How Do I Start My Flock!?
How Do I Start My Flock!?

How Do I Start My Flock!?

I get this question a lot, so thought I’d share some tips on how to get started for a first time wanna be chicken tender (pun intended). Owning chickens is actually fairly simple, but it’s definitely a good idea to do a bit of research before you adopt some birds!

Start by checking with your city to find out their rules regarding chickens. We live in unincorporated land, so we asked the county. Our county amazingly doesn’t have strict rules regarding chickens! Many cities do have rules about how many chickens people can have, whether or not they can have roosters, and sometimes there needs to be a certain distance between the neighbors and where the chickens are kept.

The next step is to choose what breeds of chicken you want to keep. If you’re keeping chickens mostly for pets, I recommend getting bantams (smaller in size than standard chickens), like silkies, d’uccles, or seramas. These breeds do lay eggs, but they are small and the girls generally lay fewer eggs than other breeds. Cochins, polish, and many other standard breeds also come in bantam size, if you like your chickens to be on the small side. Bantams are also a good option if your space is limited. Silkies and d’uccles are my personal favorite bantam breeds, because I think they’re beautiful and super sweet and snuggly. I call the d’uccles my teddy bears, and the silkies my bunnies!

If your primary goal is to have eggs you’ll likely want full sized chickens! I personally love the colored egg layers, and have chosen to offer blue, green, and brown egg layers from Buckaboo Farm, because those colors make me so happy! I love helping our customers chase the egg rainbow!!! Most of my colored layers lay frequently, and each egg is a work of art. God must have had so much fun creating chickens! In case you’re wondering, I do have chickens on the farm that are not for breeding, but for pets. I have a blue laced red wyandotte, a silver laced cochin, an ancona, a lavender orpington, and a speckled sussex that I consider pets. In the past I’ve also had golden comets…they are super sweet and lay almost daily for about 2 years! You can get these breeds at most hatcheries. I don’t recommend Whiting true blues or anconas, because they tend to be skittish. Our ancona is sweet, but that isn’t normal. Polish also tend to be a bit skittish, but they’re so funny and beautiful, that I love keeping them and offering my favorite colors to you. They lay a large white egg.

If you want both pets and eggs, choose a fun combination of chickens that makes you feel happy! These creatures can bring so much joy! In my experience it has worked to keep bantams in with full sized chickens, as long as they have enough space. If you do try this, though, be ready with a back up plan if the bigger ones pick on the smaller ones…maybe a smaller coop for the bantams inside the bigger run.

Some people also want chickens to raise as meat birds. There are some breeds that have been bred specifically for this purpose (for example, broilers), but I personally do not recommend them. Broilers tend to grow so quickly that their legs cannot hold them up and their feathers do not keep up with their body growth. Eventually I would like to raise birds for meat, but I do not plan on buying these birds. Instead, I’d like to raise dual purpose birds, like Delawares, that are good for eating and for laying eggs. Black copper marans are the best dual purpose birds in my flock at this point (Ross the Rooster, pictured above, is a beautiful and very large bcm boy!). Dual purpose birds tend to be healthy, strong, and happy if treated well. Don’t get me started on the American agricultural system…for now I will just say that I’m not against eating meat, but I am very against torturing animals! At this point our little farm does not have the space to raise meat birds, but if I have a mean rooster I warn him that chicken soup is an option…

Once you’ve chosen the right breeds for you, the next step is to decide what age you want. Raising chicks is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work! If you’d like to raise chicks, check out this article with instructions and tips on how to do it! There’s also a lot of information on Backyard Chickens. If you want to go back even further, and hatch your own babies, here’s some information about using an incubator to hatch eggs. There are a few other articles on raising chicks on my Chicken Keepers Guide page. I know I need to add lots more, but it’s a start!

If you don’t want to invest the time and money to set up a brooder and raise chicks, juveniles may be a good option for you. I offer juveniles in the 4-8 weeks range and in the 9-15 weeks range. These young ones still need to be fed starter feed, but they don’t need nearly as much attention as the tiny babies. In a moderate climate you can keep juveniles in an outdoor coop, but the 4-8 week olds may still need heat at night if it gets too cold. Our grow out pen with 4-8 week olds has a heat lamp set up in a safe place and set to turn on at sunset and off at sunrise. Just make sure you keep them in a covered coop and run that is predator proof. I also recommend keeping Corid in their water if you keep juveniles outside. Every yard has coccidia bacteria in it, which becomes more prolific in the rain, by the way. Adult chickens can handle coccidia, but it can easily kill young ones. Corid will help protect them from it.

If you’d like to skip the chick phase all together you’ll want to search for pullets that are at least 5 or 6 months old. Our farm only offers these if we happen to have some available, but we generally don’t have the space to grow them out. 9-15 week olds may be a good option for you, but we recommend keeping them in a smaller pen if you have bigger chickens, until they are big enough to go in with the adults. Sometimes you can also find someone rehoming their hens in the facebook chicken groups, so that may be your best bet!

I’m planning on writing another article on how to care for adult chickens soon, so keep your eyes open for that one! Happy chickening, friends!