Well here it is folks our economy has made it to a point where a dozen eggs cost roughly $3.25 per carton. So, in my spirit of homemade resourcefulness I have purchased my youngest son four Rhode Island Red chickens or should I say baby chicks, as they started off at Easter a year ago. Maybe your like the Old Crockett Cooner here and a little apprehensive on live chickens around your homestead, especially if you live in an urban setting. I mean we have all heard the horror stories of how live poultry brings about countless parasites and germs with them! If you have ever wondered why people in certain circles are always talking about their back yard chickens or toyed with the idea of purchasing some chickens, then this blog post is for you. So, sit right back for a good read that is sure to clear up some ideas and concerns you might want to know, before buying your own flock. Hopefully after this blog post you too can find out, what everyone is crowing about...
So The Kids Want Backyard Chickens What To Expect
In the past my family has had baby chicks, and the finial outcome was not good!! I won some baby chicks at an Easter egg hunt many years ago, and sadly the chicks where not healthy and I was not prepared to care for them, which ended up being bad all around. This time, when my son mentioned chickens. I did the right thing and we got our chicks from Tractor Supply Company, they where extremely healthy! (Tractor Supply is not a sponsor of the Crockett Coonhound, but I hope they will be in the future!) anyway here is a link to the type of chickens I purchased from Tractor Supply Company for anyone that likes the looks of my Rhode Island Reds. But, as always I learned from my mistakes and have made somewhat of a better strive towards getting our new baby chicks to advance and grow to adult laying hens.
The first lesson I learned from my previous mistakes with the chicks was, baby chicks love warmth and don't like a draft. But, I found out quickly that the temperature plays a great role in the development of baby chicks. Especially at different ages of the chicks life because, throughout the chicks development they require different levels of heat. Newly hatched chicks usually have a body temperature of about 103.5 F Now keep in mind the number of baby chicks you buy compared to container size you place the new chicks' in plays a factor in chick development. The more chicks you buy, the more heat they will produce for each others body heat by huddling together, so in a small container it can become to hot rather quickly!!! In times past I believe my biggest problem was in fact to much heat and the baby chickens did not have enough room to move away from the heat source. I basically overcompensated with the heat lamp and kept the babies a little too warm. In my thinking I did not have an adult hen present to keep the chicks warm, and was using a heat lamp to take the hens place. My first rule of thumb for anyone that is interested in getting backyard chickens is, BE PREPARED have a well thought out plan. Ask yourself first and foremost, do I have time and an adequate place to care for baby chicks that will grow to full grown chickens and will require more room? Do your research and remember that chicken's are not exactly like a pet dog or cat, they are considered livestock. Further in this post I'm going to take a closer look at cost factors associated with baby chickens and what to expect when caring for young and adult chickens.
Roosters or Hens What Will Be Best For Your Neighborhood
Now if you know anything about chickens the female is the hen and the male is the rooster. Hens do make some noise usually just a light cooing sound when they are going to roost or something is disturbing them. But, a crowing rooster "cock- a- doodle- doo" at 4 A.M. on a Saturday morning, is NOT what most people need in a urban setting such as a subdivision, especially if you want to remain friends with your neighbors! This is why I suggest, if you have decided to buy chickens go to a reputable place to purchase your chicks, such as Tractor Supply Company or Co-op and if your lucky enough, straight to one of the major hatcheries such as Privett. When checking the sex of baby chick it usually takes a trained eye to find the sex of the bird when the bird is a juvenile. When buying from a reputable source the chicks have been vented before you buy them and the success rate of only getting only females is usually high. This is very important if you only want eggs and don't plan on hatching more chickens from the eggs your hens produce.
Now I know most everyone reading this post know about the birds and the bee's but, I'm just putting this in for people that might be new to chickens. You DON'T have to have a rooster for your hens to lay eggs. Roosters are used to fertilize eggs so you can breed more baby chicks of your own. Also, roosters are used to protect the flock from predator's such as hawks, snakes, and rats. Now that you know that little brain nugget, below is a list of supplies and what to expecting cost when first buying baby chicks...
What Chickens and Chickens Supplies Roughly Cost To Get Started
- Rhode Island Red Chicks (minimum of four) $11.20
- Heat Lamp $9.99 Heat Bulb $4.99
- Chicken litter, Premium Pine Flake $5.99
- Chick Feeder $4.99- $7.99
- Chick Waterer $7.99
- Chick Feed/ Purina Med. $22.49- Non. Med. $12.99
- Chicken container 40 gal metal trough $169.99/ Plastic Sterilite 50 gal $30.00
A Finial Note To Mention About Chicks And Their Heat Requirements Compared To Their Age. I consulted Google and found some great pictures of baby chicks at different stages of development, and adjusted my heat lamp bulb to fit their age and heat requirements. I suggest you do the same and check the internet if you are interested in getting chicks. To help you make an educated guess on the chicks age. For anyone that is starting to care for chickens, if you get your baby chicks from a supply chain store, it seems "no one can tell you the age of the chicks". Much like sexing or venting the chicks, sometimes you might luck out at a supply chain store and find a run of chicks where the hatchery sent the age of the chicks along with them when they where transported to be sold. But, once again there is no guarantee that you will always get just hens, especially in a non-sexed run and there is no guarantee a supply chain store can tell you the age of the chicks !
