Raising Backyard Chickens: What I Wished I Would Have Known
I am so excited to write this blog! We have been raising backyard chickens on and off for the last 15 years. So, naturally, we’ve learned some of the do’s and don’ts of raising backyard chickens. While the list could be quite long, I’m going to give you the top 3 things I wished I would have known when first starting out on our backyard chicken adventure!
1. Your coop and run setup matters!
When we first started with chickens, we had this tiny, old run down shed. The run was really small because our chickens did a lot of free ranging. Chickens need 4 sq ft/bird in their coop. And ideally, you need 10 sq ft/bird in the run. Ours was not this way. A lot of our chickens got picked off by predators because they didn’t have a safe environment to roam. There was also a lot of pecking and injury going on due to the lack of space. While this is a bit embarrassing to admit, I feel like you need to know that it’s quite common for new backyard chicken owners to not realize how much space is actually needed! This is especially true if you start your flock from the chick stage. Sure, they’re little and adorable when they’re chicks, but eventually they grow up and need more room! Which leads me to my next point.
2. “Chicken Math” is a real thing!
My first experience raising chickens started as a small flock of 4. Before I knew it, my father-in-law (who is absolutely wonderful and got me interested in chickens to begin with) would show up with new chickens all the time. We went from 4 to 29 chickens and it was out of control! As stated above, we didn’t have the space for it. It became overwhelming and honestly not very fun. So, we gave up with backyard chickens for a couple of years and moved onto goats. That’s a whole other story I don’t have time for today! Haha!
What I learned from raising goats is that I’d rather raise backyard chickens! So, when I got the call to possibly be the spokeswoman for Strong Animal Chicken Essentials, I agreed to this adventure. I had a couple stipulations of course. The first one was that I’d not have to wear a polo (not sure why this was a big deal to me! Haha). The second was that I wanted NO more than 6 chickens, so we picked a smaller size coop suitable for up to 10 chickens. Fast forward 3 years and I now have a flock of 38! We had to upgrade our coop to a larger coop and have a huge run. We could have saved ourselves a lot of trouble by just going with the bigger choice to begin with. Unless you live in an urban area or in city limits where your bound by flock size, go big or go home!
3. Chickens are more than just egg producers…they are my pets!
I had no idea when I first started raising chickens how funny, lovable and unique each one is. I was in it for the eggs, feeding my family good nutritious food, and teaching our kids responsibility. While these are all good reasons, they have become second to my chickens being my pets. Chickens all have their own personalities and that is something I never expected! If you follow any of my hashtags such as #thewinglady, #happythechicken, or #roxannethechicken, you will get a small look at what I’m talking about! They are incredible birds and honestly, I care more about spending time with them than I do about all the eggs. I have grown quite attached to all of them. I’ve had 2 chickens die and it’s been heartbreaking. I always joke with my husband that it’s good he’s a pastor so he can conduct chicken funerals! For real though, there is so much more to chickens than just breakfast. They are quite the little companions!
Raising backyard chickens has quickly become one of my very best yeses! There are multiple other things I wished I would have known or thought of when first starting out such as egg color, flock color and personalities. Also, how messy they are, how much water they drink and the list goes on and on. Whatever the reason you’re raising backyard chickens, my greatest advice to anyone starting is to DO YOUR RESEARCH! If you’re thinking about getting chickens, here's a playlist of vides I’ve made on How to Get Started Raising Backyard Chickens.
Back then, I barely did a lick of research when we started because I just really went with the flow. Now, raising them the “right” way, it’s so much easier, less overwhelming and downright fun!
What are some things you wished you would have known about raising backyard chickens? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
–The Wing Lady