How to Raise Chickens
DO YOU WANT BABIES OR ADULTS?
First you need to decide if you want to raise them from babies or simply buy laying hens. Either way, you can buy chickens at a local feed store. Of course babies will take a little more work. You can keep them in something as simple as a cardboard box or a small cage and for the first week keep the temperature at 90 to 100 degrees. Decrease the temperature 5 degrees per week. You don’t need to go out and buy a hot lamp… a simple 100 watt bulb pointing in one corner works well. Also for the flooring, pine shavings work best.
WHAT DO YOU FEED CHICKENS?
*Starter ration until they are 8 weeks old,
*Grower ration until they are 18 weeks old,
*Layer ration; or combination starter-grower until they are 18 weeks, then layer ration.
* You can also give your chickens lots of things from your garden… things you may normally throw in your compost, including lettuce, carrots and vegetable peels. (Avoid strong tasting foods like onions and garlic; some people say this makes their eggs taste funny)
WHERE DO YOU KEEP YOUR CHICKENS?
Once feathered out you'll want to move your chickens into a chicken coop! Rule of thumb is about 2-3 square feet per chicken inside the hen house. Of course you can buy a coop, but you can save more and customize your coop by building it yourself.
WHAT PREDATORS DO YOU NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR?
You definitely need to keep local predators in mind when building your coup. No matter how careful you are, you are almost certain to get a predator attack at some time. You’d be surprised at how creative and motivated predators are in finding ways to have your chickens for dinner. Raccoons, snakes, weasels, rats, birds of prey like the every-watching hawk, all pose a danger to your chickens. Predators include coyotes, raccoons, foxes, weasels and their relatives, birds of prey, opossums, skunks, rodents, and snakes. Domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, can also be predators of poultry. You have to remember, it’s a part of their nature to hunt, so keep them separate from your chickens.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHICKENS
- Remove all potential hiding spots in and around your chicken coop.
- Mow the long grass, cut back the shrubs and vines, and remove piles of lumber and other junk. The idea is to remove the places that preditors like to stalk from.
- Most chicken predators don't like to travel across large open spaces, so clearing a wide area around your coop will be a great deterrent.
- If you have fences, submerge at least two feet of plywood along the edge of them to prevent predators from digging under it. If you're living on a tight budget, use sturdy wire instead of plywood (which can be quite expensive.
HOW MANY EGGS WILL YOU GET?
When a hen reaches eighteen to twenty weeks of age, she begins to lay eggs. Generally, a hen will lay one egg a day. A hen's reproductive cycle generally lasts twenty-four hours during the summer months. Her cycle is set by day length. As the days shorten, and winter approaches, a hen will lay fewer eggs. Sometimes she will even skip some days or stop laying eggs all together until the spring arrives. It’s all about survival. The cold weather decreases a chicks chance of survival so mother nature just kicks in.