Star Milling

Things I Wish I Knew Before Getting Chickens

Getting Chickens Tips
Photo courtesy of Kerrie Sheffield

Keeping chickens at home can be a fun adventure. But if you don’t already have experience, there can be a huge learning curve! There are always a few things that new chicken keepers wish they had known before bringing their birds home. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before making the fun and rewarding plunge into chicken-keeping.

  • Is it even legal for me to keep chickens? Check your local zoning laws and city ordinances. There may be restrictions on how many chickens you are allowed, where your coop can be located, if you are allowed to own a rooster, or if you are allowed to keep chickens at all.
  • Am I ready for the commitment? Chickens require daily care to be happy, healthy, and safe. They live a long time too. Are you prepared to clean up after and feed your chickens for up to 8-10 years?
  • What kind of setup do I need? Research coop design and placement BEFORE bringing any adult birds or baby chicks home. Look around online for tips to make daily care easy, and set up the coop, feeders, and waterers.
  • How do I even take care of a chicken? Read up on chicken behavior and healthcare. It’s important to be able to recognize abnormal behavior so you can take care of your chickens when something isn’t right. You may also want to ask your feed store if they can recommend a local poultry vet.
  • Is my lawn or garden well-kept and important to me? Chickens like to scratch and dig! They also love to eat veggies. If you have a manicured yard or grow vegetables, create a plan to keep your chickens out of it. You would be surprised at the amount of “landscaping” chickens can do!
  • Am I ready for the poop? If you free range your chickens, they will poop everywhere. Your walkways, your porch, your lawn chairs, your lawn – it’ll all end up with chicken poop on it. If that doesn’t sound alright to you, build a large run to contain your chickens.
  • Can I protect my chickens? People aren’t the only ones who think chicken tastes great. If you don’t think your neighborhood has coyotes, raccoons, opossums, or birds of prey, think again! They will come knocking when they find out about your chickens. Make sure you know how to fortify your chicken’s coop to keep your birds in and the predators out.
  • What breeds will best suit me? Check out these popular chicken breeds. Some are better suited for heat or cold; some are more social and friendly to humans; some are very large or very small; some lay more eggs than others; some make better mothers. Decide what qualities you’d like in your ideal flock and find local stores or breeders.

We know this sounds like a lot, but to most people it’s worth it. There’s a reason that keeping chickens can be so addictive. “Chicken math” dictates that you will always end up with more birds than you originally planned. So when building a coop or a run, allow for more room than your initial flock will need. That way when 5 birds becomes 25 you don’t have to worry about running out of space.