This is the second post in our two-part series on raising backyard chickens. In the last post, we covered some of the more practical issues of raising chickens, including how to decide which type of coop you should build and planning for food and water for your chickens.
In this second part, we will discuss how to determine which breed of chicken you want to raise, how to care for your newly hatched chicks, sandpits for caring for your chickens after they are grown.
Determining Which Breed To Raise
There are several things to consider as you decide which breed of chicken you want to raise. You need to decide which factors are most important to you: do you care most about how many eggs your chicken will lay, are you most concerned with raising breeds that are known for having a nicer personality, or do you care more about raising a heritage breed.
Currently, the author of this post has had personal experience raising five different breeds: Rhode Island Red, American Sex Link, Buff Orpington, Silver Laced Wyandotte, and a mix of an Australorp and Black Orpington. Here is a brief description of each breed.
- Rhode Island Red: This breed is known for being a good layer, and has a mild, kind personality. This one is not as quick to run from predators as some of the other breeds we had.
- American Sex Link: This breed is an exceptionally good layer, and is very kind and curious. Of all five of the breeds, this one was the favorite of our family. Like the Rhode Island Red, the Sex Link was not as quick to run from predators. However, a secure coop can solve that problem.
- Buff Orpington: This breed is not as good of a layer as the first two, and is a little more aggressive. However, this hen was a beautiful breed.
- Silver Laced Wyandotte: For our family, this hen was one of the more aggressive of all the breeds, but was a pretty consistent layer. She tended to pick on some of the weaker hens in the bunch, was not the most aggressive. She was quick to run from trouble and was one of our most beautiful hens.
- The mix: of all of our hens, this one was the most aggressive, and the most likely to go broody. If we had had a rooster, she would have made an excellent mother. This hen also laid blue eggs, which was a true delight for our family.
Where to Buy
Our suggestion is to purchase newly hatched chicks for your first time. Hatching eggs yourself is a rewarding experience, but one that is best tackled with much education and research. To purchase chicks of your own, visit a local farm and tractor supply store, and look online for different hatcheries. You will also find many different options available on Craigslist or a group on Facebook.
The first 60 days are very important in caring for your chicks. You will need a chick brooder and pine shavings for the flooring. It is important to keep the chicks very warm at first, and so you will need a source of heat that you can trust won’t be a fire hazard. Chicks also need a good source of water (you will need to show them where it is by dipping their beak in it) and chick crumbles and starter.
It is also important to handle your chicks often. The more they become familiar with being around people, the more likely they are to be friendly to you and your children. This will also make it easier any time you need to touch them.
After the initial 60 days, your chickens can be placed in their coop. You will want to make sure that they have a good flooring of pine shavings, a source of food and water that they can reach, and places to roost.
While chickens are pretty independent, there are a few things they will require of you. The floor of the coop needs to be changed often (but will result in a rich compost), the food and water must be checked regularly, and the hens need to be allowed to range. It also helps to have a sandy place for them to dig and burrow (this is one way they help to keep themselves clean).
It will take a few months for your chickens to hatch their first eggs, but it will be worth the wait. Few things are as enjoyable as cooking eggs from your own backyard.
Do you raise backyard chickens? What advice would you share for our readers?