Raising Backyard Chickens 101—Fun, Easy and Foolproof

Raising backyard chickens can play an important role in ensuring you’ll always have a steady, protein-rich food supply. The nice part is, it’s a lot simpler than many beginner preppers think!

Why would you even consider adding a pen full of chickens to your backyard? Here’s what experienced preppers tell us:

raising backyard chickens
  • Fresh, Delicious Eggs Every Day
    Imagine having a steady supply of eggs as close as your own backyard. Not only is raising backyard chickens for eggs convenient, but in times of emergencies or natural disasters, it could be a lifesaver.

    Even better, home-grown chickens produce eggs that are fresher and tastier than anything you can find in stores.
  • Excellent Meat and Protein Source
    If you choose to raise chickens for meat, raising broilers can be a healthy and rewarding experience for your entire family. It’s easy to start a batch of chicks at low cost and quickly raise them to harvest weight.

    Want more protein for your family? Chickens are a great resource! Want a new revenue stream, sell chicken meat to your neighbors!
  • Constant Supply of Rich Fertilizer
    Chicken manure is a great garden fertilizer. Combine that with egg shells, and you’ve got a nutritious, mineral-rich addition to your compost pile that pays dividends long into the future.

    You’ll gather about 2 cubic feet of manure per chicken in a year’s time, giving you a valuable asset for your garden area.

    Imagine what you can save by producing your own manure supply versus buying it from the local nursery supplies store!

Considerations Before You Begin
So how do you begin the process of putting a flock of chickens in your backyard? What are the pitfalls and how can you avoid them?

Here’s what we recommend:

Check local ordinances.
Many communities have ordinances governing the raising of chickens. Some limit you as to location, proximity to neighbors, the number of chicks you can have at any one time, etc.

Be sure to check out these ordinances before you pour your time and money into setting up a coop, only to find you’ve overstepped the law. Checking now can save you lots of headaches—and cash—later.

Map Out Your Space.

There are lots of free or affordably priced plans online for either henhouses or full size chicken coops.

Once you’ve found the one you like, be sure to measure your available space to make sure it will fit.

Also, be sure the structure is large enough for feeders and water containers, a roosting area, and a nest box for every three hens. If you’re building a coop, it should also be high enough that you can stand in it to gather eggs and clean the manure.

If you’re building a henhouse, it could be a bit smaller. Whichever you choose, coop or hen house, just make sure it’s safe from predators. 

Plan Your Budget
You’ll need to do some research in your local area to determine such costs as:

Initial construction costs:

Typically, the cost of materials for a coop and a 20 x 5ft run will be in the area of $300-$500 or so for things like wood, fencing and hardware. Naturally, you’ll save labor costs if you do the work yourself.

The larger your flock and structure, the higher your costs.

Purchasing the baby chicks:
They can run you anywhere from $3 to $5, though prices can be more than that depending upon the breed, local supplies and where you live. Egg-laying hens can cost between $20 and $50 each, with prices for fancier breeds running even higher in some cases.

Expect to pay somewhere between $5 and $15 for roosters. But again, prices in your area maybe different, so always check around for the best prices.

In our area, we pay about $20 per 50 pound bag at our local co-op. Again, your costs may be higher or lower. The more chickens you have, the faster that bag will be consumed.

Egg production:
In many parts of the country, hens lay eggs from spring through the fall, with the peak season being the long days of summer. With supplemental lighting of 16 hours per day, you might be able to extend that production season by a few days or even weeks.

Most hens lay their first eggs at about 18 weeks of age.

You can expect 250 eggs per year from high-producing, healthy backyard chickens. That number will gradually decrease each year until the hens retire in their 6th or 7th year.

“How Many Chickens Should I Raise?”

Many of the more successful chicken owners we talk to started their flocks with 3 to 6 chicks. That number is enough to ensure you’ll eventually have a steady supply of 2 eggs every 3 days or so.

Remember that chickens are at their productive peak in their first 2 years. So somewhat before the end of that time, you’ll want to acquire more chicks to keep your daily egg production at a steady level.

At approximately 18 weeks (the time chicks need to reach egg production age) before the end of the 2 year period, you should plan to bring in a new set of baby chicks.

Room To Grow: How Much Space Do Chickens Need?

Inside the coop or henhouse, most chickens need around 3 square foot of floor space, experts say. Outside, plan on at least 8 to 10 square feet. Give them even more space, if available, to help common control disease and problems like feather plucking.

If you’re free ranging, of course, your area can be much larger.

With our own chickens, we’ve noticed they spend most of their time outdoors in places where they can enjoy the sun or even to take a dust bath. Good fencing is a must in order to keep your chickens safe and to keep predators away.

Chickens In Your Garden?

Many growers we talk to let their chickens run loose in their vegetable gardens. Chickens love uprooting weeds and dead stems, eating weed seeds or soil insects and consuming overripe veggies like carrot tops, chard, kale and broccoli stems.

They love to pluck hidden worms and insects from the soil—or wherever they can find them—mixing up the soil in the process.

Lessons from Raising Backyard Chickens 101

There’s a lot to learn and do if you’re planning to raise chickens in your backyard. Hopefully this article will help you get started.

There’s something so assuring when you know you have a continuous supply of nutritious food living in your backyard. Raising chickens is a truly rewarding activity that every prepper can do for himself and his family.

Let’s get started today!

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