Not Just Pets


Amy McConnell

Raising chickens can be a great learning experience, but takes a lot of commitment. (Photo courtesy of Amy McConnell, photo credits to Amy McConnell)

As spring rolls around, hatcheries and farm supply stores begin to sell chicks and ducks. These livestock sales are meant to be for people seriously interested in raising chickens, or people who have done so in the past. Unfortunately, many people buy these animals without realizing the amount of responsibility it takes to raise livestock, and at around three dollars each, it is easy to take one home without thinking about the future. 

Raising chickens and other poultry can be a very fun and rewarding experience. It can also be a huge learning experience for novice farmers and animal owners. Unfortunately, many people do not take into consideration the amount of work that goes into raising poultry. Like many other animals, chickens have certain requirements to maintain their wellbeing. For example, having access to fresh grass and an area where they can exercise and be stimulated is a must. 

If you are seriously interested in raising chickens, here are some things to consider:

  1. Do your research. The best way to prepare for owning chickens is to research. There are many websites and blogs that showcase stories and advice from real chicken keepers that may answer your questions. You will also want to do plenty of research about different breeds of chickens. Just like dogs, there are many different chicken breeds, each with its own demeanor and behaviors. Chickens breeds also impact their egg production, including egg size, laying frequency, and even color! For example, a chicken breed fittingly named Easter-Eggers produce eggs that are tinted blue, green, and purple. Make sure that the hatchery you choose to buy your chickens from is reputable and screens for diseases. 
  2. Make sure you have space, shelter, and supplies. As mentioned before, chickens thrive when they have plenty of room to graze and explore their surroundings. In addition to this, chickens poop a lot, which can quickly become very undesirable in a small space. To ensure safety from predators, chickens also will need a coop to stay in. Chicks will need to be kept in a walled container (I recommend a water troth) fashioned with a heat lamp and wood shavings. Chickens also need access to fresh water. Chicken waterers can be purchased online or at farm supply stores like Tractor Supply
  3. Make sure you are allowed to have chickens. Many HOAs do not allow chickens to be kept in neighborhoods and subdivisions. Some neighborhoods that do allow hens do not allow roosters, which may impact your decision about buying sexed or unsexed chicks. 
  4. Know the terminology. For novice chicken keepers, there are many terms associated with chicken keeping that may be completely foreign. However, understanding many of these terms is important for any chicken keeper. For example, knowing the difference between sexed chicks (chicks that have been sorted into males and females) and unsexed chicks (male and female chicks that are not sorted) can help you make more informed decisions when starting your flock. 

All things considered, the most important part of raising poultry is preparation. It is important to understand that raising poultry is a years-long commitment that should not be underestimated. That being said, raising poultry is also a very fun, rewarding, and educating experience. From having fresh eggs to simply learning about life, raising chickens is a great experience.