Raising Chickens is your guide on how to Raise Chickens at Home

Our beginners guide to raising chickens at home includes the basic information you need for raising you own backyard chickens... from choosing your hens... what do chickens eat?... why use poultry grit and oyster shell?... to introducing your chickens to their new hen house.

For some more reading on raising chickens we also give you some information 'from the other side of the fence' - from some semi-professional chicken keepers and great lovers of chickens... click here to read 'Pleasures and Pitfalls of Raising a Flock of Hens' Part 1
click here to read 'Pleasures and Pitfalls of Raising a Flock of Hens' Part 2 click here to read 'Raising Chickens for Egg Production'
click here to read 'Raising Chickens at Home'

Choosing your chickens...

Bantoms in the Backyard

When most people start raising chickens for the first time they usually chose Point of Lay hens, these hens will start to lay eggs very soon after you get them. Usually within in a couple of weeks once they have got used to their new Hen House. Make sure you find out how old the chickens are and if the poultry supplier has handled them very often. Hens or pullets will be much easier for you to handle if they have already got used to being picked up. When you hold your hen her body should be plump and firm but not flabby. A healthy chicken will have bright eyes, glossy feathers and be alert and active. Check the bird’s eyes to make sure they are not watery and that her legs are smooth and firm. Raised scales on a chicken’s leg can be a sign of scaly leg mite and best to be totally avoided. I have been told on good authority that it can actually take years to completely cure a hen of scaly leg mite if it is not treated early enough.

So how many chickens should you start with?

I would suggest that if you are completely new to raising chickens you start with just two or three hens to begin with until you get more experienced. Chickens are very sociable birds and will thrive in a small group. You will also reduce some of the main poultry problems that can often occur with a larger flock of hens. Three chickens should provide an average family of four with enough eggs to keep everyone supplied with their favourite egg dishes! You will notice egg production will vary between summer and winter. During the long summer days most hens will lay on average an egg a day but they will lay far fewer eggs in winter and some hens will stop laying altogether during the winter months.

What do chickens eat?

One of the most common questions asked by those new to chicken keeping is What do Chickens Eat? Chickens need to eat a balanced diet of quality Layers Pellet or Layers Mash that should contain all the protein, vitamins and minerals the hens need to maintain good health and promote productive egg laying. Layers pellets or layers mash can be purchased from any good poultry supplier. The average hen will eat between 100-150 grams of poultry feed a day, so if you decide to start with 3 hens you can expect to use 20 kg bag of layers pellets every 40 to 45 days. Poultry feed should always be given in a poultry feeder (not on the ground) and you should always provide a fresh supply of clean water daily in a poultry drinker. Water is essential for your hen's health (an egg is made up of 65% water) so you must give your chickens access to fresh water at all times. An average hen will drink approx. half a litre of water every day! With these basic requirements you’re well on your way to starting with chickens.

Should I feed chickens corn?

You can feed chickens some mixed corn as a treat (preferably in the afternoons), you will find that if you scatter this on the ground in the chicken run the hens will enjoy it much more by having to forage for it. However, please make sure you do not give them too much, as too much corn for chickens can cause them to have liver problems and then even more problems can occur when the chickens starts to lay eggs. Do not feed the corn mixed in with the chicken feed as chickens will always chose to eat the corn in preference to their balanced diet (just like children eating too many snacks between meals) this can have an adverse affect on their health and egg production.

Why do chickens need Poultry Grit?

Chickens need a regular supply of poultry grit as they do not have teeth like us and need the poultry grit to aid their digestion. The grit is stored in their gizzard and helps them to grind down the poultry feed in the same way we use our teeth to grind down our food. If you do not allow your chickens to have access to poultry grit you may find they suffer from compacted crop because they cannot digest their food properly. A hen with a blocked crop can die without treatment. Unfortunately, I found this one out myself from personal experience in my early days of hen keeping.

Why do chickens need Oyster Shell?

A supply of Oyster Shell readily available for your chickens is always advisable as it provides them with a good source of calcium. This calcium is stored in the bones and feathers of the chicken and is used by the hen when she is producing egg shells. A very common problem when buying point of lay chickens is when they lay eggs for the first few times they lay eggs with soft egg shells. You can easily correct this by adding a bowl of oyster shell to your poultry run. Oyster shell is not expensive and can be found in the same place where you buy your normal poultry feed. Supplying hens with poultry grit and oyster shell is more important if your birds are restricted to a poultry run all day. Hens will thrive as free range chickens in the garden and they may well find themselves a natural source of supply of grit and calcium whilst free-ranging amongst your garden borders.

Introducing chickens to their New Hen House...

When you first buy your chickens it is advisable to put them into the Hen House at night so that they wake up in the new hen house in the morning. Over a few days they will soon become adjusted to their new surroundings. Some hens will come out of the pop hole in the coop in just a couple of hours while other hens may take a couple of days to venture out. Just keep an eye on them – you may need to encourage them out of the coop with the promise of a little corn - but they will soon get the idea and realise this is their new safe home. If you are going to be free-ranging your hens in your garden it is not advisable to do this too soon, wait until you feel they are fully settled into their new hen house and run first.

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Click Here to read 'Pleasures and Pitfalls of Raising a Flock of Hens' Part 1
Click Here to read 'Pleasures and Pitfalls of Raising a Flock of Hens' Part 2
click here to read 'Raising Chickens for Egg Production'
click here to read 'Raising Chickens at Home'
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