Despite the advantages of raising backyard chicken, the practice is still somewhat uncommon. Most people are simply not aware that aside from the healthy eggs and poultry meat chickens can provide their family on a regular basis, chickens are fun pets too that you can cuddle.
Here are important considerations that have to be carefully evaluated and assessed if you are considering backyard chicken raising – for fun and pleasure and poultry meat and eggs.
Do You Have Time?
Although chickens are relatively low-maintenance, they do require time for daily care and maintenance. The necessary time is almost negligible as you only need 15 to 20 minutes daily (depending on the number of chickens in your flock) for replenishing their food and water and making sure that their beddings are dry.
Do You Have Space?
If chickens are cooped (housed) then you have to ensure that the run (where they are allowed to range freely during the day is big enough and secure from predators. It is highly recommended that at least six square feet per bird is allotted in the outside run, the more space the better. Chickens are natural foragers and they eat insects, grass and weeds and any other that they can find in the run – the more they are able to forage, the healthier and more contented they will be. This is to your advantage since you will reap the benefits in tastier eggs and poultry meat.
Making chickens range freely is to your advantage because they love to scratch, dig holes for their dust baths and eat plants and weeds. The more space they have, the better it is for your yard since they can keep the grass trimmed. While they range freely, they also aerate the area with their scratching while their droppings fertilize the soil thus making it rich and fertile.
Are Chickens Allowed in Your Neighborhood?
An important aspect of chicken raising is to determine if it is allowed in your locality as not all towns do. Check your local regulations and ordinances regarding backyard chicken raising as it may be necessary for you to secure the necessary health or zoning permit since what you plan to do is not on a commercial level anyway. Do your homework in order to avoid unwelcome surprise visits from town hall officials.
In addition, you also have to find out about noise regulations especially if you plan to have roosters with your flock. It is better to check with your neighbors first in order to avoid misunderstandings and future complications regarding your new hobby. It might be a good idea also to mention that when the chickens start laying eggs, they would surely benefit from that too!
How Much Would It Cost?
The initial investment in constructing the chicken coop, feed supplies, cost of the birds, and maintenance may reach a significant amount of money but in the long run, when they start laying fresh eggs and you already benefit from their poultry meat, the up front cost becomes negligible. This does not include yet the fact that your flock provides you with more fertile garden soil and that they keep farm pests at bay and your grass trimmed!
It is important to note that chickens are social birds and do not fare well on their own, you should therefore have a minimum of two for starters. If your family loves eggs then it is best to have two hens per family member; this should be enough to take care of your egg requirements as soon as your chickens start laying eggs.
What Size Chicken?
Another important factor for consideration is the size of chicken, Standard (normal-size), or Bantam, chickens that are a fraction of the size of Standards and are mainly raised for ornamental purposes. Although bantams lay edible eggs also, they do so on a less frequent schedule and their eggs are smaller in size.
There is no problem in having both sizes in your flock as Silkies, Belgian Bearded D’Uccles and Sebrights are available only as Bantams whereas there are other breeds which are available in both sizes. You can combine both sizes in your flock if you want both types.
Chicken Breeds for Cold Weather
If the weather in your area is the cold climate type where temperatures drop below freezing during part or all of the year, it is better to have Standards than Bantams. Standards are hardier and fare better than Bantams. Chicken combs and wattles are an important factor to consider since the smaller they are, the less they will be affected by frostbite.
Common Cold Weather Breed Chickens
Chanticleers Plymouth Rocks
Chicken Breeds for Hot Weather
However if your locality regularly experience climates of over 100 degrees, it is best to avoid the big-sized and feathery chickens. In hot weather, most Bantams do well with the exception of the feather-footed varieties, and the following Standard breeds are highly recommended for hot climates:
Common Hot Weather Breed Chickens
Blue Andalusians Light Brown Leghorns
Golden Campines White Leghorns
If you want the best possible egg production, limit your search to the laying breeds. Understand, however, that many people feel the best layers (like White Leghorns) have a tendency to be more inconsistent and nervous and to avoid human contact. Dual-purpose and ornamental breeds are usually more docile and friendly but this is an oversimplified generalization. How friendly your birds are is in large part dependent on how well they have accustomed themselves to human contact and their individual personalities.
Common Egg Producing Chicken Breeds
White Leghorns Stars
Rhode Island Reds
Common Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds
Australorps Plymouth Rocks
Colorful Chicken Eggs
Not all chicken eggs are the ubiquitous brown and white eggs you normally see at the grocery store there are also blue, green, chocolate brown, and cream-colored chicken eggs. The following chicken breeds are noted for the various colors of eggs that they produce which you may want to consider.
Chicken Breeds and their Colorful Eggs
Araucanas Blue Eggs
Ameraucanas Green/Blue Eggs
Barnvelders, Welsummers Deep Reddish-Brown Eggs
Cuckoo Marans Chocolate Brown Eggs
Plymouth Rocks, Salmon Faverolles Pinkish Brown Eggs
Polish, Sussexes Cream-Colored Eggs
White Leghorns, Anconas, Minorcas, Andalusians, Campines White Eggs
Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, New Hampshire Reds, Delawares, Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes Brown Eggs
Chicks or Starter Pullets?
You have a choice of starting your flock with chicks or starter pullets (hens that have recently started laying eggs).
If you are really into chicken raising, you’ll love starting your flock with baby chicks; however, doing so requires that you give your flock considerable attention until they are full-grown hens.
You can purchase your baby chicks from a farm supply store (mostly during spring time) but they may not carry special breeds they mostly have a limited selection from which you can choose.
Make sure that you purchase female chicks instead of a mix of male and female as you may end up with a lot of roosters instead of hens! Keep in mind that roosters are not a requirement for hens to lay eggs.