As some of you may know, I love my chickens. No, I adore my chickens. I have always wanted chickens have have spent many years researching how I want to raise them. As I share my chickens on social media sites, like twitter (@0tohomestead) I have heard from a lot from people that they would like to invest in a small flock of backyard chickens themselves. I love this idea, and I would love nothing more than to help everyone achieve this goal. However, not all chickens are alike and it’s important to do your research beforehand.
How am I going to raise these chickens?
Before you decide to invest in your little dinosaurs you need to know how you plan on keeping them. Do you need a coop? How many chickens will your coop hold? Will your coop have a run? Do you want your run to be stationary or will it move like a chicken tractor? Will you let your chickens free range on your property during the day and put them up at night or will they be 100% reliant on you for food? How will you keep them from predators? These are really important questions that have direct effects on the health of your chickens and the quality of your eggs. Chickens that get some time to free range on bugs have higher quality nutrient content in their eggs than those that rely 100% on feed, but they are also more susceptible to predators. Personally for backyard chickens I like the idea of mobile chicken runs.
Personally I wanted to stay away from using heavy amounts of chicken feed. We use a mixture of feed and dried worms while they are young (and still in their nest boxes). Once they get moved out to the coop I feed them at night to get them all to go inside, but it’s more like a snack then a meal. I want them reliant on the farm for their sustenance. In the mornings they get let out and are free to roam the entire property, although most of them stay within a reasonable radius of the coop. Predation is an issue for us, but the farm dogs help immensely with this.
Where to purchase
It’s also important to know where you would like to purchase your tiny t-rex. You can either:
1) Go down to your local farm supply store, like Rural King or Tractor Supply, and purchase the chickens they have available. While sometimes they have more exotic varieties available, you will typically find the mid-size mild tempered good egg layers. I’ll get into these later. The most important thing to remember if you go this route is that these chickens don’t have a warranty. It’s nearly impossible (unless the person working with them actually cares about their job) to know when the chicks came in or how well they were taken care of in those first fragile 24-48 hours. Always ALWAYS buy a water conditioner for these chicks, something to give them a vitamin boost to help build up their immune system. Also keep in mind that you may lose a few. The good thing about buying from places like this is that the chicks are usually cheaper and you can buy them and take them home the same day.
2. Purchase them from a breeder. We prefer Murray McMurray Hatchery but there are plenty our there to chose from. You can even google reviews to make sure you are buying from a reputable breeder. We place our orders in late January to have them come in sometime in March or April. While they are more expensive we can buy the more exotic breeds that aren’t sold in the supply stores, and we can have them immunized if we want. Plus they have a warranty, so if they are sick or dead when they arrive they will replace them, although we have yet to have that happen.
What kind of chicken to get
Next you need to decide what kind of chicken you want. The typical egg laying breeds you find at supply stores are Ameraucanas, Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, Wyandottes, and Rhode Island Red. Sometimes you will find Leghorns, but not often. These are all pretty nice mid size breeds that are good egg layers and are fairly mild mannered. If you are ordering from a hatchery you have a much wider selection. We went with Light Brahmas because they were dual purpose (large and good egg layers so you can eat them as well as use them for eggs) and they were mild mannered with a better potential for brooding (hatching their own eggs). You can also go for more exotic looking breeds like the Cochins that are large, super sweet, and very fluffy! We have also been very happy with our Cream Legbars. Make sure when you are researching breeds that you look at egg laying (if you are raising them for eggs) and temperament. Overall those are really your most important traits.
Some of the cutest chickens are the Bantums. They are tiny versions of larger chickens. We have Bantums because my husband loves them, but they can be dicks. I do not recommend getting Bantums if they will be interacting with young children. We have one that insists that people are food. Actually 100% of our Bantums will fly at you, especially at dinner time.
Happy hunting for your chickens! Please let me know if you have any questions. I will be doing a monthly question and answer episode for my Patreon subscribers starting next month. Also let me know how your chicken adventures progress! I will never be unhappy with chicken pictures.