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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 22, 2011

A Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Chickens

By Mark Sisson
231 Comments

Keeping backyard chickens has long been an interest of mine. I’ve never actually gone through with it, partly because I just don’t have the time, partly because the homeowners association would veto it in a heartbeat, and mostly because I have a very reliable, reasonably priced source of pastured, bug-eating chickens and chicken eggs. Nevertheless, I love the idea of stepping outside my back door, greeting the flock of chickens (perhaps by name), and coming back in with an armful of fresh eggs. It’s admittedly a romantic, possibly naive vision, especially without the flecks of manure obscuring it. In any case, I’m drawn to the idea of it, so I’ve researched this growing trend and will share with you my findings in this not-so authoritative guide. Hopefully the general information, links, and leads will inspire you to dig deeper. And if you have any experience raising chickens I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment board.

The backyard chicken movement is growing, paralleling the burgeoning trend toward real/slow food/farmers’ markets and, in some respects, the Primal/paleo/ancestral movements. To me, this is unequivocally welcome news, because it suggests that people from all different backgrounds and proclivities are stumbling toward the same basic goal: freedom from the industrial food culture. That might mean whittling down “grocery store” to a four-letter word and camping out twelve hours before the farmer’s market opens on release day of the new golden beet crop. It might mean eschewing all the industrial agents altogether, like we Primals like to do. Or it might mean raising chickens in your backyard. So, why are more and more homeowners turning to backyard chicken farming?

Well, the most obvious way to attain freedom from the industrial food scene is to produce your food yourself. Gardening takes care of fruit and vegetables, but what about animal products? Cows, sheep, and goats are too big and cumbersome for most yards, while chickens are small, relatively quiet, willing to eat just about anything, and they can produce a steady stream of eggs. So – here’s my quick and dirty armchair guide to backyard chicken farming with an emphasis on egg laying. I’m not going to get too detailed because, well, I’m not qualified. I’ll fill in the blanks with links to people who are qualified, though.

Getting Started

To get started, you need some chickens. If you start with chicks, which run about five dollars apiece on average (more for rarer breeds), you’ll need to raise them in a climate-controlled brooder for 5-8 weeks, or until they develop feathers. You’re trying to replace their mother’s warm embrace, so you have to keep the chicks warm. Start at 95 degrees F for the first week, then reduce 5 degrees each week thereafter. Make sure your chicks aren’t cowering in the corner (it’s too hot) or huddling together directly under the lamp (it’s too cold) and keep their bedding and food clean and dry. Order chicks online or search for local suppliers on Craigslist. You might also try asking around at local poultry farms through Eat Wild or at the farmers’ market. Cost: $10-20 for two chicks.

Another, easier option – especially for beginners – is to start with full-sized hens. This way you can let them outside and start feeding normal feed immediately, and you should start getting eggs soon. Most hens I’ve seen run about $20-25. You can usually find both hens and chicks on Craigslist. If I were starting out, I’d go this route. Cost: $40-50 for two hens.

You also need a coop, even if your chickens are going to range free. They are natural roosters and prefer having a piece of shelter to call home. Besides, even the most developed city has raccoons and cats, either of which will make short work of your chickens if they can reach them. Coops can be expensive commercial productsDIY projects, Craigslist finds, or something cobbled together on the fly. You can even convert an old dog house into a serviceable coop. Whatever you choose, pick a coop that you’ll be willing to keep clean. If you buy a coop new, it’ll run between $400 and $1000. If you buy it used, you could get one for $100 to $400, maybe. DIY could be super cheap to the point of being almost free, or you could drop close to $700 and make something great.

Unless you want to run a two-chicken CAFO, you’ll also want to provide some safe outdoor space. That can mean sticking the coop in your backyard and giving the chickens the run of the yard, or it might mean putting together a chicken run enclosed on all sides (top included) with chicken wire. Free ranging chickens left to their own devices will eat bugs, weeds, and often gardens. If you’ve got enough room, you can use the chicken paddock method, which involves a stationary coop with a mobile chicken run. Once the chickens have exhausted a section of grass, move the chicken run to a new section of grass.

You could also make your own chicken tractor, a mobile containment unit that keeps them in, keeps predators out, and allows you to choose where your chickens forage. Once they’ve picked a spot clean, simply move the unit to a fresh area of grass. Joel Salatin does this on a massive scale to let his flocks forage without robbing the land of nutrients. Doing it with a few backyard chickens should be even easier, albeit on a smaller scale. Try making one from common wooden pallets.

You’ll also need to feed and water your birds, which deserves its own section. Waterers run inexpensive, and feed can be served in a little bowl. Just don’t let the food get wet.

Overall, how much you spend depends on how much you want to spend. You can go all out and drop about a thousand bucks, or you can repurpose common items, dig around on Craigslist, and build stuff yourself and spend just a few hundred, or even less.

Feed

The common chicken descends from the omnivorous red junglefowl – a wild bird from the jungles of Asia that fed on bugs, snakes, fruit, seeds, greenery, and small rodents – and yet we expect it to thrive on stale corn, soy, and grain spiked with mineral supplements, antibiotics, and vegetable oil waste. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if those vegetarian chickens did better on animal byproducts! Anyway, here’s your chance to escape the tyranny of vegetarian-fed chickens.

Ideally, your chickens would have daily access to all the bugs, wild seeds, grass, and forage they can handle, but it’s rare that a backyard can provide all that for even a single chicken, let alone several. That’s where modern ingenuity and modern table scraps come in. Since chickens love bugs and your yard can’t sate their appetite, why not produce your own? Here’s a sustainable way to produce mealworms indefinitely, perfect for those potentially cold and bare winter months. You can also toss scraps and compost to your chickens. Bones, meat (including organs), veggies, greens, yogurt, grass clippings (watch the chemicals), weeds – it’s pretty much all fair game, and since your kitchen scraps will undoubtedly be of the healthy, Primal variety, you’ll be improving the taste, quality, and nutrition of the eggs your chickens lay. In fact, eggs from pastured chickens given access to greens, grass, and bugs contain 2/3 more vitamin A, two times more omega-3, three times more vitamin E, and seven times more beta-carotene than eggs from battery farms. I mean, the difference in taste alone is astonishing, and I bet the satisfaction of producing your own eggs would add another layer of enjoyment.

An added benefit to getting them hooked on bugs: they can keep your car’s grill clean after long road trips!

I would avoid standard commercial chicken feed that uses stuff like “poultry feed fat,” which is just recycled vegetable oil from restaurants. It might be worth it to spring for an organic feed, or even a soy-free, corn-free, GMO-free organic feed (though even that one seems to have vegetable oil). Another option is to mix your own feed using seeds, legumes and grains. Don’t worry about the grains in a hen’s diet, beyond perhaps corn, soy, and wheat; these animals are actually built to digest seeds and grains (in addition to bugs and greens), as opposed to cows. Here’s a recipe, but hens are flexible. Be sure to add grit (which chickens use in their gizzards to grind up grains, seeds, and bugs) and a mineral source, like oyster shell or even ground up egg shell (never leave the shell whole or halved, or else your chickens might start associating their eggs with food).

