Updated: Jul 28
Chickens make lovely productive pets and bring so much joy to their owners, as well as providing food for the table. But, chicken keeping is not for everyone, and there are a few things to consider before getting started with chickens.
Am I Ready to Raise Backyard Chickens?
Before you dive headfirst into the world of chicken raising, you’ll want to make sure you’re well-prepared and ready to take on the responsibility. In this section, we’ll provide a quick overview of the things you’ll need to consider before committing to raising a flock.
First and foremost, before your order that first round of chicks, make sure that you are familiar with your county and city chicken ordinances. Chickens are becoming more accepted, but there are often limits on the number of birds allowed. There may also be restrictions on roosters in your area. Additionally, in many places, a permit may be required, for the chicken coop and or the chickens themselves.
It’s also important to note that if you are hoping to sell your backyard eggs, there are often regulations relating to fresh egg sales. If you plan to raise chickens to sell eggs in mind, be sure to familiarize yourself with local, state, and federal laws.
There are a few deciding factors in space requirements. For instance, different breeds may have different needs. But as a general rule, each adult hen will need a minimum of three square feet of coop space and ten square feet of pen/run space.
That means a small flock of five or six chickens needs a 4x6 foot coop with a pen or run that’s roughly 6x10 feet. But, the more space they have, the happier they will be. Overcrowding contributes to disease and ups the risk of pecking and feather picking.
Your Local Climate
While chickens are hardy birds that can thrive almost anywhere, depending on the breeds you choose, extreme cold and extreme heat can be hard on them. Particularly regarding high heat, if you live in a warm climate you will need to be prepaid to provide your flock with shade, fans, and possibly even ice blocks.
If you live in a predator area, (and if you have chickens, you do) you will need to take precautions to keep your flock safe from predation. Bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, weasels, hawks, eagles, owls, and even your very own cats and dogs are all potential predators for your chickens.
Even if you plan to free-range your flock, it’s still a good idea to provide them with a secure coop to sleep in at night. For heavy predator areas, you may need to invest in a fully enclosed, coop/run setup and even electric fencing.
Our homestead is located high in the mountains of Colorado and we share our home with every known predator, so our coop/run is fully enclosed with floor and ceiling, two different layers and types of fencing, electric fencing around the whole area, and cameras set up inside and out.
Chemicals and Toxins
It should come as no surprise that substances used to treat your yard, lawn, and garden such as herbicides or pesticides can harm your flock. But, so can swimming pool and hot tub chemicals.
Keep your chickens away from any area of your yard that’s been treated with these substances. If you plan to free-range your chickens, you will also need to make sure that your neighbors don’t use any chemicals on their grounds. If they do, you will need to find a way to ensure that your free-range flock does not leave your property.
Daily & Weekly Time Commitment
Luckily, backyard chickens are relatively low-maintenance pets. You can expect to spend an average of 10 - 20 minutes per day tending to them. It’s also a good idea to budget about an hour or two each weekend for additional maintenance. A typical chicken-keeping schedule will go something like this:
Let chickens out of the coop and into the run
Provide them with fresh feed and water
Do a quick coop inspection to make sure everything is in order
Inspect individual birds for signs of injury or illness
Check for eggs and remove them
Provide treats or snacks if you like (this is my flock's favorite time of day)
If you didn’t remove eggs earlier in the day, do so now
Lock your chickens in their coop for a safe, secure night of sleep
Scrub food and water dishes to prevent mold/fungus build-ups
Refresh bedding and remove excess poop
Thoroughly clean the coop and replace all bedding
Implement any seasonal adjustments as needed when moving changing seasons
Get Started With Your First Flock!
If you’ve considered every angle and decided that chickens are for you, yay! Welcome to the flock! Be sure to check out our Chicken Keeping 101 section for more info and articles. If you’re planning for a flock give us all the details in the comments below and feel free to ask any questions!
And, as always, until next time,