What supplies do you need to start keeping backyard chickens? This is one of the first and possibly foremost questions that arise when you consider keeping chickens as pets in your backyard.
You need to be fully prepared well before you bring your chickens home, no matter how many you decide to keep. What you need will also depend somewhat on whether you’re bringing home chicks or full-grown chickens, as the needs of chicks differ a little from what a more mature bird requires.
If you are Keeping Baby Chicks there are a few products that are Essential
Chicks require the following basic setup until they are mature enough to go into their permanent coop…
This is the housing for your chicks from hatching until about 8 weeks of age. It can be a simple box, but it must protect the chicks, keep them secure, and keep drafts out. The brooder needs to be big enough to contain the Heat lamp. feeder, waterer and still have enough room for the chickens to move and grow. It shouldn’t be too big that the chickens are not able to be kept warm and safe.
Pine shavings are the best lining for the floor of their box. Affordable, pine shavings are great for soaking up urine and droppings, as well as any spilt drinking water. Chicks will also enjoy scratching around in it. Don’t use plain newspaper; this can be too slippery and result in a condition called “spraddle legs”.
Your chicks need to be kept warm – especially if they don’t have mother hen to look after them. Get a 25-watt heat lamp and situate it above the chicks to one side, and away from anything that could potentially catch alight.
At hatching, the temperature needs to be 35C; reduce this by 2.5-3C each week until the chicks are fully feathered. The chicks need to be able to move closer or further away as they need to. So that they are most comfortable. As well as Heat Lamps, there are also Heating Plates that you can use to keep your chickens warm.
HINT: If the Chicks are Huddled together Close Under the Lamp, they are Cold and need the Lamp Lowered a Little; If they are all staying Far away from the Lamp, they are Too Hot and the Lamp Height should be Raised away from them a Little.
Don’t provide drinking water in open or deep dishes or troughs as the chicks can fall in, get wet, get cold, and even drown or otherwise die. Choose a commercial chicken waterer; raised waterers are less likely to become contaminated. Water needs to be clean and fresh every day.
Chick Feeding Dish:
A commercial chicken feeder is a great idea. This helps prevent the chicks from walking in, urinating in, defecating in, and kicking around their food. Top up feed frequently and clean the feeders regularly.
What Products you will require to keep Chickens from 8 Weeks and Older
Chickens aged 8 weeks that have their adult feathers have reached their adult size and maturity. No matter the size of your flock, they need the following:
This is your chicken house – a safe haven from the elements and predators. Note that the more space each bird has, the happier it will be. The coop must be secure against predators including foxes, snakes, dogs, and predatory birds, and must also keep rodents out.
While free-ranging daily is ideal, you need to keep your birds safe and a run is a way to achieve this. The run is a safe, secure, enclosed space outside the coop the birds can go about the business of being chickens.
This is where eggs are laid. A designated place for this purpose will keep chickens happier and eggs safer between being laid and collected. They can be as simple as a cardboard box or a purchased nesting box.
Floor bedding in the coop is important for your chickens’ comfort and health. It also makes cleaning up easier for you. Use straw or pine shavings, ideally – this helps soak up urine and droppings, reduce odors, and give your chickens something with which to entertain themselves.
The right dish will allow your chickens equal access to food. Purchase a poultry feeder or use a shallow trough. It needs to be kept clean and filled regularly.
Use a hanging water dish or a large, stable, shallow saucer that won’t tip if the chickens stand on it. Dump, clean, and refill it with fresh water daily.
Chickens eat commercial chicken feed, as well as table scraps, seeds, and bits they forage in your yard.
Supplements– chickens also need:
Grit – tiny pebbles, rocks, and dirt enable digestion – this needs to be accessed in your garden.
Calcium – crucial for egg-laying hens. Add blended eggshells to your chickens’ feed or purchase oyster shell for hens to peck at.
Vitamins and electrolytes – commercially-available to add to the diet.
Diatomaceous earth – handle carefully! Taking precautions (goggles, mask) sprinkle this in the chicken coop and in the food to kill mites and mitigate parasites.
In the cooler months, your chickens will need some extra help to prevent their water supply freezing over. A small water heater under the chickens’ waterer can be very helpful; otherwise, check and change water more often (twice daily). Even if you get snow at home, don’t count on your birds to be smart enough to eat it to prevent dehydration. (Some chickens are also afraid of snow).
Fewer sunlight hours in winter can cause hens to stop laying. A light on a timer can be very handy to mitigate this, situated away from anything flammable and away from the birds so they are not harmed by it.
Chickens are, overall, a low-maintenance pet. Once you are set up, they require very little to keep them happy and healthy – and they are a very rewarding addition to your backyard.