Why Should You Raise A Flock of Chickens?

If you’re thinking of raising some chickens, but you’re not 100% committed to the idea yet, this may help you over the edge and into the coop.

  • Raising chickens is a rewarding and fun hobby – most of the time.
  • You’ll have fresh eggs on hand – most of the time.
  • You can raise chickens just for the freezer and your family meals as well.
  • You might also like to let them wander around your property to keep bug population down, aerate the soil and fertilize the grass and garden.
Black Rooster and one of his Hen mates...

Your personal reasons to consider raising a flock chickens – plus your available current space – will greatly influence (a) how many chickens, and (b) how much time and space will be required.

Although it is not true of all commercially raised poultry, it has been reported that many:

  • live out their lives in a computer-controlled, artificial environment. Everything – light, temperature, humidity, clean up and feeding – is geared to generate quick and efficient growth or egg production;
  • are fed ’growth stimulants’ (which traces of are then passed into our own bodies), or will eat out of boredom, and;
  • many commercially raised birds are packed into their cages so tightly that they can’t turn around or are raised in crowded living conditions resulting in stress.

Although many believe the striking difference in taste between commercial and home grown poultry relies solely on freshness, the ‘time to market’ is not always the culprit. An increase in awareness on commercial food packers’ care and feeding practices of live poultry, and not just the processing and distribution, has a lot to do with the quality of the end product.

The last distasteful statement isn’t made from a purely humanitarian stance. I firmly believe that an animal’s stress level affects not just the taste, but the nutrient value of the end product. We, in turn, ingest all those stress induced hormones when we consume the poultry. I have not found a study or results to prove this statement but I truly believe we’ll be seeing evidence of this in the near future.

What’s Needed to Raise Chickens

You’ll need a coop or outbuilding of some sort, plus a protected run to keep them safe from predators and extreme weather.

If you start out with young or day old birds you may also need a heat lamp until they’re well established.

The breed of chicken you get may be determined by a number of factors. Do you want egg layers, dual purpose or strictly a meat bird? If you’re raising egg layers there are a multitude of breeds to choose from. I choose the large black varieties because our hobby farm is in Northern Canada. The larger my hens are, and the more they attract the sunlight based on their color, the easier it is to keep them warm.

Wherever we’ve been located over the years however, I’ve always snooped around, talked to the locals and found out what works best for them. If you’re shy and don’t approach strangers easily, ask at the feed store.

How to Start Raising Chickens

You can start with day old chicks or started birds. If you have a country auction house nearby you can also start with birds ready to lay or be finished off for the freezer. Please don’t be startled when I say ‘finished off’ – it simply means that you put the last bit of goodness into your meat birds a few weeks before they’re put into the freezer.

If you think you might like a large flock, or have a school aged child at home, or a home schooled child who is ready to learn about egg incubation, you can also buy fertilized eggs and hatch them yourself. This is really easy and is a great lesson.

Young chicks go into the coop, under a heat lamp with food and water at all times. You should check in on them many times throughout the day and adjust the lamp height, as well as ensure that none of the chicks have drowned themselves in inadequate watering bowls, etc. The temperature required is about 95 degrees for the first week of their lives. If your barn or coop is drafty, keep the chicks in a box (wood or even a large cardboard box) to ensure they aren’t being exposed to chilly breezes.

What To Feed Chickens?

Chicken feed comes in pellets, mash, crumble or scratch grain.

Scratch grain is the cheapest but not necessarily the best feed for your chickens. It won’t provide them with all the nutrients they need to keep them in top laying performance, but can be a nice treat on occasion. Feed in the form of pellets is the easiest and least wasteful of the others, but I often use a layer’s mash as it contains a higher level of calcium for the hens (which they need in the formation of egg shells).

GBCL Publication - Raising Chickens Right by Laura Childs

Raising Chickens Right -Learn more about keeping a backyard flock with this comprehensive guide on Raising Chickens. Plus get a bonus list of United States hatcheries and an egg recipe book to boot!

How About A Rooster?

I guess I forgot to mention another reason people like raising chickens in the list above. For the sheer joy of hearing that country crowing from a rooster every morning!

Nature’s alarm clock comes early.

You don’t need a rooster (you probably also don’t want to be woken up 7 days a week at daybreak).

Even if you’re raising egg layers you still don’t need a rooster to get your hens to lay.

As a matter of fact it’s better not to have a rooster for your layers.

Roosters are forever mounting the hens and can be rough on the girls.

Sometimes roosters can be overly aggressive towards humans.