Legality

Before you start buying chicks, constructing coops, and stockpiling feed, check your local city ordinances regarding backyard chickens. From my cursory research, it’s usually allowed, with a few restrictions, but it can’t hurt to check. Or, you could flout the laws and do it anyway. If you go this route, I’d advise against keeping a rooster. Hens might scratch, peck, and cluck, but they won’t wake up the entire neighborhood at the crack of dawn with an ear-splitting cry. Ask your neighbors for permission before you do it (according to a recent article on illegal chicken farming in Philly, anti-chicken ordinances are rarely enforced unless a neighbor complains), keep a handle on the waste (don’t let smell become an issue), and avoid roosters.

This is a great, quick resource for checking city ordinances. And here’s another one. They both rely on reader submissions, however, so they aren’t complete. If your city isn’t there, trying searching “YOUR CITY chicken ordinance.”

Scofflaws: resources exist for you, too. Jane Richardson wrote a great article on how to get your city to allow backyard chickens. Here’s a blog by a South Salt Lake City underground chicken farmer detailing his horrible crimes against the state that threaten the safety and stability of society. And then there’s the Dayton Underground Chicken network.

Waste

When it comes to how much manure chickens produce, I’ve heard several different figures. First, from Urban Chickens Network: six chickens produce about four pounds of manure each week. I’ve also heard it described thusly: five chickens produce about as much waste as a medium-sized dog. Either way, it’s not a huge amount of waste. Also, chicken poop can be an effective fertilizer. In fact, I’d advise against simply tossing the manure. Repurpose it. Use it in your garden. If you don’t have one, post the manure on Craigslist.

When it comes to fresh, “hot” manure high in nitrogen, use it sparingly on your garden. If you allow manure to compost for several months, you can use it more liberally. For more detailed tips and tricks on using backyard chicken manure as fertilizer, read this thread full of folks who have been doing exactly that for years.

Time

Hobby chicken farming appears to be a low-maintenance pursuit. Oh, sure, you’ve got the initial labor of setting up the coop/run, procuring the birds, buying/mixing the feed, and taking the plunge, but everything after is fairly simple. You distribute feed, change the water, clean the manure every few days, move the chicken tractor if you’re using one. For the most part, though, a few chickens in your backyard aren’t much work. I suspect it’ll be such a novelty that the work doesn’t even feel like work. Add to your flock and things might change.

From what I gather, it’s best to look at your backyard chicken experiment as a hobby – at least initially. These are interesting, somewhat fearsome looking creatures with funny personalities who like to eat everything. Oh, and they also lay eggs from time to time. Just don’t expect an egg a day out of every chicken, because you aren’t a full-time chicken farmer running a finely oiled operation consisting of feathery egg dispensers on the perfect feed mix. You’re just a guy or a gal having fun and trying something new. If things work out, and you get the hang of this chicken farming stuff, you can always buy more chickens and refine your process, but for now, just see what happens. Have fun watching your chickens try to eat an entire sardine or go crazy over some feeder crickets and enjoy the eggs when they come.

Further Resources

Backyard Chickens – Premier online resource. Great, active forums. Check out their 101 section.

Breed Chart – Dozens of breeds listed with temperaments, personalities, and egg-laying tendencies.

Starting a Small Flock of Chickens – A quick, basic guide.

Raising Chickens 2.0 – Beyond the coop.

Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens – Very thorough and very well regarded.

Minnie Rose Lovegreen’s Recipe for Raising Chickens: The Main Thing is To Keep Them Happy – Hmm, to this married man, this sounds awfully familiar.

Victory Chicken – Live in New York City and need some help getting started? The people at Victory Chicken have you covered.

So, how’d I do? Do you feel like you have enough information to get started? Did I provide sufficient links and resources for further research? If you’re already a chicken farmer, tell us all about it in the comment section. If you decide to try it out, come back later and tell us how it went. Hope to hear from you, and thanks for reading!

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231 Comments on "A Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Chickens"

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Katie
5 years 3 months ago

So glad you posted this! We just “adopted” about twenty backyard chickens a few months ago (we have a couple of acres).
I bought them all from a trusted farmer as adults and we consistently get at least a dozen eggs a day, which is great for our family. They are mostly free range (we keep them out of the garden sometimes) and get supplemental feed and foods from the garden. Haven’t made the jump to producing mealworms yet!
Great post!

Paleo Josh
5 years 3 months ago

Free Range or not:

My uncle (who is a farmer) was explaining how act in cages or with space. He was pretty much saying free range is BS (Not from technical/legal I wanna put free range on by product label stance). He was explaining that chickens with space tend to hudle together and follow each other around, so really they don’t require very much space. And for obvious predator reasons they don’t rome a farm like cattle.

What are you thoughts?

lucy
lucy
5 years 3 months ago

That hasn’t been my observation at all. I have 9 chickens on just under an acre. They wander all over, sometimes in groups of two or three, but often one will go off on her own, particularly those lower on the pecking order. If somebody finds something good to eat, the others will all come running. I haven’t ever kept them in cages, so I can’t compare, but except when they are in their coop for the night, they seem to enjoy space to roam, flap their wings, scratch and take dust baths.

QOTSA
QOTSA
5 years 3 months ago

In my experience – only kept 4 in the back garden – they huddle a bit in their coop at night but not at all during the day. They are more than happy wandering far and wide. Also seeing the local farmers free-range chickens they definitely spread themselves about – they don’t seem to take much notice of each other at all and definitely don’t huddle.

Tiffany
Tiffany
5 years 3 months ago

I only have 3 hens on under 1/4 acre, and they usually stay in line of sight with one another when they’re ranging our yard, but not necessarily close together. If one finds a treat, they will all charge over and try to get it, but other than that they like to spread out and hunt more independently.

NoSurf
NoSurf
5 years 3 months ago

We have about 18 hens and a rooster on 7 acres. I’d say the chickens forage on about 1/2 that area, they don’t go too far from the coop.

Bev
Bev
5 years 3 months ago
Well that’s hogwash, sorry to say. I’ve been raising free-range gals for 18 years. Sure they tend to flock together but they roam everywhere. Perhaps your uncle’s experience was with the Cornish Cross, bred for meat. If not encouraged to go outside at 1 week or so, they are hesitant to go out. Chickens in cages have horrible, miserable lives. I adopted 5 from a hatchery. They were terrified at first but after a day or so, they started to venture out. It was one of the high points of my farm life to watch these formerly caged hens get… Read more »
Dana
Dana
5 years 3 months ago
Free range doesn’t mean let chickens roam individually all over your 10-acre property. It means letting them be outdoors in contact with grass and bugs. If that’s a little run or a big fenced-in area, doesn’t make any difference, it’s still meeting those criteria. I am a bit beyond annoyed at all these farmers who scoff at sustainable methods of food plant and food animal raising. It’s one thing to be an expert on all aspects of farming, and another to be an expert on mechanized, industrial farming, including CAFO. In my experience–and I come from two farming families, and… Read more »
Imogen
Imogen
5 years 3 months ago

I have 52 chickens of my own, and we share land with a farm with hundreds of free-roaming chickens. They don’t huddle. They have cliques that walk around together, like in highschool, and the roos get in spats every now and then, but they roam wherever they please. They tend to stay within about 100 yards of the barn, though. And most stay closer than that, but they don’t huddle, and do enjoy their space,

The geese, on the other hand, do huddle, but their roaming territory is triple that of the chickens.

