Here at The Secret Life of Homesteaders, we understand the importance of livestock on a healthy homestead. If you’re wondering how to take care of chickens, you’ve come to the right spot!
When it comes to homesteading livestock, chickens are one of the most popular beginner choices.
They are compact, making them ideal for those who live in a neighborhood or otherwise don’t have a ton of space. They are easy to care for, making them ideal for beginners. And they give a steady supply of eggs which means they give families food without having to butcher anything.
However, when you are thinking of adding backyard chickens to your homestead, there are a few things to keep in mind. While taking care of chickens is easy, knowing how to care for chickens is more than just buying some chicks and throwing them some birdseed.
So let’s take a look at what exactly you need to keep in mind when learning how to care for backyard chickens.
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How To House Chickens
When you first consider adding chickens to your homestead, it’s important to ask yourself, “What do chickens need to survive?”
One of the most important items that a chicken needs is shelter. Shelter from the rain, wind, sunshine, and of course, shelter from predators. (Be sure to keep in mind places that experience cold winters will need a different setup – read these tips on how to keep chickens warm in winter for more info.)
The size of the chicken coop will depend on how many chickens you plan to keep. A rule of thumb is that each chicken needs about 4 square feet of space in the coop. So, if you plan to keep 6 chickens, you’ll need a coop that’s at least 24 square feet.
The chicken coop should have a floor that’s made of solid material, like concrete, folded over fencing, or hard-packed dirt, to prevent predators from digging in. The walls and roof can be made of wood, metal, or heavy-duty plastic.
When prepping chickens for cold weather, it is especially important to make sure the chicken coop is protected from rain or storms that may blow in, while still allowing for fresh and healthy airflow. And whether you are prepping for cold or warm weather, be sure to read up on the benefits of the deep litter method.
Additionally, you will want to keep in mind the question of when do chickens get their feathers. Young chicks are more vulnerable to cold weather and other elements so you’ll want to make sure the youngest members of your flock are kept safe and warm, no matter the time of year.
You’ll also want to keep in mind the best chicken breeds for cold and hot weather so you get the birds that will thrive in your area.
How To Feed Chickens
Next on the list of “what do chickens need?” is food!
Chickens are omnivores and eat both plants and insects.
Many chicken owners and chicken farmers prefer to make their own homemade chicken feed. You can use one of many simple homemade chicken feed recipes or you can use a more complicated feed recipe.
Or if you’d rather, there are plenty of commercial chicken feeds that keep birds happy and healthy!
Whether you buy store-bought chicken feed (including buying chicken feed online) or make your own homemade chicken feed, a good quality chicken feed will give them the nutrients they need to stay healthy. You can also supplement their diet with kitchen scraps, greens from your garden, or even mealworms.
Chickens also like the occasional treat, especially during the winter months when they’re cold and bored. Scratch is a great way to keep chickens happy and warm during those cold winter days. Scratch is also a simple way to prevent frostbite on chicken combs and wattles.
And don’t forget the water. Chickens need access to clean water at all times. A good rule of thumb is to give each chicken 1 pint of water per day.
What Can Chickens Eat?
When feeding chickens, there are a few things to keep in mind. Not every food item is good for chickens.
Check out these articles for more information about specific ingredients to consider adding (or not adding) to your homemade chicken feed.
- Cracked corn for chickens
- Can chickens eat split peas?
- Kelp meal for chickens
- Whole wheat for chickens
- Insider tips to fermented chicken feed
- Can chickens eat rolled oats?
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when feeding your backyard chickens.
Whether you are making your birds’ homemade chicken feed or you prefer to buy commercial feed and supplement with garden veggies or table scraps, these are good rules of thumb to follow.
Best Chicken Gear
When you raise backyard chickens, you are going to get plenty of farm fresh eggs. Whether you keep a private homestead or you sell your productions, here are some of the best ideas for chicken gear that will help you keep your livestock.
- Useful Chicken Gifts
- Gifts for Chicken Lovers
- Easy Egg Collecting Apron Patterns
- Best Egg Collector Aprons
Recommended Accessories and Resources For Raising Backyard Chickens
- High protein chicken treats
- Sexy chicken lady shirt
- Chicken coop decorations
- Chicken perch
- Chicken tutu
Charlene has been dabbling in and learning about the homesteading lifestyle for almost 20 years. She recently started a real-world homestead with her extended family and is excited to share 20+ years of knowledge and experience with the world!
While she certainly doesn't know everything about homesteading and is learning more every day, she is excited to learn and grow along with YOU!
Charlene blogs about about homesteading at https://secretlifeofhomesteaders.com/.