And, all your farm fresh eggs will be fertilized (which actually isn’t a big deal if you’re collecting and storing your eggs in the fridge every day.

So Tell Me Again, Why Raise Chickens?

Because it’s fun (or any of the other reasons above), as well as educational. There is actually a lot more to learn about raising chickens if you’re really interested.

17 Comments to "Why Should You Raise A Flock of Chickens?"

  1. Lori's Gravatar Lori
    July 19, 2009 - 7:40 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I live outside of Edmonton. We decided this year to raise 26 chickens we bought from a hatchery in April. It’s been a learning process all the way but the local feed store has been wonderful offering advise. I`m surprised how much I`ve enjoyed the chickens (being kept as layers). I`m concerned about the Winter coming up, considering how cold it can get here. They live in a barn with access to an outdoor running area. Do you have any advise

    • Chicken lover!'s Gravatar Chicken lover!
      March 5, 2010 - 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I have been taking care of chicken this winter and when our big snow storm hit we just left them in the coop. After a while they did get a little stir crazy but the coop is small. Also Some websites will tell you what kind of birds do well in the winter! That may be helpful:) hope this helps!!

  2. JOE's Gravatar JOE
    July 26, 2009 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    I started raising chickens years ago as a young boy.I have 8 pullets at this time all brown egg layers that i prefer over white egg layers no roosters.Three rhode island reds,four barred rocks,one buff orpington. I have a average sized yard with a privacy fence thats why no rooster dont need the crowing and by the way they free range all day and the evening they put there self to bed all i do is shut the gate to there coop.A 7×12 dog kennel makes a fine inclosure. PS there very tame have a few that will perch pn my shoulder. All in all keeping chickens make a nice and simple hobby

    • Keith's Gravatar Keith
      July 27, 2009 - 10:53 pm | Permalink

      Joe, I`m in Brasil and would like to raise chickens for eggs and meat eventually, how do you suggest picking the variety, or is it really up to the climate? thanks for any input, and do you feed grain for protein, or free range is sufficient?

    • Darence's Gravatar Darence
      June 22, 2011 - 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Many many qautliy points there.

  3. dynamicblayne@gmail.com's Gravatar dynamicblayne@gmail.com
    August 25, 2009 - 4:37 am | Permalink

    I understood fertilized eggs where healtier complete circle thing

  4. Jan G.'s Gravatar Jan G.
    October 26, 2009 - 4:43 pm | Permalink

    We have 3 Barred Rocks and $ Production Reds that roam in a 40ft by 40ft area during the day and have a covered “dog kennel with homebuilt coop inside it for night protection and egg laying. They board with a Barred Rock rooster and 2 old Bronze Tom turkeys. The last few days a swarm of honey bees has invaded their scratch feeder…has anyone ever seen this before ? I can’t imagine why the bees sre attracted to the scratch…they don’t bother the lay mash. The bees leave at night.
    Any suggestions?

    • Cheryal Taylor's Gravatar Cheryal Taylor
      February 2, 2010 - 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Jan G. we switched to chicken scratch for wild bird seed when the bird seed cost became prohibitive. The quail love the chicken scratch and the little chipmunks do too. However, during the last week (eastern Arizona) bees have been swarming our bird feeder and swarming onto the chicken scratch thrown on the ground. So I’ve experienced it too. If anyone can figure out the bees and chicken scratch issue please let me know.

    • Morrie's Gravatar Morrie
      June 22, 2011 - 11:21 am | Permalink

      Thanks guys, I just about lost it looking for this.

  5. Christine's Gravatar Christine
    December 27, 2009 - 1:41 am | Permalink

    Please talk about raising guineas. We are building a house on some land and we want to get guineas to keep the bugs away from our children (especially chiggers).

  6. Julie Kaufman's Gravatar Julie Kaufman
    February 11, 2010 - 5:47 pm | Permalink

    We have 3 hens and 1 rooster. I am raising 4 grand kids and they want to raise chickens. We have our own fertile eggs and were told we could incubate the eggs with a light and cardboard box. But no one can tell us what watt of bulb to use. Can anyone help us out? We would like to get started before spring and if we incubate by light do we have to turn the eggs daily?

    Thank you for any info you can give us.

  7. Cindy's Gravatar Cindy
    April 26, 2010 - 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi , I was given 2 week old chicks raised in a kids classroom. Now I am reading that you needed to add some superbooster to their water the first 5 days. I doubt they had that.Is that really necessary ? Have you been vaccinating your chickens ? If so when? Thanks , Cindy

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