Raising your own backyard chickens? Are you serious? Who would do that? We do and have for over 10 years now! And we love it! In fact, raising chickens for eggs has become quite the trend lately!
Long ago I worked for a family who lived on about 5 acres of land with a horse, a few chickens, cats, etc. After a while I kind of liked the idea of all those funny little chickens running around, so my husband & I decided to try it!
We’ve been chicken owners ever since and never looked back.
First, we went online- YES- we bought our chickens on the internet!! I couldn’t believe that you could buy live poultry online! Why not- you can buy everything else on the internet? You can buy them at your local farm store as well – usually in the spring. Most places do have a minimum number of chickens to buy though.
We started our homestead journey with 12 hens from Mt. Healthy (another great place to buy your birds is McMurray Hatchery.). We chose a mixed variety of female chickens since they were the cheapest. (You can also buy them in local farming stores in the spring.)
Unless you are experienced chicken owners with a lot of room and no neighbors close by, I do not recommend getting a rooster right away. I definitely recommend only hens first!
We spent about $30 for our 12 “ladies” AKA pullets, and they were shipped directly to our local post office. Sure enough, a few days later at 7 AM….the phone rings and woke us up.
We heard a very confused man from the post office (being drowned out by the sound of very loud chirping!) letting us know we had a delivery- and he was pretty sure they were baby chicks.
So we all rushed to get dressed- and ran down to the post office to pick up our day old chickens!! I think everyone at the post office got a chuckle out of it! We were SO excited!! We ran right home and spent the rest of the morning setting things up.
The first few weeks, before their wings are too long, we just put the chickens in a large plastic tote, with a little hamster litter on the bottom, some fresh food & water, and a nice heat lamp on them to keep them warm.
You don’t even need a lid yet! Once they got big enough, my husband actually built a beautiful coop outside for our ‘ladies’ to live in! We used to spend so much time outside just watching them, petting them, and throwing them treats to eat! (ah the life before kids!)
What did we feed them? Well, a bag of chicken feed (crushed pellets) from the farm store, and we also bought them a large bag of treats (called scratch- basically just corn kernels) which ran about $8 at the time.
Of course everything we had as food scraps in the house got thrown out to the girls. Well, almost everything. I recommend doing some research about what NOT to feed your chickens when it comes to kitchen scraps. Once the hens hit about 6 months old they started laying eggs.
Our very own FRESH ORGANIC chicken eggs! YUM! They were fabulous! I picked up some free chickens that were posted on craigslist, so we were running about 24 hens…..which means 24 eggs- EVERY DAY! What in the world was I supposed to do with all these eggs?? So we decided to start advertising on craigslist for our chicken eggs!
We sold them for $2 a dozen…..brown eggs, pinkish eggs, spotted eggs, blue-green eggs! The different colored eggs represented the different breeds of chickens- but they all tasted the same. We were selling eggs so quickly that we had more than enough money to cover all of our chicken feed expenses-plus some!
Believe it or not- chickens do not smell much at all. We don’t live on a farm, but we are just outside of city limits- so there is no restrictions on what kinds of animals we have at our house. And hens do not crow loud like roosters, so none of our neighbors knew about our 24 little treasures in the backyard! (well, except for the neighbors we sold eggs to!!)
It was a great lessons for our oldest son- he was probably one of the few 1 year olds that could run around and catch chickens like a pro! We taught him how to feed & water the chickens, as well as collect their eggs. We used to spend hours outside sitting in the yard hand feeding the girls blades of grass! Sweet memories!
Over the years we’ve had over 100 chickens at one time or another. In fact I have a new set of chicks right now! They are so much fun to raise!
Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About Chickens & their Eggs:
- The color of the egg is different for different breeds of chicken.
- Different colored eggs taste the same.
- Some rare chicken breeds have eggs that sell for over $12 a dozen!
- Chickens live about 3 years.
- The chicken eggs you get in the grocery store are about 2-3 months old when you get them!
- Fresh chicken eggs can stay OUT of the refrigerator about 14 days before starting to turn bad.
- A hen DOES lay eggs EVERY day- even without a rooster! (they only fertilize with a rooster however)
- Buying baby chicks cost about $2 each, whereas an adult chicken can sell online for $75 (off craigslist about $20!- we sold 12 of our ladies for $250!!!)
- Chickens are the EASIEST animal we’ve ever owned! Put a bucket of food out once a week, make sure they have water- and that’s it- REALLY!
- If you walk too close to a chicken and they are scared- some of them do a “Chicken Squat”!
- I had several chickens die……of chicken pox! (not like our chicken pox, but a poultry variety!)
- Chickens take baths in the dirt to keep bugs off of them.
Quick Tips to Raising Your Own Baby Chicks:
- a Heat Lamp
- a food dish
- a water dish
- a safe cage or storage tote
You’ll want to make sure your baby chicks are warm enough. Position the heat lamp so it’s over half of the cage so the chicks can move around to the desired temperature. They ALWAYS need to have access to water and food!
I recommend using specific chicken water dishes when they are babies so you don’t have any accidental drowning issues. Once they get older I always just use a big pot or bucket.
Bowls of feed are OK but know that they will “scratch” and kick out the food more rapidly than a chicken feeder. When they are babies they are messy!
*Chicks should never be bought as a single pet. You ALWAYS want to have at least a couple of chicks together!