Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Considerations When Buying Your First Chickens/Chicks

Black Austerlops
I always recommend to people wanting to get chickens that they first and foremost read a good book on home chicken raising first! These are living breathing feeling animals and have a right to be raised in such a way that make their little chicken lives enjoyable. Almost every library in our nation has at least one book on chicken raising so you don't even need to spend money to learn if you really want to embark on a chicken adventure. One of the most complete books on chickens that I have read is Story's Guide to Raising Chickens 

with a close second being The Encyclopedia of Country Living

 Both are full in information on the realities of chicken rearing.  And here are some good kindle editions  as well

That being said you don't have to do much to make chickens happy. Food water and a clean shelter is what they most desire with occasional scraps thrown in to make life interesting. Because we live in town our chickens are not let out to roam (chickens don't understand property lines and like to explore) but have an enclosed run. When we lived in Wyoming our chickens free ranged at will and we only lost one chicken to unknown causes. Chickens are the easiest farm animal to raise in our opinion.

Barred Rock Hen
OK so here is what we have learned from keeping chickens in town.  Part one is going to be about what you should consider before you even get your chicks.

The most important consideration is if you can have chickens legally in your town.  Surprisingly many cities and towns are now making it legal to have chickens .  Many times up to 10 hens although roosters are often banned due to their joy in crowing.  Or you might live in a town that doesn't have a law either way. That is true in our case.  Our town only stipulates that you get the city councils permission to have chickens.  My daughter (who does chickens in 4-H)  wrote a presentation on her chickens, got written approval letters from all our neighbors, took pictures of what we were going to use as a chicken coop, and also outlined how many chickens/what breed/fly control/waste disposal that would occur.  The city council loved her presentation and approved us on the spot.

So after you figure that you can have chickens what else should you consider?

First off what do you want out of your chickens?

Do you want exotic beautiful birds just to look at and enjoy?  Lots of eggs? Occasional meat? A little of everything?

These are important thoughts because many of the best egg layers are rather ugly and have skinny frames for eating when they are past egg laying prime.  And the more exotic chickens don't lay as well as a commercial egg laying breeds.

Buff Orphington Hens
For us we want both egg laying, pretty birds, and a decent rack for when the hen gets old.  Plus I wanted to get heirloom breeds to help keep them from going extinct.  The breeds we enjoy most are Buff Orphingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Black Austerlops, and Barred Rocks.  All of these birds are very attractive and lay eggs like crazy.  They are also gentle and non aggressive for the most part.

From our 9 laying hens we get about 7 eggs a day in summer, a few less in winter.  We do not keep a rooster because they are very noisy.  Hens do make noise when they lay an egg.  They let out a cluck cluck squawk call for a few minutes, but that is much quieter than a rooster.  Our neighbors don't mind our chickens at all, especially since I give them periodic gifts of eggs.  Bribery works!

There are hundreds of chicken breeds so you are bound to find a breed that suits your taste in color, size, feathering, laying capacity, egg color, and temperament.  If you are looking at getting banties then also consider that they lay small eggs and not as well as the larger breeds, but as an upside they are very broody and make excellent mothers.  We once had a little black banty hen that was the best setter and mother we have seen.  So if you want to raise chicks (you need a rooster here to get fertile eggs) then having a banty or two will be a good choice.

Also I have to say that there is nothing like really fresh eggs for cooking and it is so exciting when you go out and gather your first eggs!

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