Spring is for the chickens

I related in a previous post that I have never ever had chickens before I got them last June as day olds from Ideal Poultry.  I had a fear of failure that made me very unsure of keeping them. But I have 27 that happily run around and are a blast to watch.   But if I can do this, anyone can, and it just takes some preparation, education and dedication.  I have listed 5 things to do BEFORE you get your  first chicks.  It is tempting to get in a hurry and order those cute little fluffy things, or pick them up at Tractor Supply before you are ready.  But please be ready first.  Here are my top five THINGS TO DO in advance:

1.  Get ALL  the family members on board with the idea.  It will require some time and effort from everyone.  Your husband may need to build something for you and them; your kids may need to help feed and water or change litter. The first few weeks will require being at home (no week long vacations) and dedicating yourself to overseeing the health and welfare of your chicks until they are ready to be outside on their own, usually around 8 weeks of age.

2.  Evaluate your finances and plan for the necessary housing, litter, feed, and food dishes and waterers.  We built our coops; my husband designed and made them, but they were not “free”.  If you plan ahead and scrounge around Craigslist or friends or neighbors maybe you can get some free building materials.  There are plans online for making your own food or water dishes that are mostly castoff materials.  The feed and sawdust shavings will be ongoing expenses.  I have 27 chickens; I buy one 50 lb. sack of feed for about $12 that lasts 2 or maybe 3 weeks. The shavings I buy from the farmer’s co-op as needed, but they are about $4 for one compressed bag.    Because they are pastured, I fill the feeders every other day and let them scrounge for bugs and things and I will toss out vegetable and food scraps if I have some. I also buy ground oyster shells since they are laying; I don’t buy grit since they pasture and pick up enough grit that way. Until then you will need to buy it or provide sand or similar. Be sure you get a sturdy tub to hold them while they are chicks.  I used a long narrow stock tank because we had one. Fencing on top to keep out cats, snakes, etc.  

3.  This maybe should be #1, but BUY this book, “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens” by Gail Damerow.  READ it all.  Don’t let it scare you away though.  I don’t medicate or worm my chickens; they are healthy.  Our coop was designed so I don’t have to walk into it.  It is only 4′ deep so I open the door and reach in to do any egg gathering, cleaning or litter change out.  If I need to get in, I can.  It’s an A-frame,  8′ tall  in the middle. But not walking in it keeps me from tracking in some harmful bacteria/germ.

4.  Research where you are getting your chicks from, their replacement policy if they do not arrive alive or die shortly after arrival, and selection availability.  If you can, use a hatchery as close as possible to you so shipping is successful.  I used Ideal Poultry in Texas.  Great customer service and all the chicks arrived in excellent shape.   http://www.ideal-poultry.com/  I got to choose the date of delivery that fit my schedule. The post office called me at 6:30 a.m. to come and get those chicks now or they will die.  Be ready for the call and have the facilities, heat lamp, food and water,  ready and waiting.

5.  Research the rules and regulations of the housing area you live in.  Your city/town may have rules or deed restrictions about keeping poultry  and how many and type (no roosters, for example).  If the neighbors complain and you are not in compliance they could confiscate your birds or have you get rid of them.  Call your city code officer or city office for the regulations. If you are not in city limits make sure there are no restrictions in your subdivision.

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