average size of eggs laid by his laying hens, and so on.

This information will be provided by the majority of respectable hatcheries.

Because these breeds are the most frequently bred and hence the least costly, you’ll probably get New Hampshire, Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Wyandottes, or Leghorns.

How Do You Choose Your Chickens?

If you’re buying adult chickens (pullets, etc. ), look for nice, healthy chickens that are almost consistent in size and color. They should have a vibrant and alert demeanour.

The cockerel should have a large, brightly coloured comb and wattles, a full round eye, a powerful, well-curved beak, a full tail, a broad back, straight and wide-spaced legs, and a pugnacious demeanour. Keep in mind that the male makes up half of your breeding flock.

The same essential advice applies when purchasing young chicks. The vigour, energy, and vitality of the chicks you buy are all crucial. A bird that lacks these characteristics will never be lucrative or satisfying. A weak or sickly young chick will never produce a good hen, even with the best of care and nourishment.

The sex of baby chicks is difficult and expensive to establish. As a result, most chicks are sold as mixed sexes. You can buy solely females, but they will be more expensive, and you will discover that buying the mixed run is more cost effective.

Check to see if the chicks you buy are robust and fluffy. Their eyes should be bright and noticeable, and their entire demeanour should be one of vitality and contentment.

Chickens who “peep” constantly and remain immobile with closed or half-closed eyes are either cold, hungry, or unwell, and should not be kept in your backyard.

Backyard Chicken Housing And Equipment

You’ll need the following items for minimal basic needs while planning your backyard chicken coop and equipment. They may be bought or made at a low cost at home.

  • 1. The Chicken House

Keep in mind that chickens require plenty of space and ventilation, as well as a constant temperature throughout the day. When creating your designs and building or remodelling your chicken coop, keep in mind drafts, moisture, too tight quarters, and temperature extremes.

A professionally constructed chicken coop may be had for as low as $170. If you are adept with tools, you can quickly and inexpensively make your own.

Depending on the breed and the number of hens kept together, each laying hen should have 3 to 5 feet of floor area.

Because each bird has access to all areas of the home, 300 square feet is adequate for a flock of 100 Leghorns, but if just five are housed together, they need have at least 25 feet of floor space. The smaller the flock, the less room is required per bird.

Build your poultry coop one and a half times as deep as it is broad if feasible. Place the roost toward the rear of the room, away from drafts. Except in severe snow or rainstorms, keep a portion of the front door open at all times.

Because cracks and knotholes create drafts, which are hazardous to the birds’ health, the back and sides should be sealed.

In a building, a hinged board running along the extreme top of the back end that may be opened during hot weather should be supplied. This allows the animal heat, which is so important for the birds’ wellbeing in the winter, to escape during the summer evenings.

There’s no need to bother about other ventilation because there’s an opening at the front.

The open front will provide an abundance of fresh air without the risk of drafts; it will keep the house reasonably cool in the middle of bright sunny winter days when a glass front, which is a free conductor of heat, would make the house extremely warm, resulting in a very wide variation in temperature over the twenty-four hours, which is a condition that must be avoided.

Let me say it again. Make sure there are no cracks or knotholes on the back of the home, as drafts are quite dangerous.

It will assist if you cover the roof and sides of the home with some type of lightweight roofing material. For the front, use standard one- or two-inch mesh wire netting with a muslin or burlap curtain that can be lowered in driving snow or rain storms, as well as on particularly chilly evenings.

The chickens will be healthy, robust, and comfortable in a house built according to the designs given above, regardless of how low the temperature drops.

  • 2.  Poultry House Furniture

After you’ve finished building your house, you’ll need to outfit it with items that are necessary for the hen’s survival. This will include the following items: 

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The hen’s nest in the nest box. The hen’s Only while depositing or hatching eggs does the hen occupy the nest. For every three hens, you’ll need around one nest.

The most important features of a good nest are that it is spacious and has enough material depth to protect the eggs from being damaged.

If thickly lined or “bedded” with hay, straw, leaves, shavings, or other soft material to minimize egg breaking, a 14-inch square and 10-inch deep box will make a good nest.

An regular orange shipping box, when placed on its side, makes lovely nesting material for two chickens. The center divider may be removed and the crate utilized for a single hen if desired.

To keep the lining from falling out of the nest if the orange box is turned on its side, a strip of wood approximately 4 inches high must be fastened along the lower half of the open side.

It’s a good idea to attach a short stick or pole in front of the nest so the hen has somewhere to land while she’s flying from the ground to the nest.

About two feet from the ground, nail the nest box to the henhouse wall. This will free up more room on the floor, and the birds will be less likely to struggle with hens on nests, breaking and smearing the eggs.

