Recent changes in the food supply chain have caused many people, myself included, to seriously consider where food comes from. Most of us have never experienced seeing grocery store shelves empty of basic staples. Items like milk, canned goods, bread, and meat have been scarce the past few times I’ve been to the grocery store. If someone were to tell me 3 months ago that I would go into a grocery store to see no eggs left on the shelf, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are in uncertain times when it comes to food security. This uncertainty has led many people to think about raising backyard chickens. As long as you’re prepared with a little knowledge and the basic supplies, you can raise chickens successfully. Having chickens means you’ll have a reliable egg source that’s conveniently found in your own backyard.
What You Need for Your Flock
Chickens have very basic needs and most supplies for your backyard flock are easily accessible and affordable. The most important thing you need when raising backyard chickens is a secure coop since they have very little natural defense mechanisms. Chickens need a safe space to go at night to keep away foxes, opossums, raccoons, and other predators. They naturally go into their coop once it gets dark so all you need to do is close the door. Of course, you’ll need food for your hens. There are many brands and formulas of food made specifically for laying hens so you can choose which one you prefer based on your budget. As far as feeders and waterers go, it mainly depends on the setup of your coop. I’ve used this type of waterer successfully for years. And remember your backyard chickens will love kitchen scraps. Here’s a helpful list of foods that are safe for chickens to eat.
Choose Your Backyard Chicken Breed
Picking the right breed of chicken is important when building your backyard flock. Chickens are rated based on hardiness, egg production, and how docile they are. Some laying breeds are dual-purpose and can also be used as meat birds if you want that option once they stop laying. I can’t stomach the idea of killing and eating chickens that we’ve named and raised so once they age out of laying they just become glorified pets. The best laying breeds will lay 250-280 eggs per year. Keep in mind that most hens don’t start laying until they’re around 16 weeks old and they do slow down significantly when they reach 4-5 years old. Some of the best layer breeds include the Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, Orpington, and Plymouth Rock. Most of these breeds are also fairly friendly and docile, although Rhode Island Reds can become broody and the Leghorns are harder to tame. You can even order your chicks online and have them sent to your house. Yes, that’s a thing and it’s safe for the chicks as long as you use a reputable hatchery.
What’s the Deal with Roosters?
There is a common misconception that a rooster is needed for your hens to produce eggs. Hens produce eggs with or without a rooster. Roosters simply fertilize the eggs which gives you the option to let your hens hatch chicks. A rooster can also help keep your flock safe from certain types of predators. Many roosters will fight to the death to protect their harem. But, this aggressive nature can mean that your rooster will fight you too. There are some friendly roosters but you never know what you’re going to get personality-wise when you add a rooster to your backyard flock. Keep this in mind if you have young kids who will be tending to the chickens. A rooster running full-speed at a small child could be traumatizing. Plus, roosters have spurs on the back of their legs which can cause injuries.
Be sure to know your local regulations before you set up your new flock of backyard chickens. Recent years have seen many localities relax regulations on hens but some places don’t allow roosters just based on noise ordinances. Chickens have individual personalities and many breeds are friendly and great with kids. Keep them safe, well-fed, and watered and you can be successful in raising your backyard flock.