The Beginning Journey to Raising Chickens
The first step in getting started to begin raising chickens is to determine if it is legal to own and raise backyard chickens in local areas. After finding out it is allowed, the next journey is to a local feed store. The best time to visit is in the spring when there are day old chicks available for purchase. It may be helpful to ask the local feed store for a list of supplies that will help a beginner start to raise chickens. It is possible someone who works at the local feed store may be able to give recommendations and reviews of particular products before making a purchase. Another way to get chickens is to wait until the baby chicks are older and lay eggs. It is possible to hatch chicks from the eggs with homemade chicken incubators.
The type of chicken breed that will work best for a particular homestead or backyard depends on the climate anticipated for the chickens, what type of size is desired, what purpose the chicken is going to serve (i.e. for meat, for eggs, for both meat and eggs), and what size of eggs is wanted if egg productivity is what the chicken is for. There are many more ways to determine what breed is best, but for starters, these are the best questions to consider before choosing a breed of chicken. It is also a good idea to learn the anatomy of a chicken for both females and males because different breed chickens can look different from one another but have the same parts. For example, the comb on chickens can vary in so many different ways from one chicken to another. It may be that one look is desired over another look, so if aesthetics are a concern, it would be important to know what to look for.
For the first 60 days, the chicks will need to be in a young chicken brooder. This can be made by something sturdy like a cardboard box or a cage for small animals, such as rabbits. Pine shavings make great flooring for the chicks. A 100 watt bulb put in the corner of the brooder will help keep a steady temperature of 90 to 100 degrees for the first week. Each week after that, the temperature can be decreased by 5 degrees. The chicks will need to eat chick crumbles and drink water. The best way to get the chicks used to being around people is by playing with them when they are young. Outside time is important for the chicks to explore the area and scratch around. Make sure this area is sectioned off so when it is time to put the chicks back into the brooder, they will be easier to catch.
After the first 60 days are over, the chicks can be put into a chicken coop after they have 'feathered out.' The best placement for the chickens is two to three square feet per chicken inside a hen-house or four to five square feet per chicken in an outside run. In addition to pine shavings, a great idea for flooring is called the 'deep litter method.' This is where the coop's litter is allowed to build up over time. As the manure from the chickens and the litter start to compost, it helps to keep the coop warm, which allows the chickens to stay warm. At this stage of life, chickens eat layer feed and/or pellets and drink water. Homemade chicken feed is also an option.
For any questions that may arise or if help is wanted while starting out on the journey of raising chickens, there are many internet sources that have forums, glossaries, and other vital information that can be of assistance. For example, the website http://www.backyardchickens.com contains a huge amount of information, forums to look for chickens or for questions, diagrams of the anatomy of chickens, a glossary of terms that are useful to know, and much more. In addition to online resources, it may be helpful to visit the local feed store and ask if they know of any resources for help or information for a beginner who is learning to raise chickens.