Have you thought about farm fresh eggs in the morning?
There’s nothing like fresh eggs; there is no mistaking the taste, the consistency of the yoke and the egg white. Farm fresh eggs have no equal? But you live in the city? What to do then? Municipalities have started allowing small farm animals in urban areas, so as a result, many people have started raising backyard chickens. Please check with your city before purchasing your feathered friends.
Looks easy? There are several important things that you need to know before you venture into the chicken coop.
Here are the top 10 things to know plus more….
1. You should never have just one chicken. They are social animals and need companionship.
2. Chickens really do have a “pecking order”! There is a hierarchy of the flock with some being known to bully other chickens in the coop. A good rule of thumb is to introduce new chickens to the flock in bonded pairs, that way at least they have each other. Usually, the bullying settles down after a couple of weeks when everyone has settled into their position in the flock. If there is one chicken that continues to bully and fight, it might have to be re-homed.
3. Chickens definitely have distinct personalities, just like people. Get to know your chickens and enjoy them. You will probably name them, as many people do, and be ready for them to become part of your family.
4. Worried about your neighbors? Chickens can be noisy and are usually the noisiest right after they lay their eggs. It’s sometimes called their “song”. The rest of the time they “coo” and “cluck” depending on the breed. You can check with your breeder for the correct breed if noise is of a concern for you.
5. Did you know you don’t need a rooster to get eggs? Your hens will lay with or without a rooster. If you have a rooster, your eggs will likely be fertilized but there is no difference in nutrition or taste. However, you do need a rooster to raise your own chickens.
6. Chickens produce a lot of waste! 😊 But, this might not be all bad. Chicken “poop” is one of the best things you can put in your compost pile. As part of your compost mix, you can put it in your garden or use it as lawn fertilizer.
7. Chickens will scratch and dig for bugs. If you have a nice yard, make sure you have a separate area for the chickens. Your lawn may not fair well otherwise. Even if you free range your chickens, a coop is a great idea. The coop provides such necessities as protection from weather and predators, as well as a place for hens to roost and sleep up off the ground. Make sure to make the coop a little bigger than you think you will need. Chickens need their “space”. Additionally, make sure you provide running space outside the coop. Chickens love to peck around, scratch and play.
8. Chickens can live up to 10 years. However, their egg producing years are between 5-7. Remember, a purchase of a chicken is a commitment to take care of them. Some people will eat their chickens after their productive years are behind them, but most consider them pets. Make sure you are ready to make the commitment.
9. Chickens can get sick, just like every other animal. Many vets do not deal much with chickens so it will help to do a little research yourself on things you can do to keep your birds happy and healthy. Click here, Chicken First Aid Kit, for a list of things that might be handy for you to have around in case of emergencies.
10. Chickens are good at cleaning up food waste from meals which also means that you are beginning to provide sustainable living. You are eating non-commercially produced eggs, the chickens eat your food waste, and the chickens waste provides products for your compost pile. Chickens will eat bugs, (earwigs, grubs and beetles, etc.) that are destructive to your other plants. They will also like treats, check out our treat and food chart. It includes treats as well as what you should feed your chickens on a daily basis. There are only a few things that chickens cannot eat and you can check out on this list as well.
Once you’ve decided that you are ready for chickens, the fun begins. Do some research on breeds and pick out the ones that are good layers and generally have the personality you are looking for. I would suggest buying from a feed store or hatchery that can special order chicks for you. Large stores will bring in lots of chicks for Spring and Easter and do not necessarily worry about the breed, sex or vaccinations. Special ordering has another advantage; you can, in most cases, order all hens or roosters (if that’s your choice). Many larger stores only bring in “straight runs”, which means the sex of the chick has not been determined. Therefore, you could think you are purchasing hens and get roosters. Here at our store, we also have our chicks vaccinated for Marek’s disease before they are shipped from the hatchery. See below.
You also need to feed chick starter to your chicks for the first 8-12 weeks. Using medicated or non-medicated foods are up to you and a subject of another post later. Medicated feed is formulated for chicks to help them combat coccidiosis. See below. Most medicated starter feeds contain medication (probiotics), not antibiotics, that will help baby chicks fight off the cocci oocysts while building immunity. It is preventative. If you have vaccinated for coccidiosis, do not feed medicated food as it will nullify the vaccination, but not hurt the chicks. If you have vaccinated for Marek’s disease, the vaccination will not be affected by the use of medicated feed.
Marek’s Disease – A contagious Herpes virus; affects chicks usually between 12-20 weeks, and is many times fatal. It cannot be passed to humans. Symptoms can include; paralysis of the legs, wings and neck, loss of weight, grey iris or irregular pupil, vision impairment, and raised and rough skin around the feather follicles.
Coccidiosis – A common intestinal disease caused by several species of parasites. The parasites rapidly multiply, damaging the intestinal lining, preventing chickens from absorbing nutrients from their food. These microscopic parasites are everywhere such as on the ground and in feces. Clean coops are a must. The disease can cause intestinal bleeding, listlessness, dehydration and loss of appetite to name a few. It is not contagious to other animals or humans.