The Cooner Don't Want A Mean Rooster
I have found that looking at the wings of the baby chicks is always a great way to determine the sex of the bird. I personally don't want a rooster so, in the chance that I have made a mistake and got a rooster. I've already talked to a friend that bought adult hens, and my friend has agreed he is willing to trade a hen for a rooster. So, again for all my readers, if you don't plan on hatching baby chicks from eggs from established hens you already own or have purchased as chicks. You might consider NOT needing a rooster, especially if your chickens will stay in a coop and not free range. So, a ounce of prevention and plan up front might help you in the long run.
I have found having a back up plan in the off chance you get a rooster and don't want a rooster is a top priority. No matter with or with out a rooster you will get usually an egg a day, sometimes more depending on the diet, health, and happiness of your chickens. Also, I wanted to guard against a rooster, due to the fact my son is small, and roosters will sometimes flog people, especially young kids that want to get to close! Plus, roosters want to continuously breed the hens so your hens will always be missing feathers and look bad. Lastly, if you get a mean rooster you might have to catch your rooster and "horn" him meaning remove his spurs, which is similar to trimming your toe nails. Keep in mind roosters require a little more maintenance than hens. If you don't want your legs and arms scratched up, a rooster might not be for you!!!
What To Really Worry About When You Have Kids And Back Yard Chickens
I have to say I'm a proud daddy, my son got a 1st place win on his brown eggs in the junior division at the District Fair. But! one important point to remember is safety first with chickens and children. Chickens are not the cleanest animals, so always remember to wash your hands after any contact with them. I have to admit chickens are somewhat of a gateway livestock animal, it starts with chickens and ends with cattle!! I guess that's enough of my corny jokes.. Anyways! salmonella is no joking matter it is always present in the droppings of poultry and has been know to last up to 400 days on the ground after chickens have been removed from an area.
I have to say my backyard chicken tractor in the first picture, gets quiet messy. In future post I'll talk more on cleaning and building chicken coops, and give some ideas to help my readers build a coop that is easy to clean and fits your needs. But, for this post I want to express that when cleaning a chicken coop especially one like mine that moves, salmonella is a concern. If you enjoy walking around your back yard with no shoes, chickens might NOT be ideal for you. Especially if your chickens free range and might lay droppings especially around where kids play. I'll be more than happy to inform all my readers, chickens have ALOT of droppings each day!! This is really a great thing if you garden and need fertilizer but, bad if you have a confined space and don't have a proper place to dispose of droppings. The most prevalent things found in back yard chickens is Salmonella. Here is a quick link to what the CDC says on the subject about the hazards of having a backyard flock Salmonella .I have to admit I believe that the CDC is correct in their concerns. Chickens are not the cleanest animals in the world and many times children love to touch and hold live chicken in their hands!
This brings us into health of not just you and your family but, health of your chickens. Other things that are found in chickens are poultry lice and mites, and different types of intestinal worms. When it comes to poultry lice humans usually are not affected but, other animals that could be present could be infected by poultry lice. Usually with small baby chicks you don't have as much of a concern with bugs and worms, this generally happens when your chickens grow to adult hood and scratch the ground looking for a free meal from mother nature. But, as chickens grow other things to remember are they eat more and have more health requirements, such as wormer and vitamins, to ensure good health.
Usually when chickens have been wormed they produce more than their normal amount of droppings for the days following the worming. So having enough space for free range chicks is a must. On the other hand if you have a chicken coop you can expect to have your work cut out for you cleaning the coop. I'll just leave this part of the post with a quote from me to live by...
"Chickens are livestock to be kept outside, they don't make good house pets!" Words from the Crockett Cooner to live by...
Talking Some Scratch With The Cooner
Now going under the assumption you are going to buy chicks' and start your own back yard flock one of the first things to remember is chicken feed. First things first, do you want to feed you baby chicks medicated or non- medicated chicken starter? I preferred to feed my chicks medicated feed because their food is critical when the chicks are developing their immune systems. When feeding medicated chick starter it helps the baby chicks fight against coccidiosis. But, their is still no guarantee that chicks or full grown chickens will not contract coccidiosis with or without medicated food. Now looking at price a normal bag of medicated chick starter is usually about $14.00 for a 5lb. bag and a non medicated bag is about $6.00 for 5lbs. Now that we have looked at chick starter feed cost, this is a good time to talk about crumbles or pellets in chicken food. I prefer to feed my chick crumbles and the prices above are for crumble style feed. But, many people will disagree with me when I say that I believe chicks can digest crumbles easier than full sized pellets. To clarify, crumbles are small rock type pieces of feed for chickens and pellets are much larger and shaped like a cylinder.
