Last Spring I convinced my husband that we needed backyard chickens. I’d read a little, very little on raising chickens and it just seemed liked a good idea to me. They are so cute when they are little and they lay eggs when they’re older.
He didn’t think it was a terrible idea, so we searched Pinterest for the perfect hen house. Perfect meaning, inexpensive and relatively easy to build. We came across this little gem from Anna White.Com.
We downloaded the material list and Jeffrey, my sweet husband got to work. The instructions said it would take like 5 hours and $100 to build. Well, Jeffrey is an extreme perfectionist so it took him 2 weeks and cost more like $300 to build.
I was getting kinda worried, because we had purchased the babies already and they were growing fast. In fact, we had one adventurous girl trying to fly already. I approperatley named her Amelia.
We chose to only buy sexed chicks. We only wanted pullets for eggs. No ROOSTERS! Our neighbors would be unhappy with us if we had roosters. We live in rural community just outside of town, so keeping our neighbors happy is a priority.
We purchased 4 little ones, 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes and 2 Black Sex links. We kept them in a large storage tub in our shed and kept a heating lamp on them 24 x 7. We used wood savings and news paper on the bottom and changed it every day.
We fed them Organic non GMO Crumble until they became laying pullets. Once they began to lay eggs, we moved them to Organic non GMO Layer.
What They Love To Eat
Now that they are older, for treats we feed them oats, watermelon, strawberries, shredded carrots and almost anything from our garden.
They LOVE clover. So in the summer I like to go out several times a day, a pick a hand full of clover and watch them go crazy. They get so excited. I like to put the oats in a round coke bottle with wholes drilled in it. This keeps them from getting bored and gives them a treat.
In the winter, I will give them warm oats in the morning, they love that for sure. I just pour warm water over Organic Oats and let it sit for a few, then take it to them.
Know What They Can’t Eat
There are a few things that aren’t safe for chickens, like tomato leaves and apple seeds. Make sure you know what they can and can’t have.
One of my favorite things about raising backyard chickens is their personality. The are very chatty and ours are rather social with us. We’ve been holding our ladies since they were babies. I think that has helps a great deal to make them pets instead of just an egg source.
If you are interested in raising backyard chickens, I’ve added a detailed check list below:
- Make SURE you are in an area that allows farm animals. Check with your local government. City or county.
- Make sure you have the financial means to support chickens. Our Hen House cost about $300 to build, but you can do it for less. We spend about $25 a month on feed and bedding.
- Decide the purpose of your chickens, i.e.: eggs, more chickens, meat and/or pets
- How many do you want? Our girls generally each lay 1 egg a day, and I wouldn’t dream of eating my chickens. So 4 is perfect for us.
- Where you will get them. We purchased ours form the feed store. However, you can probably pick them up from a local farm as well. You can order them off the web and possible Craig’s List. Although, you may end up with a rooster unless they have been sexed.
- What type of brooder you will use. We just used a large storage tub in our shed with a heat lamp attached. They need to stay there until they feather. When you first get them they are fuzzy. You will know when they feather and it’s time to put them out.
- Choose your hen house. You can build one or buy one. Even if you want them to be completely free range, they will need a place to lay eggs and sleep. It’s also important to keep them safe from predators like raccoons, opossums and dogs.
- The Size of hen house you want. Each chicken needs about 4 square feet of space. We bought 4 pullets and built a 16 square foot hen house. We are currently in the process of building a little fenced in area for them for this summer. Our coop is big enough for them, but I want them to have a little more freedom.
- What type of food you want to feed them. I use an Organic, non GMO feed from the feed store. There are several links on Pinterest to websites where you can learn to make your own feed. I chose Organic and non GMO, because we are eating the eggs. Those things are important to me.
- Purchase feeding and watering containers from the feed store as well. Or look at Pinterest to make your own.
- Make sure you give them fresh water daily and several times a day during the summer months. In winter months the water tends to freeze. There are warmers you can use, but we give them fresh water early in the morning and in the afternoon.
- Keep the laying area clean. I scoop the messy bedding to the bottom of the Hen House each morning when I go for the eggs. Moving it to the bottom gives the girls something to do. They will scratch and move it all around. You will want to check for eggs a few times a day as well. We usually have 2 in the morning, 1 in the early afternoon and 1 in the late afternoon.
- If you want eggs in the winter, make sure you have a light set up for them. We just used our original heat lamp from when they were little. Jeffrey turns it on just before dusk and shuts it off a few hours after dark. So in W. WA that means about 4:30 or 5pm and then off about 7pm.
If you leave the light on all night, the girls will not go to bed. At least in our experience. If you don’t use a light in the winter, you most likely won’t get any eggs. We’ve gone away for the weekend and had no one to turn on the light for them. We came home to no eggs. Also, we do not use the lamp to keep them warm, we let them adapt to the weather. We do put vasaline on their combs to protect from frost bite.
I think that’s it. If you want to learn more check out my PINTEREST board, I<3 My Chickens. It has everything I’ve read about Backyard Chickens.
Do you have backyard chickens? I’d love to hear about them. Did I miss anything important in my list? Let me know.
Happy Spring! ♥