Has your uncle ever seen free-roaming chickens???

Audry
Audry
5 years 3 months ago

Another important thing to remember is that chickens are like living roto-tillers. Even if a group of chickens stays together as it wanders, if that group doesn’t have enough space to wander over, they’ll quickly destroy the area they do have, and then there won’t be any grass for them to eat. Whenever we have to fence in our 12 chickens, I’m always astonished at how large an area they can strip of any sign of vegetation and how quickly they can do it.

Paleo Josh
5 years 3 months ago

Wow! That was lots of great feed back. I wanted to see what other had to say.

Thank you!

cTo
cTo
5 years 3 months ago

They’ll stick around each other, yeah, thats called flocking and they (and most birds) do it so that they can keep an eye on predators for each other and share tasty resources if they find it. They will wander together as a flock for acres and acres, though, looking for new tasty things to eat.

Jeanmarie
Jeanmarie
3 years 1 month ago

This is nonsense. If the chickens are huddled together all the time, something is wrong. They’re ill, or have reason to fear predators, or something. I have 38 chickens, and they’re all over the place, with or without company.

Only very young chickens (chicks or immature pullets/cockerels) would follow each other around all the time, or birds that were newly introduced to an established flock. And that would change as they mature and/or get used to their surroundings and flockmates.

Richard Rogers
Richard Rogers
5 years 3 months ago
Thanks for this Mark. I’ve been enjoying my flock of chickens for many seasons now and the benefit goes far beyond nutrient rich eggs. As you noted, the fertilizer is beneficial, as is the fact they consume bugs, including ticks, when they can find them. I had a small flock of free ranging barred rock hens that kept my RV free from spiders and earwigs for most of this spring, until a pair of raccoons mistook me for Colonel Sanders one night last week. The survivors ended up in the pen with the caged flock and I am attempting to… Read more »
Kate Reznikov
4 years 1 month ago

We live in Brooklyn NY. And we were as far from dealing with chickens as we are from China. But when I was diagnosed with cancer, someone suggested that we get layers. There were several reason other then obvious to have fresh eggs why we had to have them. I am cancer free today and I think my beautiful darlings, my chicks contibuted alot.
Thank you for your Guid. I think it is great. You did fantastic job putting things together.
Thank you.

A.B. Dada
5 years 3 months ago

I know a few Chicagoans who have rooftop coops, but they raise them with terrifying feed. I’d love to have a wide open pasture with some ruminants grazing and a bunch of chickens running wild. I do have a HUGE rooftop here in Chicago where I could build a coop, but I really would prefer a pastured chicken.

I’m VERY surprised you can buy hens and chicks on Craigslist — they have a rule about the selling of animals/pets! Crazy!

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

I am not sure if I would eat these types of chicken eggs either. My bro lives in Chicago and I can’t imagine coops on rooftops! I will have to keep my eye open the next time I am in town!

Victoria
Victoria
5 years 3 months ago

I believe the rule w/ Craigslist is that you can sell livestock (chickens, cattle, and horses are all things I see frequently listed) but not pets.

Another resource not listed but worth looking into is a local hatchery… That’s the best deal where I’m from- they sell both day old chicks (4 types: brown or white egg layer, or cornish cross or heritage broilers) as well as point-of-lay hens. Unfortunately, most point-of-lay hens from commercial suppliers will have been debeaked…

Darren
5 years 3 months ago

Another option is to talk to the egg and chicken meat sellers at the farmers market. That is where we are getting ours. Some folks looked at us like we were aliens when we asked so we just kept asking until someone was excited that we wanted some. We’ve become great friends with these farmers. They even came to our wedding! Good stuff. 🙂

Richard Rogers
Richard Rogers
5 years 3 months ago

Here in Oregon, the local farm Co-Op often gives away free chicks with every bag of chicken feed in the spring. You can get a sizeable flock started by simply buying the necessary feed. Something to check into. Check with your local farm extension office for information about opportunities in your local area.

Omnomnivore
5 years 3 months ago

Could you put down a rooftop lawn/garden and put the coop on that? Better than feed, and greener too. 🙂

Jen
Jen
2 years 9 months ago

Chickens are (loosely) livestock. Craigslist allows the selling of livestock. Working dogs can also be sold under “farm/garden”.

Crunchy Pickle
5 years 3 months ago

My dad has taken on chickens and houses them in a chicken tractor. He is so attached now – calls them “his girls”… I don’t think he will ever have the heart to slaughter them!

Robin
Robin
5 years 3 months ago

🙂 that’s sooo cute!

Reena
Reena
5 years 3 months ago

This is incredible! I have been considering having chickens when I get a house, and its great to have this as a resource. Thanks for putting together all of this research and including links and references. I look forward to someday owning my own chicken.

CJW
CJW
5 years 3 months ago

Really curious about this one. Not sure I’m ready for the amount of work involved, as I’ve already got two very small children to look after.

But I currently pay $5/dozen for pastured eggs from a nearby farm. And I eat 2 – 3 eggs for breakfast almost every single day, so I buy a lot of them.

Can anyone tell me how that cost would compare to getting eggs from my own backyard chickens instead? (not including initial setup costs, but the ongoing maintenance costs – feed, etc.)

A.B. Dada
5 years 3 months ago

Lucky about that $5/dozen. Here in Chicago proper, Whole Foods retails them for $10/dozen (with tax), and the local farmer’s markets sell out so fast that they’ve raised their prices to $8-$9/dozen (with tax).

I found a few farms in the burbs that sell them for $14/2-dozen, but the drive + gas + time is too much.

CJW
CJW
5 years 3 months ago

Wow, I guess I am lucky! During the winter months, I buy pastured eggs (the “Vital Farms” brand) from my local Whole Foods and it only costs $6/dozen (plus tax).

I wonder why it’s so much more expensive in Chicago? (I’m in south-eastern Massachusetts).

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

Are you guys serious?!!?!!? You pay that much for eggs? Really? For a dozen?

I pay $3.00 here in West Michigan. And yes they are pastured raised chicken eggs. The high is $4.50 but the norm is $3 to $3.50 per dozen.

And these are JUMBO eggs. I can’t ever imagine paying $10 per dozen eggs. That’s crazy.

I’ve been to whole foods in Chicago but have never seen eggs for that much. My bro lives in Wrigleyville…

Are the yolks of the eggs you buy orange? If so, then its maybe worth it.