Layers Mix, Scratch Grain, or Corn Now taking a look into feeding fully developed laying hens. I usually feed a 16% "1ayers mix" in pellet form. I find that my particular hens seem to be much healthier when I feed layers mix and a full grown hen has know problems with eating a larger food pellet. Now on the other had some people preferer to feed scratch grains or corn. Usually with a scratch grain the purpose is to throw a hand full of grain onto the ground of the chickens coop or yard to promote the chickens to scratch and make litter. In turn the ground is refreshed to produce a more healthier living condition in the coop. (Side Note: This is why I keep my chickens in a moveable chicken tractor, they stay on fresh ground each time their coop or tractor is moved.) Now feeding chickens corn is usually done in cold weather conditions because corn is a high calorie food which helps the chickens stay warm by raising their metabolism.
Table Scrap's And Food Blocks For Chickens One great thing about chickens are they are similar to little dinosaurs, they will eat just about anything. I personally feed my chickens some fresh vegetable and fruit from time to time to give them some extra vitamins. Most chickens love tomatoes, water melon, pumpkin, and grapes. Now remember, chickens don't do well with beans and citrus. Another great thing to feed your flock when they get grown are feed block. They are small block of different grains and bugs that chickens need in their diet. Grain blocks act as health good giving chickens a complete balance of vitamins in their diet, they can't usually find when free ranging or in a coop.
Chicken Food Cost
- 16% Layers mix between $16 to $21 -50lbs.
- Scratch Grain $21 to $30 -50lbs.
- Crack Corn $21 to $30 -50lbs.
- Chicken Food Blocks $5-$30 depending on the size and type of block
- Side Note : (All the above prices are subject to change by location and demand)
The Cooner Keeping It Simple On Backyard Chickens
To put everything simply when baby chickens are small they are easy to take care of if your start correctly with supplies and space. Just about anyone that can keep them out of a draft and get the supplies needed can establish a backyard flock. In future post I will talk more about chicken health and chickens diets such as oyster shells and special foods for chickens. What type of layer booster I feed and caring for adult birds. But, for now chickens are a great idea for kids and adults alike, if you have a place and the time to care for them. Not to mention farm fresh eggs are much more tasty than store bought eggs, due to their freshness and will save on your grocery bills. Chickens much like any other animal will teach a child responsibility and give them great pride when they can eat what they have taken part of caring for.
So by now as most of my reader already know I believe a well thought out plan is the way to start anything. Below I've created a future plan, step to take, and what to expect for when your new baby chicks grow to fully grown adults..
The Future Plan To Know And Steps To Take Before Your Chicks Grow To Adults
- Chickens will require a larger coop when they grow in size. Coop cost can be expensive, so shop around ahead of time for a chicken coop that can stand up to weather and the waste that is produced by a large flock.
- Adult chickens will need adult size water containers and feeders find a good watering system that contains enough water to sufficiently water your flock in hot and cold weather. Also, make sure your watering and feeding system will work with your new coops size. (Below is a great picture showing my 2 1/2 gal. water bucket, the 5 gal. was to big for my tractor)
- As chickens grow they require more food. Look around for a grain store or a store that supplies chicken feeds, that give options in feed for your flock.
- Adult birds have other health concerns make sure you predetermine if your going to feed medicated food or plain layers mix. Also keep in mind that additional medications for a flock can sometimes be expensive. Much of the expense in medication can be eliminated by proper coop locations and measure taken by owners in coop cleaning.
- Cleaning eggs and storing eggs (egg containers/ egg wash supplies) is a must when you have even the smallest of flocks not to mention once a flock exceeds 4 birds. Buying bulk containers of eggs wash is an option or homemade vinegar wash is also a great alternative which can keep down supply cost. Plastic reusable egg cartons are also a great way to keep things clean and reusable when storing eggs.
- Finally, if you decide you don't want to keep your chickens find your option to sell, slaughter, or give them away to animal shelters or other chicken owners.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can back yard chickens pose a health concern to you and everyone around the area they are kept?
Yes, chickens are known to have many parasites that can affect chickens and humans. Parasites such as salmonellosis & campylobacteriosis and avian flu can both make humans sick. As we know many children, especially small children are known to be barefoot and put their hands in their mouths at times, after holding backyard chickens!!! (buy chickens with caution in mind!) also keep in mind salmonella can be present in the ground for 400 hundred days or more even when backyard chickens are removed from a area!
Do you ever get to many eggs, you can't eat them all?
This happens all the time especially with a large flock. One thing is to look for others that would like to have farm fresh eggs on a regular basis.
Do they make egg washing machines for the back yard chickens owners?
Yes, there are some small scale machines designed for back yard chicken owners to clean eggs much quicker than by hand.
Can back yard chickens pose a health risk to other animals?
Yes, many of the parasites and worms found in back yard chickens can also be passed to family dogs, cats, and other birds such as parakeets.