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Embracing the Clucks and Cackles: A guide to Chicken Ownership- Preparation, Feeding, and Shelter

When I began my homesteading journey, my expertise with animals revolved around two key players: horses and dogs. Horses had always been my passion, working with dogs became a significant part of my life from the age of 15, providing me with a sense of stability and purpose. Sure, I had encountered chickens and the occasional run-in with the not- so- neighborly- rooster, but my experience actually caring for chickens was as limited as my four-year-old's attention span at a busy grocery store. Today, I am here to discuss my nosedive into the world of chicken wrangling, sharing the good, the bad, and the downright hilarity of chicken raising. So, sit back, grab a cup of coffee, and get ready- I'm about to dish on the things I have uncovered, often at my own expense, when diving into the feathered frenzy of chicken ownership.

A black Chicken standing in mud

The first thing I did was purchase about seven chickens of various breeds out of buckets at my

local feed store. if you plan on getting chickens for a specific purpose, such as egg laying or breeding, don't follow in my footsteps. Out of the six that survived into adulthood, I ended up with about a 50-50 mix of roosters and hens. turns out, roosters don't lay eggs, by the way, and not one chicken looked even remotely close to what I had expected based on their breeds. it was like a poultry version of a Suprise party! Despite the initial chaos, it all worked out pretty well. I started getting a couple of eggs a week as the chickens grew, and the coop became a bustling, if slightly unpredictable, place to be! From this experience, I learned my first valuable lesson: thorough research is essential when acquiring chickens, especially if you have specific egg or meat requirements in mind. selecting the right breed is crucial, whether you aim to produce eggs or raise meat birds, and underestimating this aspect can lead to unexpected outcomes.

Raising chicks is no yolk (see what I did there)! they are cute, cuddly, and yes, a bit smelly, but most cute things come with odor. Forget about those nifty chick starter kits; Rasing chicks means keeping them on starter feed from about 0-8 weeks, then grower feed until they're 18 weeks old, and finally transitioning to a layer feed for your hens and flock raiser for your roosters. According to my calculations, that's about 6-8 pounds of starter feed per chick and around 8 lbs. of grower feed per chick. Ay my local tractor supply, a 50-pound bag of starter feed goes for around $23.99, and the grower feed is around the same. but hey, it's not all bad news- when you subtract the egg savings, potential earnings from selling chicks or eggs, using birds meant for meat, plus the joy these little cluckers bring, it might just be worth every penny. After all, who can put a price on the endless amounts of entertainment that comes with owning chickens. In future blog posts I will revisit income opportunities with chickens and share insights

This brings me to my next point, always remember Murphy's law: that which can go wrong will. It's always a good idea to check out veterinarians in your area who specialize in poultry. Let's face it, chickens are basically toddlers with feathers. Enlist the help of a fellow chicken expert or a whole flock of them to come out to look over your coop and run for any potential danger zones. Trust me, those crafty birds have a knack for getting caught, sliced, stuck, or all of the above in the most unexpected places. Get prepared for days filled with impromptu chicken first-aid - because whether it's a scorching day or a freezing one, they will find a way to get hurt. stock up on Vetericyn poultry care spray for small cuts, scrapes, irritations, etc. Electrolytes are great for super-hot days, and a crate or pet carrier of some kind to be able to quarantine any sick or injured birds. Vet RX is great for sneezing/ other upper respiratory symptoms. I could write 5 extra pages on the countless chicken medical dramas, but sometimes it's best to leave it to the professionals and consult a vet.

When my chicks outgrew their brooder under a heat lamp, it was time to move them into their coop. My first coop had a grand total of 3 nesting boxes and a tiny run attached. It was perfect for a trio of casual hobby chickens and the occasional egg, especially if you're into the whole "move the coop for fresh grass every day" vibe., but for me I was hoping to expand my flock to produce my own chicks as well as needing to meet my egg demand in my household. so, I then purchased a very heavy, slightly bigger coop and run off of Facebook marketplace, I then unintentionally got a crash course in the importance of "easy-to-clean" and "accessible egg boxes". There was no slide out or dump tray which resulted in me having to sweep and scrape chicken waste towards myself which resulted in a lot of "poopy" situations that resulted in more laundry and unexpected encounters with human children and chicken waste than i care to admit. The other difficult thing

Gray homemade chicken coop

to get past with this coop was the acrobatic routine to reach the eggs out of the egg boxes in the back corner of the coop. Efficiency is very important on the homestead especially with kids and when you are trying to maximize profit and return of your investments never underestimating the value of time. so, my husband ended up building us a coop. When it comes to buying or building a coop, there are a couple of non-negotiables that I hold near and dear to my chicken-loving heart enough roosting space: chickens instinctually prefer to perch up high to sleep. This also cuts down on injuries, clean up time, and illnesses. And speaking of important spots for chickens, easily accessible nesting boxes for collecting eggs. I mean, we want the kiddos to be able to snag those eggs without diving elbow-deep into a mess, right? We minimize the filthiness factor when possible. Let's not forget about the whole cleaning process- a pull-out system or some nifty coop cleaning contraption can be a game changer. Also, don't forget a good substrate for your coop i have tried everything under the sun and I prefer to use pine shavings they are lightweight, easy to throw in the compost bin, and keep all of my cluckers healthy and content.

In conclusion, I firmly believe that chickens are a fantastic addition to any homestead, whether you're diving into chicken ownership as a serious endeavor or simply embracing them as a gratifying hobby. Sure, keeping chickens comes with its fair share of challenges, but for me, the rewards far outweigh the labor. so, if you're considering adding some feathered friends to your life, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have. I'm here to offer my best advice and help others avoid the same drawbacks I encountered, while also sharing some of the valuable insights I've gained along the way in the wonderful world of chicken keeping.

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