A.B. Dada
5 years 3 months ago
CJW: I have no idea why they’re that much here. It’s ridiculous — I might have to scan a Whole Foods receipt to prove it! But, they’re ALWAYS sold out, so high demand = higher prices. I’m fine with that. PrimalToad (just started following your blog!): The yolks are very orange, plus they’re the only pastured eggs out of probably 15-20 brands of “Vegetarian Organic!!!!!!!” eggs (raised with organic soy feed likely). Those of us who know want those, and the demand is extremely high for them. I did find a brand that said “Pastured” on it, contacted the farm,… Read more »
CJW
CJW
5 years 3 months ago

Primal Toad:

Yep. $5/dozen. There are a few different sources around here, and $5 seems to be the standard price.

The yolks are indeed orange (in varying shades, but nowhere near the bright yellow of conventional eggs).

I don’t *enjoy* paying that much for eggs. But if I’m going to be eating them every day, I want to make sure I’m getting the best eggs I can. So far, $5 is the best price I’ve been able to find.

This is why I’m curious about what it would cost to raise the chickens myself.

CJW

lucy
lucy
5 years 3 months ago
Yikes, $10 a dozen!? I sell the surplus eggs from my chickens and ducks for $4/dozen. As for cost-effectiveness, I have 9 chickens and 4 ducks and go through about a 50 lb. bag of organic feed and 50 lb. bag of organic scratch per month. Right now they are about $25 each. I’m planning on adding a few more hens to my flock, so I’ll have more eggs to sell to offset the feed costs. Right now we’re getting anywhere from 5-7 eggs a day, and we eat 4-6 per day, so I’ve only been selling a few dozen… Read more »
Lynna
Lynna
5 years 3 months ago

Yeah, I pay $2.50 – $3.00 a dozen from the Mennonite farm market. It depends on the size of the eggs how much they charge.

Kevin
Kevin
5 years 3 months ago

I also buy Vital Farms too for ~$6/dozen. I’m in St. Louis. Consider me lucky too.

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

I have never had an egg with an orange yolk…

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

I just found a farm that says they have orange egg yolks! If you live in Michigan then buy your eggs from Crestwick Farms!!

Fyre
Fyre
5 years 3 months ago

Dang! And I thought $4/doz for range eggs was pricey. *Very* thankful I don’t live in Chicago area… I’d love to get a couple chickens, but doubt the trailer park would allow us to keep them.

FoCo Girl
FoCo Girl
5 years 3 months ago

My goodness that is a lot! Here in Northen CO the Whole Foods has several choices in local free range eggs that are all under $4/dozen.

Stuart
Stuart
5 years 3 months ago

Fortunately for me, the backyard-egg market in upstate SC seems to be in a supply glut lately. I’m getting a dozen pastured L-XL eggs for about $3. Most of them with DARK orange yolks, and some with two yolks 🙂

Jay
5 years 3 months ago

Aha! Mark, Must have set you off with those pictures I posted of those double yolked eggs and bacon I’ve been enjoying very much.The flavor of those eggs makes no going back to store bought eggs again .

Jay
5 years 3 months ago

That’s what I’m talking about ! I have to travel to the feed store up in Holly Hill SC from Charleston to get them but my bird dogs are training there so it’s a nice plus.ALL double yolks!

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

I “hate” you. I am on a mission. A mission to eat an orange egg yolk. I’ll probably just slurp it right up.

Emily
Emily
5 years 3 months ago

We have 11 chickens – 5 Delawares (dual-purpose “heritage” breed for meat + eggs) and 6 Gold-Stars (layers).

We get a year-round *average* of 8 eggs per day (3 from the 5 Delawares, 5 from the 6 Golds) – more in spring and fall, less in winter and summer.

The organic feed + mealworms/crickets + miscellaneous food (occasional cabbages, cucumbers, salad greens, etc. that we find on sale – organic, of course!) costs us about $60/month, so it the eggs cost us about $3/dozen.

Mike
Mike
5 years 3 months ago
We have three backyard chickens to go with our three (6 and under) boys. I built a coop, the plans for which can be found here http://catawbacoops.com/. The chickens free range in the fenced yard (our lot is the typical 1/4 acre) and eat some organic commercial feed as a supplement to what they find in the yard. The feed costs about $6-$8 per month. We get 2-3 eggs per day (one of the girls is not as good of a layer) so, a little over a dozen per week. So, our dozen costs about $1.50 – $2.00. The coop… Read more »
Tricia
Tricia
5 years 3 months ago
We have raised our own chickens for the last three years. We currently have nine and a rooster. Our kids take care of them. They cost a $10 bag of chicken feed and a $9 bag of scratch every week 1/2. We also bought oyster shells to mix with the feed, but that doesn’t happen but 4 times a year and it’s only about $5 a bag. We don’t take them to the vet, and they lay about 7 eggs a day. We keep a red light on in the winter and production drops to 2 eggs in the cold… Read more »
Philippa
5 years 3 months ago

We’re running a collective with 24 chickens and feed costs us around $1.50/dozen eggs produced.

However, you also have to factor in the capital costs of setting up the coop, and that depends on the materials you’re using and whether you’re doing the construction yourself, or paying someone else to do it.

Funnily enough, I wrote a post about the cost considerations just this week on http://www.windsorurbanchickens.com.

Dana
Dana
5 years 3 months ago
Yeah, with the two small children, especially when they’re twins, that’s going to take up a lot of your time. Still… I do not have direct experience with all aspects of chicken rearing. But my dad had a small flock when I was in high school. It was one of those things where my four-years-younger brother and his friends brought home colored Easter chicks and ducklings from someplace or other (a church?), and Dad decided to raise them. He built a coop and he set them up a little area where they could run around and do chicken and duck… Read more »
David
5 years 3 months ago

One thing I’ve heard that I didn’t see mention is that chicken poop smells awful. Anyways, something to factor into the decision-making process. 🙂

lucy
lucy
5 years 3 months ago

If you just have a few chickens and are feeding them good food and letting them free-range to scratch and collect bugs, the smell isn’t bad at all. Certainly not as bad as dog or cat poop.

Emily
Emily
5 years 3 months ago

It isn’t smelly at all if they’re fed good food. We have 11 chickens in a relatively small coop/tractor, and there’s no odor.

Dana
Dana
5 years 3 months ago

Versus cat poop, dog poop, or domesticated pet bird poop?

Isis
Isis
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve also heard that chicken poop kills your nice green grass/lawn. Is this true?

Otherwise I will have to consider fencing off a non-grass area if I get some chickens..

Jeanmarie
Jeanmarie
3 years 1 month ago

It just has to be handled properly. Bad smell is a sign of bad management. I use the Deep Litter Method, raked daily, and have a well-ventilated coop (and the chickens are free-ranging all day), so little smell.

Charlotte
Charlotte
5 years 3 months ago

Hawks,cats and just about any other predator will take out your chickens – so if you’re hoping to have them running free in a pasture, prepare to lose at least a few(or all, depending on what’s munching on them)

As I type this, my hens are out there – making quite the racket. They do this every morning and later in the day, when they’re laying. So, they can be quite loud. It may be too loud for your neighbors.

