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By Loretta Cooke for Kimsdiytribe
Kim here. Let me start by introducing my guest writer Loretta. She is one of my closest and dearest friends for well over the last dozen years. We teach at the same school. Our job builds a unique and special kind of sisterhood that I would not trade for anything in the whole world. She is my “go to” when I need wise counsel besides my hubby. A few years back she decided to do something I have always dreamed of. We share a few dreams actually. It was to start a backyard chicken flock. I asked her to write about it for all my readers because it is such a fascinating way to DIY. She’s not a blogger…yet, but she should be. If raising chickens isn’t your thing then maybe you can find something more your cup of tea here. Loretta is a wife and mother to two amazing kids. She is a talented and avid DIY’er including some home decor and basic renovations because she has taught herself how to use many of the necessary power tools. She is smart, tech savvy, and can do anything she sets her mind to. All of this and she is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. Here is her list of the top ten things you should know if you are considering becoming a backyard chicken farmer.
Ten Things I’ve Learned Raising Chickens in My Own Backyard
By Loretta Cooke
I have always loved animals. There’s just something peaceful about them. Growing up I wanted to live on a farm, probably because I lived in the middle of a city. Fast forward 25 years and here I am still in that same city. I have grown to love it, but that farm girl is still in there. So a few years ago I casually mentioned to my husband that having backyard chickens sounded like fun. Of course he thought it was a crazy idea, but he loves to buy me gifts so…one day I came home to the cutest baby chicks you’ve ever seen. You might want a starter kit like this when you first bring your chicks home.
There is a small learning curve
At first I was ecstatic but then reality set in. I thought keeping chickens would be a piece of cake. Turns out it is, but it’s a long road to get there. Don’t let it intimidate you! Remember Kimsdiytribe is all about trying something new and enjoying the fullfillment and reward along the way. So here are the top ten things I’ve learned along the way.
Let’s Count Down the Top Ten Chicken Tips:
1. The initial investment is a bit pricey, however, chickens have a relatively low cost to maintain.
The biggest cost investment will definitely be your coop. If you are starting off small like me premade ones are a great option. My first coop was around two hundred dollars and lasted just about two years with four chickens. I free range my chickens all day so I was able to purchase a smaller coop. If you plan on keeping them in the coop you will need a large run that will increase the price of the coop. If you have the skills building a coop is your best bet for sure. You can get better quality and much more room for your flock.
2. There are so many decisions you have to make.
Some other things you will need is a feeding and watering system. These range from twenty dollars to hundreds of dollars. Of course, as with most things, the more you pay the better quality and convenience. However the twenty dollar ones worked just fine for me in the beginning. You will also need to consider bedding, feed, treats, etc. We have a local feed store where I get my organic feed, bedding, medicines, and treats but of course it’s hard to beat Amazon for price and convenience. By the way, this post contains some affiliate links from Amazon for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more)! It’s a great way to show your favorite bloggers some love. Read my full disclosure policy here https://kimsdiytribe.com/privacy-disclosure/
First you will need to decide if you are going to free range your chickens full time, part time, supervised, or not at all. Then there is the bedding choices and even what method you will use to keep your coop clean (I use the deep litter method). You will need to decide what chicken breeds you will keep and what kind of feed you will use. And once you make those decisions they will lead to even more choices. The good news is the list of pros and cons is at your fingertips. Who knew there were so many chicken books and websites?
3. Chickens poop A LOT.
The only thing to say about this one is be prepared to clean. My chickens free-range which means I am spraying off my patio daily and cleaning my coop at least once a week.
4. There are so many breeds of chickens and they each bring something different to the table.
I have kept Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, and Wyandottes. Each breed has a different temperament, egg color, and laying frequency. Orpingtons have been the friendliest. My RIR lays an egg almost every day, and my Easter Egger lays bluish-green eggs!
5. You can change the flavor and nutrients in your eggs depending on what you feed your hens.
Chickens will eat almost anything. Mine love yogurt for example. In addition to their daily feed my hens frequently get leftovers of produce, bread, and even their own eggs. Eggs are one of their favorite treats! They also peck around in the dirt all day long eating bugs, grass, and the occasional lizard. All this food affects the color of the yolk and the taste of the egg. Some of my hens are better foragers than others and their egg yolks are a creamy dark orange. They have the best flavor and are full of nutrients. You can also be intentional about increasing Omega 3 in your eggs by adding a little flaxseed to their diet.
6. You will lose chickens to predators.
Sadly this is a reality especially if you free-range your chickens. I live in the city and have lost a few hens along the way. Predators are fierce and clever so even if you keep your chickens cooped up there is a chance a predator will find a way inside. There are many things you can do to reduce the risk to your flock including keeping a rooster and buying or building a quality coop.
7. I know firsthand why we use the phrases “you’re a chicken,” and “flew the coop.”
When my hens were pullets (hens under a year old) I had the hardest time keeping them in the yard. I would frequently come home to find them in my front yard or even my neighbors yard. Thank goodness my neighbors loved my hens too! I had to resort to clipping their wings until they started laying. Once they were heavier they were too lazy to fly over the fence. I also had an unfortunate incident with a racoon (I think) that grabbed one of my chickens. The others “flew the coop” and didn’t come back for two days. Also my Easter Egger hasn’t laid an egg since. Chickens are easily traumatized. I’m hoping she will be back to laying when the time changes and the days are longer.
8. You need a plan for when your hens stop laying.
Chickens consistently lay for about 5-7 years with a reduction in frequency as they get older. They do live around 8-10 years, so you need to decide what to do with your hens when they stop laying. Some people keep them as pets, others sell them, and a lot of people use them for meat. All my hens have names so they will definitely not be on the dinner table.
9. You will know your hen laid an egg when you hear the “egg song.”
Hens make a particularly loud squawking sound right after they lay an egg. It is a cacophony like you have never heard. I’m not really sure I would use the word “song” to describe it. I don’t know why they choose to announce their egg laying to the world, but I can tell you that it is very memorable.
10. Chickens are fun to watch and have very different personalities.
My favorite thing I’ve learned is how each hen has her own personality. It is also interesting to watch the pecking order be established. My RIR is the boss for sure, and if I’m in the yard my Oprington is right by my side. My Easter Egger is very standoffish and my Austraorp is just plain mean sometimes.
Backyard chicken keeping is definitely not a glamorous hobby, but it is totally rewarding and worth it. My kids have also benefitted and learned so much from our backyard flock. Authentic, hands-on, life lessons played out right in our very own backyard.
Besides how many people can say they have a pet that provides breakfast?
If you have a backyard flock Loretta and I would love to hear your advice, comments and see your feathered friends. Please post your pics on my Facebook group page or your Instagram with the #kimsdiytribe and leave your comments below. Just hit your enter key to submit comments below to me.