Although wood nest boxes are common, metal nests are preferred since they are easy to clean and lice-free.

Water fountains or waterers for the hens to sip from. Many various types can suffice for your needs. Place your waterer, however, on a box or small platform approximately 6 inches from the ground. This helps to keep the water clean by preventing filth and trash from getting scraped into it.

Watering Pan. For convenient access, the waterer should be positioned towards the middle of the hen house, or it can be placed on a platform adjacent to the chicken house to save floor space.

A popular pan is a galvanized iron pan with an adapter that holds an average gallon water jug upside down, allowing the water to flow into the pan only as quickly as the chicken can use it. This font displays the amount of water that is still available at any given time.

In the same way that the water fount should be suspended from the hen house roof, the feed hopper or feeder for mash or grain should be hung from the hen house roof or put on an elevation six inches above the floor.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Laying House Waterer. For sanitary reasons, whether you build your own or buy a ready-made feeder, one of the self-filling varieties is recommended.Place your feeder  To the left of the hen house door. In this posture, you’ll have little trouble refilling your supplies.

The chickens utilize the roost as a place to sleep. It is made out of a pole with a diameter of 1 to 2 inches that is fastened across the back part of the hen house around 10 inches from the back wall.

It should be around 30 inches off the ground. Allow about 10 inches between each chicken and the pole. You may install a parallel pole 10 inches away for more roosting area.

The falling board is built below the roost and around 20 to 36 inches above the floor. This is a shelf that ranges in width from two feet for one roost pole to three feet for two poles, on which the droppings are collected while the chickens rest for the night.

Droppings can be scraped into a box or basket and put on the grass or garden on a regular basis. Nothing is better for your lawn or garden than hen manure.

Litter is necessary for the hens’ health. It’s made up of wood shavings, peat moss, straw, and other materials, and it’s spread out over the chicken house’s floor like a carpet.

It acts as insulation, helping to keep the chicken coop warm. It also absorbs chicken droppings, keeping the chicken coop clean. Grain may be put into the litter to provide exercise for the hens as they scratch for it.

Just a little word on littering. There are two approaches. The first step is to clear out the litter every two or three weeks and replace it with fresh new stuff. The “build-up” technique, which is the second and preferred way, is as follows:

Spread a thin layer of litter on the floor when you initially put the pullets in the home. Let’s say it’s two inches thick.

As this becomes soiled and broken up, add more every two or three weeks to gradually build up a thick, dry, absorbent body of material that will absorb all moisture, provide deep scratching for the chickens when grain is thrown in it, and provide a very warm, well insulated “carpet” for the hens during the winter.

Clean it out in the spring, and the litter, thoroughly broken up and combined with hen manure, will make your grass or garden happy. Particularly if peat moss was utilized as the litter.

The organic matter in peat moss and the nitrogen in manure combine to create a well-balanced manure that may be used for a variety of applications.

Dusting Box. The hen “dusts” in the dust box, which is a low box filled with dry soil. Dusting is a natural procedure by which the hen cleans her feathers and keeps lice at bay. The chicken covers itself in fine dust, which kills bodily parasites, by flying around in the dust box.

The dust box should be 15 or 18 inches square with a height of around 2 inches. Never use wood ashes; instead, use dry soil, coal ashes, and other similar materials.

Catching hook. A capturing hook is one of the most useful and inexpensive pieces of poultry-house“furniture” that should be hung on the wall of every home.

It’s made out of a five-foot long length of strong wire with a hook on one end and a wooden handle on the other. With this hook, one may reach out and grab the leg of any chicken he wishes to study, slowly drawing her toward him without disturbing the rest of the flock.

The “hooked” chicken will not realize she is being caught until she is in the hands of the catcher. The Ace Catcher is a low-cost, ready-made device that can be obtained from dealers almost everywhere.

Leg bands are, of course, useful for identifying the different birds. However, a novice with a small flock should pay close enough attention to his flock that each bird becomes an individual in his eyes.

No two living creatures are alike, and chickens are no different than people, albeit with lesser variances. In general, the poultryman who is so invested in his chickens that he knows each one by name is the one who succeeds.

Punching a tiny hole in the web of the foot between the toes is one of the easiest techniques of tracking the breeding of the chicks. Stores that sell poultry supplies and equipment sell a tiny toe punch for this purpose.

There are 16 distinct marking combinations that may be utilized, each indicating a different “mating” or parentage.

When the chick is just a few days old and the skin between her toes is still extremely thin, this toe punching should be done. If the chick gets older and her skin thickens, the opening is more likely to close up and the distinguishing feature, Leg Bands, will become obscured.