Other than that, chickens are awesome. :0)

Sandra Brigham
Sandra Brigham
5 years 3 months ago
I do some chicken sitting. Always thought I wanted my own, but they are a lot of work, are too noisy for neighbors and predators are a constant worry. Good hen keepers will let them free range in an enclosure that has netting to keep hawks out when people aren’t around being scarecrows. If you have the time and money go for it. They are delicious. Being a dog behavior cons/trainer, I advocate for humane animal care and enrichment, fowl included. I have only so far seen one humane set-up. Most people slap a wood house together and fence and… Read more »
Ally
Ally
5 years 3 months ago

If you have a dog…you can easily train it to ignore the chickens and protect them at the same time. We keep chickens free range here in Western NC, have two yard dogs and have never had attrition from predators..and believe me..there are plenty around. In fact, it is common to catch the chickens pecking around the sleeping dogs, while the cats nap nearby. They are all friends!

Emily
Emily
5 years 3 months ago

We’ve had the same experience – if anything, the chickens harass the cat (and he’s 20 pounds!) – not the other way around! 😛

QOTSA
QOTSA
5 years 3 months ago

Depends on the dogs. I have kept chickens in the past but now have two lurchers. They would kill them instantly. They’re bred to chase and kill.

Misabi
Misabi
5 years 3 months ago

Yep, my two Akitas would make short work of any chooks that appeared in ‘their’ back yard too, unfortunatley.

Dana
Dana
5 years 3 months ago
You gotta get the dog as a puppy and train it from day one against eating chickens. And then it’s got to be a breed that hasn’t had its chase-anything-that-moves impulse exaggerated as a breed trait. Mutts are pretty much a wash. I mentioned in another comment here that my dad raised chickens when I was in high school. We also had a dog. She was the reason we had one of our chickens for dinner in the spring before I left home. Knew she couldn’t help it, she was playful and I think she thought the chicken was a… Read more »
cTo
cTo
5 years 3 months ago

Yeah, I would not even try with any breed of terrier or border collie.

Jeanmarie
Jeanmarie
3 years 1 month ago

I’ve successfully trained a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Rat Terrier to leave my chickens alone. Now I’m working on our tenants’ puppies. It takes persistence but is probably possible for most dogs.

Fern
Fern
5 years 3 months ago

This is my first year raising chickens, we have 15 of them. Other than them pecking at my toes while wearing my 5 fingers or flip flops I love having chickens!

Dave
Dave
5 years 3 months ago

Been raising 3 chickens for a couple years, but they don’t lay eggs anymore (chicken stock, coming right up!).

We have 25 chicks + 1 bonus rare breed on the way. Going to have to find someone to take a few off our hands.

Peggy The Primal Parent
5 years 3 months ago
A friend of mine in a busy neighborhood of San Jose, California (where I recently moved from) has a pretty normal sized backyard which she converted into a little paradise. She’s not at all paelo. She’s quite the junk food junky actually, but she’s got a garden of veggies in the back (most of which she gives away because she doesn’t like vegetables) and a cherry tree and lemon tree and a couple of other trees. She raises chickens from chicks under a warm light in the garage. Once they’re big enough, they wander freely in the backyard, pecking and… Read more »
Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

I hope to someday start a chicken coop. I mean… free eggs on a daily basis? It will just have to wait till I travel around the world and meet thousands of cavemen and cavewomen 🙂

When I decide to settle down and find my home then having a spectacular garden along with a chicken coop will be a “necessity.”

This is a great guide and I will refer back to it about 5-10 years from now!!

Primal Toad
5 years 3 months ago

On a side note… my parents good friends are raising 7 chickens and they love it. Very intriguing.

Heather
5 years 3 months ago
We got our first 6 hens ($15 each, about 18 weeks old) about a month ago. Recently expanded that to a total of 14 hens (though two are “ornamental” – they really look cool and will probably only lay once or twice a week). Your article very well written, with loads of great resources. I don’t really have much to add. Chickens are highly underrated pets!! Our chickens are immensely entertaining (great for stress relief and relaxation!…kinda like watching fish swim around). Basicaly: easy to care for, fun & interesting, they provide you food almost every day and when they’re… Read more »
Victoria
Victoria
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve had chickens for slightly over a year now, and they are fantastic creatures. Not only do they provide delicious eggs, but they are incredibly amusing and entertaining. In my opinion, there are few better ways to spend the evening than with a glass of wine, sitting in the garden, watching the chickens strut about eating whatever goodies they find.

Alison Golden
5 years 3 months ago

Owning my own chickens is a dream of mine, along with living in a rural setting. Friends who have their own seem to love it, and the chickens themselves, strangely enough. 🙂 I think the temptation is to think they are maintenance-free however, and that hasn’t been my observation so thank you Mark for providing this guide.

JohnT
JohnT
5 years 3 months ago

Just a quick comment on the legality aspect. Even if backyard chickens are allowed, be sure to check additional zoning ordinances.

For example, the search tool at backyardchickens.com says they’re allowed in my city. But another ordinance says that coops can’t be within 30 feet of an adjacent property line. Most common city/suburb lots are 40-60 feet wide. That automatically prevents coops in my city for anyone living on a lot less than say 65 or 70 feet wide.

Mariah
Mariah
5 years 3 months ago
We have a similar restriction in my town (San Diego County), however my chicken tractor is only 2X8 feet with the coop on top and it is mobile so therefore not a permanent coop structure. Comfortably houses my 4 hens while I’m at work and at night, otherwise they roam free. You can usually work around the limitations if you think creatively. Also the chickens aren’t very loud and don’t smell so there is no reason for neighbors to complain, provided you’re on good terms with them, I guess. Free eggs don’t hurt either. I will say the chickens have… Read more »
Pamela
Pamela
5 years 3 months ago

Hey Mark,
What is your source. I live in the Los Angeles area and would love to get some good chickens and eggs.

Can’t raise them myself…am an apartment dweller.

Thanks

Sarah
Sarah
5 years 3 months ago
I have completely free range chickens that put themselves away at night. The coop has an electric door that opens in the morning and closes in the evening. they are in a 2 acre cattle pasture they can get out of but offers a little extra protection for them to run in and get away from predators. We hatch a clutch or two a season. Keep the hens and eat the roosters after about 5 months. We lost a few babies early on to a fox and a hawk. we put a mini donkey in the pasture with them and… Read more »
Heather
5 years 3 months ago
Ah…I just got back from giving our flock a mid-day treat of some mixed berries (blueberries were a HIT, blackberries, not so much) and wanted to add one thing I didn’t see mentioned: noise. If you have neighbors close by, look for breeds that are listed as quiet. By far, our loudest and noisiest hens are the Rhode Island Red and Polish. Next in line is the silver laced wyandotte, though I think that’s an individual bird thing b/c wyandottes are not known for being noisy and our other two wyandottes are quiet. Most of the hens will give a… Read more »
Ally
Ally
5 years 3 months ago

Agreed, I can hear our Rhode Island Red Rooster from 3/4 of a mile away…at our neighbors house!

