When we first started raising chickens we were completely overwhelmed by the amount of information available. We bought every book on raising chickens and poured over websites. There was an endless amount of information out there about raising chickens. What we needed most was a simple introductory post on raising chickens for beginners. We just needed to know the basics to get started, and with the understanding that you do too, we wrote this post!
Where do you start?
Read, read, and read some more! Doing research before buying chickens is going to be a huge help. You need to go into this venture as well informed as possible. You’re on the right track just by reading this article!
What are the basic supplies I need to raise chickens?
Raising chickens is relatively inexpensive and you can get started with very few supplies.
These are the basic supplies you’ll need to get started raising chickens:
- Nesting Box – Nesting boxes are mounted to the wall of the coop, it’s where your chickens will (ideally) go to lay their eggs.
- Roost – The roost is where your chickens sleep at night. Most people mount a piece of lumber like a 2×4 or thick dowel in the coop. The chickens fly up to it and sit on it to roost at night.
- Water fount – A water fount holds water for your birds and keeps their water clean.
- Poultry Feeder – A poultry feederwill dispense chicken feed, keeping it up off the ground and unsoiled.
Nesting boxes are easy to build, or you can re-purpose items like buckets, planters, or baskets to turn them into nesting boxes. Roosts are also quite easy to come by, we just use a few large tree branches for our roosts! You will want to invest in a quality water fount and feeder. Cheap supplies will break soon after buying them, so it’s worthwhile to get something nice now!
Where do I get a chicken coop?
There are many options out there for chicken coops. If you’re handy, there are lots of free plans online for how to build a chicken coop. We’ve put our ten favorites into this post to make it easy for you to choose! If you’re not-so-handy, or you just want a few chickens, you may want to start out with a pre-fabricated chicken coop. There are chicken coop kits for sale on Amazon, or you can pick up a pre-built coop at places like Tractor Supply, Runnings, and Home Depot.
What’s the Difference Between a Coop and a Run?
A chicken coop is an enclosed house in which your chickens sleep and lay their eggs. A chicken run is an outdoor pen, usually attached to the coop, where the chickens can get fresh air and sit in the sunshine. The run is usually enclosed by chicken wire or fencing to keep the chickens in and keep predators out. The chicken coop is where the roost and nesting boxes are located. Poultry feeders and founts can be located either in the coop, the run, or in both, just make sure your chickens always have access to their food and water.
Where do you buy chickens?
Finding the right place to buy chickens can be tricky. There are tons of options out there, from mail order chicks to adopting from your local shelter.
By far the easiest way to get chickens is to order them online from a place like Meyer Hatchery. You pick out your favorite breeds, add them to your cart, pay online, and your box of chicks magically shows up at your post office!
If you don’t want to order online, there are lots of other options for acquiring chicks. We have a whole post just about where and how to buy chickens, check it out!
What do chickens eat?
When your chickens are young, between one day old and 12 weeks old, they will eat Chicken Starter Grower. As your chickens grow you can transition them to eating grower feed, then when they get close to 6 months old, start feeding them Layer Feed. That’s all you need for the base diet for your chickens. We also love to give our chickens treats including kitchen scraps, insects, and weeds from the garden.
Should I free range my chickens or keep them cooped up?
The choice between free ranging or not is really up to you and your situation. The nice thing about it is, you don’t have to decide right away. If your chickens have a nice chicken run or chicken tractor that they can use, they really don’t need to free range. Free ranging offers a lot of benefits, like free access to grit and foraged food, but it’s not necessary for the health and happiness of your birds. Our friends over at A Farmish Kind of Life have us convinced that it’s okay to keep your birds inside.
We hope this article has helped to get you more comfortable with the idea of raising chickens. Raising chickens for beginners can be so overwhelming, and it truly doesn’t need to be. Keep in mind that you’ll never stop learning about raising chickens, and it’s perfectly fine to learn as you go, in fact we encourage it!
If you want to dive in further, our favorite book on raising chickens for beginners is Chickens From Scratch. It’s a wonderful read that teaches everything you’ll need to know to get started with raising chickens without causing overwhelm. To read our review of this wonderful book, check out our post Cream of the Crop: Chickens from Scratch!