How to Raise Backyard Chickens: The Beginner’s Guide

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My name is AC, and I’m obsessed with my chickens. This is not hyperbole. I’ve performed anything you are not supposed to do with livestock. I’ve named them, brought them into my residence, and in spite of the Centers for Illness Handle and Prevention’s warnings not to, I have certainly cuddled with them. In other words: I’ve turned them into pets.

I have no regrets.

I’ve spent the final 4 years attempting to develop as a lot of my meals as feasible from my personal yard. Plucking my personal vegetables also feels like a smaller way to combat climate alter. Grown right here, not flown right here, I smugly say as I bite into a just-off-the-vine cucumber.

But to definitely consume from inside my house lines, I necessary protein, also. Laying hens seemed like a all-natural location to start off. (FYI, hens are the girls, roosters are the boys, and all collectively they’re chickens.) I Googled “laying hens for sale,” placed an order, and for the previous seven months, I’ve had a backyard complete of 28 satisfied, floofy, and entirely ridiculous chickens. 

I did not set out to have a smaller army of birds. But the very first issue you need to have to know about owning these creatures is that there’s anything named chicken math. This is a poultry-primarily based equation exactly where, no matter how you perform it, you usually finish up with far more birds than intended. I now have sufficient chickens to place collectively a college a capella group.

Not all chicks survive to become hens, so I ended up ordering far more than anticipated, but that is OK, because they are a delight. Every single 1 of my girls has a distinct character. Ruth Bader Ginsbird is thoughtful and unflappable. Chicki Minaj is all attitude, all the time. SusHen B. Anthony is an absolute chowhound and will come operating (properly, waddling) if she thinks I may possibly have snacks. They jump in my lap, consume strawberries from my hand, and 1, who I get in touch with Snuggle Chicken, would rather be tucked below my arm than anyplace else. Yes, technically these are tiny dinosaurs, and I have no doubt they’d consume me if I collapsed in the chicken yard. But they’re also funny, sweet, and social, and I’m shocked by how attached I am to all of them.

You, also, can develop into chicken obsessed—if your municipality permits it. (And it may possibly not, simply because like Right here Comes Treble, chickens are loud and clueless about reading a space.) Nonetheless, these birds call for a significant commitment, like all animals, and it is only fair to do your study just before taking them on. Here’s what I’ve discovered.

hens
(AC Shilton)

There’s a Lot of Butt Stuff

When your chicks arrive, you will have to verify them for anything named pasty butt. This is when poop actually crusts more than their butt (named a vent, on a chicken). If not wiped clean, it will kill them. 

Cleaning up this situation demands holding a thrashing and screaming chick, operating its backside below warm water, massaging the poop off with your fingers, and then blow-drying that fuzzy rear finish. Just get more than the ick issue.

You’d feel you’d be performed with the butt stuff as soon as the chicks become adults, but you are not. Not too long ago, 1 of my brood had the symptoms of getting egg-bound, a situation in which a hen’s egg gets stuck on its way out into the globe. I donned a latex glove, lubed up my index finger, and gently reached in to see if certainly anything was stuck. (I got the egg out with minimal fuss, and she’s performing a lot far better, thank you for asking.)

The Circle of Life Is not a Circle

A chicken’s life is a lot far more unpredictable than you’d count on, much less a circle than a crooked hexagon drawn by a toddler.

Some of your chicks will not make it by way of their very first week of life. Infant chicks are delicate, and some die for no actual purpose beyond failure to thrive. Like a lot of domesticated animals, we’ve bred chickens to be either truly meaty or prodigious egg layers. Tolerance to life’s cruelties is not a trait we’ve encouraged, and as a outcome, chickens are somewhat prone to a variety of maladies, a lot of of which are fatal.

The very best piece of guidance I ever got from a fellow farmer is that if you have livestock, you will someday have dead stock. In some cases that day is sooner than you feel. In some cases you have to be the 1 to help them into the subsequent globe by kindly placing them out of their misery. In some cases you attempt your very best to save them, but it is not sufficient. It is really hard, and you will usually really feel a tiny sad. But that is what tends to make a superior farmer—or chicken keeper.

Roosters Are Sort of the Worst

You do not need to have a rooster for your hens to make eggs. And the myth about hens getting far more productive with a rooster about is just anything males have produced up to make themselves really feel far more valuable, I feel. The ladies are just fine all on their personal.

I do have a rooster, but he’s there for 1 purpose only: babies. And honestly, he’s a jerk. Get also close and he’ll fight you. Ahead of he got imply, we named him Daddy Warclucks. Now I’m continually walking around fighting him off me and the hens and shouting, “Bad, Daddy, poor!” It’s… not excellent.

Backyard Birds Will Ruin Factory Farming for You

According to study performed by the Sentience Institute, 47 % of Americans help a ban on factory farming. Nonetheless, the vast majority of animal solutions in this nation are developed in CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operations. (The Sentience Institute estimates that 99 % of our animals are kept this way, although other sources place this number reduce.)

The bottom line: there’s a disconnect amongst how we feel and how we shop. Possessing your personal birds, on the other hand, will connect the two in a way you can’t ignore. Hens are curious, inventive, and funny. They’re extremely social, and, like humans, can toggle amongst getting sweet and getting assholes with their companions.

Owning backyard hens will make you lament the way most industrial chickens are raised in the U.S.: in indoor barns with tiny space. Lots of have to have their beaks removed, also, since in confinement, they have a tendency to develop into aggressive, and these beaks can do actual harm. I attempt not to inform folks how they really should or really should not consume. Meals is an extremely private option. But personally, my partnership with factory-farmed poultry is more than.

Chickens, Like All Animals, Can Be Gross

OK, they poop, that is anticipated. And there’s the aforementioned butt stuff. But chickens can also be plagued by lice, mites, and—wait for it—bedbugs. Yes, your birds can get bedbugs. I haven’t knowledgeable any of these horrors however, but I’m positive the day is coming.

Chickens also at times choose on every single other. After a hen begins bleeding, the other hens may possibly join in and hold pecking at her wound. You are also not supposed to feed your chickens raw meat, because apparently—although I have not attempted this to confirm it—it could encourage cannibalism.

Generally: these are tiny dinosaurs you are raising. Dinosaurs weren’t identified for getting all chill vibes all the time. Hold that in thoughts.

These Will Be the Most Pricey Eggs Ever

The economics of raising your personal eggs only functions if you do it for years and years in the identical developing, with babies raised from your preceding generations. I spent a couple hundred dollars on my starter flock, a couple hundred far more on its coop, and every single bag of organic feed sets me back one more $20. Eggs at the shop, meanwhile, are typically as low cost as $1 per dozen. It will take years to make that math perform.

Ideal now each of my hens lays 4 to five eggs a week (although I have 1 rock star who lays quite a lot each day). They’ll lay at that price for a couple of years, and then they’ll slow down. Egg production can lag, and at times cease, in the winter and when they molt, which takes place a couple of occasions all through their lives. So I get sufficient eggs that I under no circumstances have to invest in them, and I have a couple of dozen additional every single week to sell.   

This is under no circumstances truly going to be a dollars-saving or moneymaking endeavor. The economics of scale are just not on your side. Nonetheless, obtaining a chicken hop in your lap or come operating in hopes of scoring a treat is its personal reward.

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