TXCHLInstructor
5 years 3 months ago

If you don’t have a rooster, there is a good chance that one of the hens will start crowing. That happened to me.

Emily
Emily
5 years 3 months ago

Our Delaware hens are VERY noisy (we do not have a rooster). Anyone out there know which breeds are quiet? We’ll need to get quieter hens the next batch!

Audry
Audry
5 years 3 months ago

Oh man, we have 9 different breeds and ALL of them will ba-gock at the top of their lungs every time any one lays an egg… the layer will start and then they’ll all chime in for about two minutes. It makes quite the racket. Lucky for us our neighbors are all stay-inside-with-the-AC-on types.

funder
funder
5 years 3 months ago
I’ve had chickens (currently 9 hens) for almost a year now. I buy standard cheap layer mash – I figure their idyllic lifestyle and table scraps offsets the crappy food, but of course that’s a personal decision. The last time I really tracked my feed costs, my eggs cost right at $2/dozen – cheaper than “better” eggs from WF and WAY cheaper than “best” eggs from farmer’s markets. Also, they’re incredibly amusing to watch. When they were young and really gung-ho about laying, I was getting 9 eggs a day. Now that they’re about a year old, they’ve settled into… Read more »
funder
funder
5 years 3 months ago

Oh man, Heather is totally right. I have Leghorns and they’re RIDICULOUSLY NOISY!

This chart mentions how noisy each breed typically is. Can’t personally vouch for how accurate it is though.
http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html

Gary Deagle
5 years 3 months ago

Very cool. Now if only I had a backyard. I need an article for how to raise a condo chicken!

Dana Carpender
5 years 3 months ago
Add us to the list of backyard chicken farmers. We’re up to about 40. They’re oddly charming critters. They also turn ticks into food — you’ve gotta love that! I confess to feeding them less-than-optimal feed in the winter; soy-free feed is hideously expensive. We give them scraps, freezer and refrigerator dregs, mice we catch in our kitchen, meat drippings, lots of stuff along with the feed. Too, this year we’ve planted pumpkins, with the idea that they’ll make a good winter supplement. This time of year they’re nearly free, since we have a big yard and just let them… Read more »
Dana
Dana
5 years 3 months ago

I totally giggle when I read that “vegetarian-fed” label. Although, there’s a farm that supplies my local co-op grocery, and they have this little explanatory pamphlet on the wall near the egg cooler, and they say their hens are vegetarian-fed but eat bugs out in the grass. I’m not sure what that’s about–maybe under the same category as “pescetarian.”

Not that I’m gonna pretend the eggs at Kroger labeled “vegetarian-fed” are from chickens who get to run around outside.

Tim Huntley
5 years 3 months ago

It is very satisfying to watch the chickens consume vast quanities of Japanese beetles this time of year. We pick hundreds off of the grape vines and dump them into the chicken pen (mass chaos follows)

Rhonda
5 years 3 months ago

I plan to do this some day…But I can’t trust my dog. I know he would eat them when I’m not looking. I think that’s normal for a dog…

lucy
lucy
5 years 3 months ago
It depends, I have a golden retriever named Bear (a bird dog, no less!) and a sheepdog. I was worried at first, but they know that the chickens are part of the family and don’t bother them. The first time our golden saw the baby chicks he could not stop drooling. When they were big enough to go in the coop, they were still contained, so he couldn’t get to them, but could see them. A bunch of them got out one day while I was at work, and I came home after dark to a very worried Bear, who… Read more »
kem
kem
5 years 3 months ago

One of the kelpies had a go at new batch of pullets so I pinned her head to the ground and mr. wood explained that the hens were off limits. Working dogs are quick learners.

Christopher Peck
5 years 3 months ago
Chickens are too much fun! We are long time and dedicated chicken ranchers, and we’ve been working to localize the feed sources for chickens. If I might be so bold as to suggest our website: http://www.sustainablechicken.com as a resource. Someone above mentioned the smell of chicken manure, and then there’s the quantity, and I have one word for you: bedding. Just like keeping a hamster in the house, always have bedding available for your chickens. We use shredded junk mail (nothing shiny), and add it to their pen as it’s convenient. Dry leaves, straw, weeds, lots of material goes into… Read more »
Andi
Andi
5 years 3 months ago
Rescue a CHICKEN! No, seriously. My husband and I have gone to large egg farms to buy chickens for our home. We live in Texas, and the warehouse chicken farmers rotate their stocks often and I have bought chickens for a nickel a piece. They are usually just your white leghorn variety. But you’re saving them from a life housed in a 12″ square cage (that’s 2 hens per cage, thankyouverymuch). I also loved buying the exotic hens from catalogs that gave blue, green, and sometimes speckled eggs. Those are always cool to show to your friends who think eggs… Read more »
Primal Palate
Primal Palate
5 years 3 months ago

I just bought 12 GREEN duck eggs !
Some have speckles on them.

Never seen duck eggs for sale anywhere ’til we stumbled upon a very unique Co-op 120 miles from our home. I can get chicken eggs all the time here but nothing ‘exotic’ like duck eggs. I bought 2 cartons and 5 blocks of pasture Butter.
And a bunch of other weird stuff I’ve never seen…sure was worth the trip.

EvansMama
EvansMama
5 years 3 months ago

My only thoughts are these:

Chicken poop *may* contain salmonella (bad for kids to be around if free-range), etc.

And lastly chickens smell! Chicken coops and poop smells.

Have considered raising them, but was discouraged by the disease factor I could be introducing to my backyard and the smell factor! Yuck.

Any thoughts from those with experience with chickens/kids and beautiful landscaped backyards?

Andi
Andi
5 years 3 months ago

We have four children and have never had an issue. We have also raised pigs, cattle, goats, sheep. You simply teach good handwashing. And you can create a coop/chicken yard that is completely enclosed and that doesn’t affect your beautifully landscaped backyard.

Free-range doesn’t mean they have to have free run of your yard. It means they have the freedom browze/graze and walk around without being imprisoned in a small cage 24/7.

EvansMama
EvansMama
5 years 3 months ago

Thanks for the tip! And the advice.

I just don’t have the space to separate out an area…we only live on 1/3 acre….and it is all landscaped to some degree with trees and shrubs, although some areas are more wild than others.

Maybe in the future when we move.

Andrea
Andrea
5 years 3 months ago

You need to google “chicken tractor”. We have 3 chickens, a chicken tractor, about a half an acre, a landscaped yard,(flower beds- we don’t worry much about the grass) and a three year old. 🙂 I just roll the tractor to a new spot of grass every few days. Usually there’s not even enough poop in the old spot to bother with, and it dries fast. We also have a basset hound so total free range of the backyard is a no go. Tractor works perfect for us.

