We have been getting a ton of questions on how to start your own backyard flock. Here are some simple steps to follow but maybe the best things to do is to attend one of our free “Backyard Chicken Raising 101” seminars. March 12, 11:00 am at the South Store or April 9th 11:00 am at our North location.
Preparing for Chickens:
Raising chickens can offer many rewards – wholesome, home-raised eggs, enjoying the beauty of wide ranges of poultry breeds and types, and the unique, full personalities individual birds personify. If you’re ready to raise your own chickens, ducks or other poultry, we’re here to help.
Poultry comes in a variety of species, breeds, shapes, sizes and colors. Most families interested in eggs or meat choose chickens. But show birds, game birds, waterfowl and turkeys are becoming increasingly popular for those who simply enjoy watching colorful and unique birds in their backyard. The species and breeds you choose depend on your personal goals as a small-flock owner.
Chickens For egg production – Optimal egg production may be achieved using White Leghorn hybrids, the most efficient breed when it comes to converting feed to eggs. These birds weigh about 3 pounds at 20 weeks of age and about 4 pounds when mature. Rhode Island Reds and Andalusians also are good egg layers and add a splash of color to your flock. If you’re looking to gather more colorful eggshells, though, look no further than the Ameraucana. They are known for laying blue and blue-green eggs.
Chickens for meat production – Chickens raised for meat often are hybrids or combinations of many breeds that result in desirable growth and carcass traits. One such hybrid is the Cornish cross. These chicks grow very rapidly, reaching 4 to 6 pounds by 6 to 8 weeks of age, and do so with excellent feed conversion (that is, the pounds of feed needed to attain 1 pound of weight is quite low). This allows them to reach market weight faster.
Your Chickens New Home
Before you pick up your first birds, you need to prepare their new home. The needs and requirements will vary depending on the type of birds, number of birds and age you are starting them. Chicks need one to two square feet of floor space per chick during their first 6 weeks of age. Ducklings, goslings and turkey poults will require more space due to their larger size.
The normal brooding period for chicks begins when they hatch until they reach about 6 weeks of age. At this stage, warm, dry and draft-free environments are critical as the young birds develop adequate body size and condition to self-sustain themselves in various environmental conditions. The brooder, a house specifically made for starting chicks, will need to be warm and dry. For a very small number of chicks, a large sturdy cardboard box equipped with infrared heat lamps for warmth will suffice as a temporary home