The most suitable animal for backyard farming is by far the chicken. With low start-up costs, low time commitments and modest needs of the animal, home chicken raising is most practical. Just remember one important rule: Start slowly. Make sure you are covering all their basic needs and evaluate the amount of your time required each day. As you feel comfortable, grow. Here are some basic requirements and facts for consideration.
- Decide on what breed and how many you may want to start with. A quick internet search can provide you with much information including egg production, mature size and yes; temperament. Remember, hatcheries require minimum orders of 25 birds which will be a day or two old. That means they will need a brooder for several weeks. More mature birds will eliminate the early frustration and will start laying sooner. Check with local Feed and Seed stores, local farms or even your state Farmers Bulletins to see what breeds are available to select from. Some small farmers often sell at flea markets but be careful. Look for clean, healthy, shiny plumage and bright, clear eyes. Also, ask when it was hatched. If he doesn’t know, odds are it may be a cull and not worth you effort or even worse, bring disease into your flock.
- Evaluate your backyard setting. Will you need to confine them at all times or can they free range? Don’t forget you landscaping. Love their hearts, chickens scratch so if you have nice mulched beds, better consider how to keep them out now. It will save a lot of discontentment in the future.
- Before purchasing your birds, please build them a shelter. There are many designs readily available but when considering one, keep these things in mind. Does it provide adequate ventilation? Will it provide protection from cold drafts during the winter? Can I close it up at night to protect from predators? How accessible is it for egg gathering? And finally, can it be cleaned out easily? Cleaning must be done weekly in order to maintain a healthy environment for your chickens. If it cannot be done easily, you may find yourself skipping this most important function.
- A far as size, it depends on the quantity and size of your flock. For roosting, provide at least 10 inches per bird and place your roosts a minimum of one foot off the ground and one foot apart. Plan on providing at least one laying box for every four hens. They should be about fourteen inches square and 12 inches deep. If you provide a run during the day, it should have at least three feet square per bird.
- Of course food and clean water is a must. Commercial feeders and waterers are readily available and can be purchased relatively inexpensively. A one gallon waterer should last five or six birds a day or two. Check and clean it regularly especially during the summer months when algae growth tends to be a problem. Remember, the cleaner you can keep things, the fewer problems you will encounter. Many people think all a chicken needs is scratch. Try not to allow that to be anymore than 50 percent of your feed. Adding whole grain corn, cracked corn, wheat, rice and oats will give much better performance. If you cannot allow them to free range (or even if you can), consider the old slop bucket. Food scraps (non-meat) will be much appreciated by your birds who will soon learn to come running at the thought of these tasty tidbits.
Ducks may also peak your interest. While they require less attention and grow more rapidly, there are NO real dual-purpose ducks. They are either raised for meat or egg production and even though some can be used for both you will either get less eggs or smaller ducks (less meat). The up sides are they require less space and almost no housing and have personalities. They do not require a pond or creek but will be very happy if you have one. Check our site for more information on the Khaki Campbell.
This is not intended to be all inclusive as the information available is staggering. We do hope it has given you some useful information and food for thought.