Ally
Ally
5 years 3 months ago
Try to relax about germs, especially salmonella. Your children have a greater risk of contracting it via commercial egg/chicken..other products. Chickens that are free-ranged and small farm raised rarely have problems with this. Due to the fact that they are not confined and overwhelmed by their own waste. You will need to keep their coop litter clean and their nest boxes, too. But, I would not worry so much. Also..we have a mobile chicken fence ( electric mesh, solar powered, that we use to herd them around on different areas of our property. This way..they get all the fresh plants,… Read more »
EvansMama
EvansMama
5 years 3 months ago

Actually I am plenty relaxed about germs. We don’t use any kinds of germ-killing products or insecticides or anything. We are organic.

I have heard that before about commercial chicken farms vs. family farms and salmonella mainly living in commercial farms. However, having not had experience…it didn’t seem prudent to chance it.

Thanks for the real-world advice!

lucy
lucy
5 years 3 months ago
A coop has to be pretty dirty for it to smell, just clean regularly and lay fresh pine shavings down every few days, and it’s not an issue. To me it’s just a “Country” smell, and I like that. But I do live up the street from a horse stable, so maybe I’m weird. A few birds in your backyard should absolutely not smell. I usually wash my eggs before using them. In four years we’ve never gotten sick from our eggs. As far as landscaping, they will scratch the ground and eat some plants, so if pristine landscaping is… Read more »
Erik
Erik
5 years 3 months ago
Not sure where you are coming from as I was raised with chickens and many other farm critters (like much of the world used to live and still do). You will catch a nasty bug and smell more foul stench from your fellow humanoids than you ever will from living more naturally. Growing up I ran all over our 80+acres with my 4 other siblings, much of the time barefoot and swam naked in our pond. People live in so much fear today, we fear everything and that’s not living. As far as landscaped yards go (hopefully not fertilized in… Read more »
brian
brian
5 years 3 months ago

If you have ANY mulch in your landscape forget about keeping it in place. The moment you rake it back to where it belongs your chickens will kick it back out. They will also scratch around the roots of some of your favorite plants (that’s where the bugs are of course!) potentially killing your landscape plants. But if you can free range them in a separate part of your yard they are great!

Dana
Dana
5 years 3 months ago
I come from two farming families. I was around chicken and pig poop from time to time. I’m still here. It weirds me out the way everyone gets nutty about salmonella but they still drive around in cars. Check the stats sometime on how many people die from car wrecks annually in the U.S. versus from salmonella. I believe even the flu death rate is higher. Weston Price documented that tuberculosis-exposed Swiss who were still eating their traditional diets were far less likely to contract the disease than city Swiss who ate a lot of industrial food. Something to think… Read more »
Heather
5 years 3 months ago

It comes down to population density. If you put too many of any animal on your land, you’ll have problems with odor, disease, bugs, etc….Assess how much land you have and the appropriate number of hens that land can naturally support and you won’t have problems with odor, disease and you’ll have healthier animals.

We also wash our hands after handling our chickens, collecting eggs or handling our outside rabbit.

Jeanmarie
Jeanmarie
3 years 1 month ago

Chickens are *great* for kids to be around. For a healthy, functioning immune system, children need to be exposed to dirt and microbes. Trying to keep your little darlings isolated from germs is an unwinnable war. Even if you succeed, you lose because they won’t be as healthy.

Bad smells are the result of bad management. Look into the Deep Little Method for bedding in the chicken house. You do need sufficient space and lots of ventilation for chicken health, and that will also mitigate smell.

Marie
Marie
5 years 3 months ago

5$ a chick is a bit high, most hatcheries are under 2$ each. http://www.cacklehatchery.com/ has the best prices that I’ve found. This chicken tractor http://omelays.blogspot.com/2008/05/how-to-build-chicken-tractor-cheap.html is by far the best, light, easy to move, much much cheaper and easier to build than wood. We build a 10×12 for about $60 and are raising 100 pullets in it right now.

Sharon Bush
Sharon Bush
5 years 3 months ago

I raised chickens in the County when I owned a home way back in the woods. I started with them in a coop, but some animal kept getting to them so I let them roam free in my yard. They had a better chance of flying a little ways …they roasted on my front porch, which I had to scrub each day. I could not kill them, but I did enjoy the eggs, of course some I did not use and I enjoyed watching them hatch…the lil yellow fuzzy things that they were …

Anne
5 years 3 months ago

I am so interested in doing this next year. (This year, we had a baby instead of baby chickens.)

In my first-ring urban-feeling suburb, city codes say we can have chickens but no roosters.

Brianna
Brianna
5 years 3 months ago
Mark, for climates like ours (I live in Santa Barbara) I let my chicks outside in a pen at week 3, but mine always seem to be hugely independent at week 2. They get a light until week 8 at night. Also Modesto feeds has soy free organic chicken food if people can’t make their own. Otherwise Azure Standards has organic corn/soy free. Also, my hen is laying on 6 eggs currently, if anyones interested in chicks, they are due to hatch in 1.5 weeks and will be ready in Sep as pullets or cockerels. (mother raised) This batch is… Read more »
Jeanmarie
Jeanmarie
3 years 1 month ago

Your hen is “sitting” on eggs, not “laying” on eggs. Or brooding a clutch of eggs.
Fun fact: chickens sit in the nest as they prepare to lay, but when they finally get the urge, they stand up to lay the egg.

Hal
5 years 3 months ago

We’ve been contemplating the idea and recently moved to a place that would allow us to have chickens. We’re thinking 3 egg layers would be a good amount to start with. A smaller number is easier to contain at night.

Ally
Ally
5 years 3 months ago

Agreed! And you will be surprised how quickly eggs pile up! Three is a good start!

Casey
5 years 3 months ago
I encourage anyone with acreage to have a flock of free-roaming hens. It’s very easy to raise chicks under a heat lamp — allow them to get closer/further away and adjust their own temperatures. Dogs are a problem, and must be carefully trained to protect the flock from varmints but otherwise leave the chickens alone. I have two good dogs now, but in the past have had problems, and it can be heartbreaking to make the choice between a dog and your chickens. Some breeds are better than others around livestock. I sell eggs for $3/dozen (NC, near Chapel Hill).… Read more »
fitmom
fitmom
5 years 3 months ago

I love my chickens. Have had them for a few years, and they offer up eggs, pest control, fertilizer, and hilarity.
Once the coop is built, they really are low, low maintenance. I let mine out to roam in the morning, and put them away at night, and that’s about it.

This year, we raised some Cornish Cross meat chickens as well.

John
5 years 3 months ago

I’m an avid reader, Mark, and am excited that you’re posting on this topic. You can’t beat the quality of backyard-raised eggs. They fit perfectly within the primal way of eating, and you can fine tune what you feed the chickens to get ideal yolks and whites.

If I may, I invite anyone interested in building their own coop to check out my site (TheGardenCoop.com). I have plans for a couple of original coop designs and write a blog all about coop construction tips and other creative ideas. Hope you find it helpful.

Primal Phil
5 years 3 months ago

Hey John, good to see you here, thanks again for the awesome DIY Garden Coop design!

