If you’re thinking about keeping backyard chickens for eggs, there are a few steps you’ll need to take before even bringing them home. Keep reading to hear some of my tips for getting started with backyard chickens for egg production.
Coop & Run
First, you’ll need to decide if chickens are the right fit for your property. You may have local bylaws where your property has to meet specific requirements in order to be allowed chickens. Also, chickens require a minimum of 3-5 square feet per bird inside their coop. You’ll also want about 10 square feet per bird in their run or free-range space. The more space you have for your chickens, the happier they will be. If you don’t have enough space or can’t let them roam freely, chickens might not be the best option for you.
There are a few different options for your chicken coop. You can buy a pre-made coop, build your own from scratch or repurpose an existing structure to use as your chickens’ home. If you choose to build a coop yourself, make sure it’s large enough and has plenty of ventilation. It will also be important that you have easy access to clean out the coop from time to time.
We opted to buy a pre-made coop for now, but once we get a place with more space we’d like to expand our flock and have a larger coop for them. If you’d like to see a review of the coop we are currently using just click here: Omaha Chicken Coop Build & Review.
You’ll also want a run attached to your coop for your chickens to roam about it. You’ll want to fully cover, or at least partially cover their run area to keep it dry in bad weather, and also to provide shade when it gets hot out. Alternatively, if you have the space, you can let your chickens free-range in your yard during the day and then keep them in the coop at night.
Next, you’re going to want to think about the supplies you’ll need for your chickens. If you are keeping chickens for eggs, then you’ll want to make sure they have a place to lay them. We have built-in nesting boxes inside our coop that we keep filled with straw or wood shavings and it works great! Inside the coop, you will also need a place for your chickens to perch on at night, roost bars will take care of this for you.
You’ll also need feeders and waterers for your chickens. Chickens are messy eaters and like to spread around their food so look for feeders that help contain the mess as much as possible. You’ll want to raise your feeders and waters off the ground to around your chicken’s head height. This can help them from using their feet to make a mess. Also, if you can find a way to keep them from standing on the feeders and waterers (using a lid) that will help with the mess too.
Of course, you can’t forget the chicken feed! Let’s just focus on adult hens for now. (We will get into raising chicks in another post) Your hens are going to need laying pellets. Any local feed store will carry a few different options. There are different types of laying pellets so be sure to have a chat with the staff about what they carry in stock and what they recommend. Don’t forget to grab a back of oyster shells and some grit too. Your chickens will need the oyster shells for additional calcium, which helps them to make strong eggshells. And the grit or small pebbles are needed to help them break up and digest their food.
Lastly, you’ll need to decide on what breed of chickens you want to keep. There are tons of different breeds out there with a variety of personalities and egg production rates. You can find chickens at your local feed store, or if you’re looking for some really unique breeds, check out some online hatcheries or local farmers that sell laying hens.
We purchased ours from our local feed store and ended up with a couple of white Delaware’s and a couple of New Hampshire Reds. I like having a couple of different breeds just to bring some diversity to our flock. We are keeping our flock small, at just 4 birds until we can move to a larger space, but even with just 4 birds, we still get more than enough eggs for our needs.
All that’s left now is to bring your chickens home and introduce them to their new home! You may not get any eggs to start will while they are getting used to their new space, but don’t worry, you will soon be collecting those gorgeous eggs for your morning breakfast!
Do you have chickens already, or are you in the planning stages still? Tell me about your setup or your plans for one in the comment section below!