If the Toe Punch Little is used, more chicken house “furniture” may be required until the chick-raising stage is reached, but that’s a different tale.

  • 3. The Brooder
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This device keeps newborn chicks warm for the first six weeks of their lives. It may be stored in the cellar, kitchen, or any other area, or even in the chicken coop.

Brooders come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The “Floor” or “umbrella” brooder and the “Battery” brooder are the two most popular varieties.

The floor or “umbrella” brooder is the most popular form of brooder used by both big and small chicken farmers. It can brood between 15 and 500 chicks and is heated by electricity.

This article is created specifically for backyard chicken raisers, and it will cover the most popular sizes and varieties used in growing small flocks of chicks.

The floor brooder, which can hold 25 to 100 chicks, is generally heated with electricity, but it may be be heated with kerosene if there is no power available.

For the first week, it is usually heated with a normal incandescent light bulb of sufficient power to maintain a temperature of 90 to 95 degrees beneath the “umbrella” or hover.

An average 60-watt bulb should suffice if the brooder is placed in a cellar with a temperature of 60 or 70 degrees.

If the chicks congregate in a ring at the outside border of the circular hover and look contented, the heat level is appropriate. The heat is insufficient if people flock to the center and tend to “huddle” or “pile up.”

If you keep an eye on them the first day, they’ll tell you whether or not the heat is appropriate. The appropriate amount of heat is critical for the chicks’ good start in life.

The above type of brooder is put on the floor after a half-inch of litter, such as peat moss, shavings, or other material, has been applied to the area where it will stand.

A circular “fence” of corrugated paper or half-inch mesh wire netting approximately a foot high should be put around the outer circle for the first two or three days.

This should be approximately six inches from the hover’s outside circle, and it may be removed after a few days and replaced with a bigger yard. When the chicks feel like it, they should be able to go away from the brooder heat and return when they are in need of warmth and sleep.

Outside the hover, place the feed and water bowls. While they must remain inside the temporary “fence” at first, once this fence is removed and the larger yard is constructed, feed and water should be placed a short distance from the brooder to allow the chicks to run back and forth between the warmth of the brooder and the invigorating cooler air where the feed is placed, giving them exercise.

The temperature should be 90 to 95 degrees the first week, 85 to 90 degrees the second week, and 80 to 85 degrees the third week for heat beneath the hover 3 inches off the floor. Following that, as the chicks’ bodies expand and create more animal heat, the heat from the brooder may be reduced more quickly.

If you pay attention to the chicks, you’ll be able to judge whether or not the heat is appropriate.

Feed, department, and hardware stores sell the small square or “Battery” style brooder. In the standard size (about 2 feet square and 8 inches high), one may easily start with 15 to 25 chicks. In the writer’s perspective, there is no better approach to start the newborn chicks during the first two or three weeks.

On the exterior, the feed dish is at one end of the brooder and the water dish is at the other. The chicks will eat and drink via holes or gaps in the brooder ends.

Because the chicks are contained in the brooder for the first few weeks, it may be put on a bench or table, making it very simple to feed, drink, and clean the brooder.

This brooder is made of corrugated paper, galvanized iron, or plastic and is heated by an electric light bulb. It features a half-inch wire netting or “hardware cloth” bottom with a tray for easy and thorough cleaning beneath it.

The brooder is kept odourless and hygienic with this technique of cleaning, and it may be put in the kitchen or any other area of the house, just like the birdcage or dog bed.

At first, the bulb wattage is decided by the temperature of the room where the brooder is installed, and ranges from 60 watts for a cold room to 25 watts for a warm room. As the chicks develop and their body heat rises, the temperature of this sort of brooder should be reduced.

  • 4. The Chicken Run

The hens may exercise and get some sun in this wire enclosure adjacent to the hen house. The 2 inch wire mesh fence may be 5 feet high, with length and breadth varying depending on available area. If you want to cover it with more wire mesh, you’ll have to go up to two feet high.

  • 5. Fencing

If you don’t keep your hens in the hen house, this is a must. It should be high enough to keep your hens from flying out as well as rodents, cats, dogs, and other animals out.

Fencing that is 5 feet high is generally sufficient, especially if the feathers on the hens’ wings are clipped, preventing them from flying over long periods of time.

For poultry fence, standard 2-inch octagonal mesh wire chicken netting is commonly used. The ideal height for wide spaces is 5 feet, but in tiny yards where the hen must fly out quickly, the 6-foot height is preferable. The 1-inch mesh is excellent for young chicks.

Your wire netting fence should never have a board or rail at the top. This board or rail will provide the hens with a defined height at which to aim their flight; if a rail other than the baseboard is used, it must be topped with extra wire netting that is visible to the birds.

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