We’re really going to do this!
I never dreamed I would be raising chickens. I can’t recall ever actually seeing a chicken up close before we decided to be the proud caretakers of baby chicks. But everyone says that farm fresh eggs taste so much better than store-bought eggs. We have the space to raise chickens so we thought, “why not?!” We did some research and talked to some friends that have chickens to figure out which chickens we wanted. What kind of coop we wanted. And finally, what we needed to do to keep the chickens alive.
Where do we start?
Obviously, we needed chickens first so we ordered them from a local co-op. Next, we needed a coop. We went to Sams Club and looked at the cute one that they had. Purchasing that one was a definite possibility. We went to several other stores to look at pre-made coops but they all seemed so small. Most of them were only able to hold 6 or 8 chickens. I think that sounds like a great idea if you are limited on space or just want enough eggs for your family. But we were looking for a coop that would house enough chickens to provide eggs for us as well as some to sell.
Is this cost-effective?
We try to look for ways to make money from our acreage as often as possible. We also wanted to offset the costs of raising our chickens. Chickens need to eat good quality food to produce good quality eggs. So if we could sell enough eggs then the chickens wouldn’t cost us much to raise (in theory). Sidenote – Later we found food sources that we were able to grow ourselves. You will want to figure out your monthly costs to determine the price of your eggs. I have found that each customer is different. Some will pay a premium for fresh eggs. Others won’t even consider paying more for eggs than what they can pay in the store. Don’t compromise on your price unless you just can’t find a buyer.
Get the correct size coop.
We did find some bigger coops online but they seemed really expensive. I researched online and found some plans for DIY coops. However, they seemed really difficult for unskilled builders. We visited our friends to see what they had so that we could get a more realistic idea of what we needed. They had a metal lean-to with a fence around the front. Several makeshift nesting boxes and some branches for roosts. We realized we didn’t need to build them a chicken mansion! Ultimately that’s what ours will become know as by these same friends. We looked at wooden sheds to see if we could modify one somehow to meet our needs. In the end, we decided to just build our own chicken coop.
Covered run to keep out the predators.
Obviously, it is important to keep your chickens safe. You also need to keep them happy. We let our chickens out to free range when we get home from work and on the weekends. While we aren’t home we like to give them room to roam but keep them safe from stray dogs, coyotes, and hawks. There are also rumors of a cougar or bobcat in the area but we haven’t seen one yet. We made a 16′ x 16′ enclosed run so that they could get outside but still be safe. We put hog pens on the sides and buried them about 1-2 feet to keep anything from trying to dig under. Then we covered it with chicken wire. We added rafters later so that it was easier to walk inside without having to duck down.
Enough space to expand.
We originally got 10 Cinnamon Red chicks. Then we read about Buff Orpingtons and how much everyone loved them. Our Reds were already a few months old and we didn’t really want to start over again with more chicks. We found some Buffs on Craigslist that were about 2 months old. So we bought 4 hens and a rooster. We returned the rooster within 2 hours because he was mean and we really didn’t want to deal with him. You don’t really need a rooster. You can read Do I Need a Rooster or Can My Hens Take Care of Themselves to decide if a rooster is right for you.
Our coop is big enough to comfortably house about 24 chickens the way that it is now. We have options to make it livable for even more but I don’t think we would ever need more than 24 at a time.
They are more than egg layers, they are pets.
I have quickly become the crazy chicken lady. I talk to them, hold them and hand fed them mealworms and other treats. Because we treat them this way they always run out to greet us. It’s the cutest little waddle run you’ll ever see.
Remember that mean rooster that we returned? The girl that we bought him from was holding him when we pulled up to box him up and take him home. When we put him in our coop he chased my husband out and bit him multiple times. There were 2 big differences between the rooster at her house and the rooster at our house.
- She raised him and we were strangers.
- He was comfortable with his domain and when he got to this new coop he needed to establish his dominance.
So the takeaway from this lesson is that if we ever get a rooster we will definitely raise him from a baby.
This is a LOT of work, but they are worth it.
I hope that you decide to raise your own chickens. They are cute and sweet and their eggs really do taste better than store-bought eggs. But it is a lot of work so make sure that you are prepared to provide a safe and happy home for them. If you do then they will love you for it.