Great information in this article as usual Mark, thanks!!

Since starting our backyard chicken project last year we’ve enjoyed fresh organic eggs as an essential part of our new primal menu. Nothing beats the feeling of sticking it to the industrial farming culture when we can! 🙂

Laurel
Laurel
5 years 3 months ago
I have a collection of 6 hens, two roos, an australian shepherd and a four year old son. DS is VERY attached to his ‘girls’, and the smell factor is nil. Seriously. Highly, HIGHLY overemphasized. If you smell your chooks, “UR DOIN IT RONG”. We play with our chooks a LOT, and if you raise them properly, the salmonella issue, again, yawn. Mountains from molehills. Just wash your hands when you’re done. Common sense at work here, not rocket science! I have a largish lot (.33 acre) and its IMHO quite nicely landscaped-the girls mosy in and out of the… Read more »
Jennifer
Jennifer
5 years 3 months ago

If you are paying $5 for a CHICK you are getting ripped off bigtime. For something very special and rare, fine, but for your average feed store chick, that’s just outrageous. Locally on Craigs List they run probably $2, and I just dumped 165 for 50 cents each just to move them since it’s late in the year and I didn’t want to risk getting left with them.

Kara
5 years 3 months ago
We have chickens in our backyard and I love it! It’s been so fun for our kids to watch them grow from chicks to full grown hens. Sometimes they can be really loud but so far none of our neighbors has complained. They do wake me up in the morning- and these are hens not roosters. Someone above said they can stink but as long as you keep the coop clean and provide enough space/ fresh air for the amount of hens you have it won’t be a problem. I wrote a post on my blog just the other day… Read more »
Penny
Penny
5 years 3 months ago

I love my chickens, too. I adopted two Light Brahma hens two years ago on the 4th of July. They are definitely hilarious and immensely smart. If I’m late on feeding them breakfast (they really like a banana with their soaked! grain) they mysteriously get out of their run and peck on my bedroom back door. We still haven’t figured out how they get out, but breakfast time is the only time they take the opportunity. My son, who is now 13, adores them. They are friendly, comical, beautiful and their eggs are amazingly delicious!

Kevin Greer
Kevin Greer
5 years 3 months ago

Build an insect trap into, or adjacent to, your coop, using a black light, to supply your chickens with free food.

http://ipm.osu.edu/lady/L.T.instr.htm

http://www.ehow.com/how_5082621_make-insect-light-trap.html

http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Entomology/ythfacts/4h/unit2/hotm&ult.htm

Tara
5 years 3 months ago
I’ve had chickens for a while, in my (what I thought was huge) backyard. There are definitely pros and cons. Keep in mind I only have 4. First off, once you factor in the cost of the coop, the chickens, the feed etc etc. your eggs will end up costing you about the same amount as you would pay in the store. HOWEVER, they taste way better and are fresher, plus you know where they came from and how the chickens were treated. This was worth the cost for me. Raising chickens is a commitment. You can’t just go away… Read more »
Tara
5 years 3 months ago

Oh, and they eat all the black widows in my backyard. I’d rather have the kids playing in chicken poop than with spiders. 😉

emme
emme
5 years 3 months ago

Disease is an issue–a friend of mine is trying to raise chickens locally, and has lost so many of them to illness. An article about it in the NY Times–something to be aware of.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/dining/23sfdine.html

GenlteMama
GenlteMama
5 years 3 months ago
We LOVE our girls. Such a symbiotic relationship- they eat bugs & scratch the ground & I get cute little friends that chirp when they see me & give me eggs 🙂 If properly cared for, there is no issue with disease & children. Certain breeds are noisier than others, some are more aggressive, some are flightier, some lay more eggs… BUT, you’d need to get chicks to raise if you want them to be bonded to you. Mine love to sit in my lap & be petted 🙂 I’ve got wyandottes & orpingtons & they’re great with my family… Read more »
Darren
5 years 3 months ago

We are about to get chickens and were just talking with the farmer from whom we’ll be buying our ladies today! We’re going with the Catwbacoop, I think. It’s here… http://affiliate.catawbacoops.com/idevaffiliate.php?id=211 It’s pretty awesome! Some friends are using it and their ladies seem to love it.

Tara
Tara
5 years 3 months ago
We live on a small 30 acre farm and we’ve raised a lot of poultry – geese, ducks and chickens. The problem (for me) is having to slaughter after the birds are done laying. A layer will only produce daily eggs for a short time – maybe a year to a year and a half then…well…it’s to the stew pot. But by this time they are cherished pets with names. Free roaming laying hens are very, very tough birds to eat by the time they are done laying! You can make soup out of them though. If you want the… Read more »
Lynda
Lynda
5 years 3 months ago

We let our ducks roam (8 of them) but our yard became a layer of duck goo, so we sent them to a new home with a pond.

Primal Palate
Primal Palate
5 years 3 months ago

Duck eggs are way healthier than chicken eggs AND taste better, too.
I just had my very first duck eggs EVER in my life and I’m hooked.
Once you go quack you never go back 🙂

Lynna
Lynna
5 years 3 months ago

Unfortunately I am unable to have chickens. My yard is too small according to the legal stuff.

Joel
Joel
5 years 3 months ago
My family just got everything set up and purchased some ducks. I highly recommend ducks over chickens for a few reasons. 1. Ducks are flocking birds which means, among other things, that they look out for one another… Chickens establish a ‘pecking order’ and have been known to be quite brutal to eachother. 2. Ducks are generally more intelligent and better able to drive off small predators (though you still definitely want to have safe place for them at night). 3. Duck eggs are typically the size of jumbo chicken eggs, or larger, and are also quite happy to forage… Read more »
EvansMama
EvansMama
5 years 3 months ago

You know, I had read this about ducks as well. Plus I also read they don’t scratch up the landscaping like chickens do.

Nice to hear about the poop option as well….

Jesse
Jesse
5 years 3 months ago

I have a question about the mealworm option. I followed the link for raising mealworms, and they are fed with grains. Seems kinda silly since we’re trying to avoid feeding grains to the chickens. They’re basically just putting the grains one rung lower on the food chain. Anybody have any thoughts on alternative food for mealworms?

Lynda
Lynda
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve raised chickens for eggs and meat for 20 years, always ordered from Welps Hatchery. They are shipped by mail, and I love the post office call at 6:30 a.m.: “Come get your chicks!! They’re making a racket!”
Once grown, I do feed them all our uncooked kitchen scraps (and chicken feed), but they stop laying if fed meat and fat. Read up on chicken “moult” before you panic when they lose their feathers and stop laying.

Keoni Galt
Keoni Galt
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve had backyard chickens for about 3 years now. I think you’ve covered most of the relevant topics pretty well Mark.

For those concerned about the smell, I use this stuff called EM-1.

http://www.teraganix.com/

Just a little bit in their drinking water, and some diluted in a spray bottle and sprayed all over the coop once a week and there is almost zero manure smell.

Keoni Galt
Keoni Galt
5 years 3 months ago
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