My Chicken Journey: Basic Tips To Starting A Flock of Egg Layers

So today we got chickens!!! I have been hassling my husband for years to get a flock of chickens so I can have fresh eggs and I finally convinced him to join me in the excitement of raising chickens! After I opened my mouth and got him on the band wagon I realized how much there was to learn. I needed the basics of getting started all in one place quick and to the point. I couldn’t really find that anywhere. So I figured I would put together some of the things I thought were helpful and some of the things I wish I knew before I started. I am raising chickens for the eggs so I won’t have much information about meat chickens. Let me clear one thing up, I am not by any means a chicken expert I am just getting started with these cute little ladies and wanted to share my journey of starting a flock with you.

First, we had to find the right coop. Of course I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like and where I wanted it to be placed in my yard. Finding the right coop was easy, finding the right coop in our budget was shall I say challenging…… Lucky for us parents of a girl in my sons class were getting rid of their coop. It was just what I wanted and it was in our budget. When looking for the right coop here are a few things you may want to keep in mind.

1. You will need about 4 sq. ft. of indoor floor space per bird. This number doesn’t include space in an outdoor run.

2. Be sure you have some windows for light and for proper ventilation.

3. Inside the coop you will need roosts. A roost is a place where your chickens will sleep. They like to sleep at the highest point possible. A roost can be as simple a 2×4 placed high up in the coop for them to sit on at night and sleep. Just be sure it is not placed over the nesting boxes where the chickens lay their eggs. 8-6in per bird of perching space is a good idea.

4.Speaking of nesting boxes…. You will need those….. 14in wooden cubes with one open side makes a great size box. You should have 1 nesting box for every 2-3 birds. Some say 1 box for every 4-5 birds. Stress free hens are happy hens so I would go with more boxes.

Before buying any chickens I recommend you get prepared with all the accessories. I was running around like crazy trying to get ready for my ladies before they arrived because I waited until the last minute. WOW like that’s a surprise for people who know me!!

You will need……

1. Feeder. I like the trough feeders better and it’s good idea to have 3-4in of eating space per bird.

2. Waterer. Find one that you can hang or get blocks so you can lift it off the ground. Chickens like clean water so it’s a good idea to keep it up of the floor of the coop.

3. Decide what you want to use as coop bedding. I went with sand. Sand is great at absorbing water and droppings. I got a kitty litter scoop and it works great for scooping out the droppings. It’s a good idea to put the sand in 3-6 in. deep. We also covered the outside run with sand. We got 2 yards of screened sand not play sand and with the delivery fee it was only $75. 2 yards was more than enough! We will have sand for a while!!!!!!!

4. Heat Lamp. Chances are you will be getting younger birds and they like it warm. I have read many things that say once they are fully feathered they can regulate their own body temperature but I wanted to be sure they were warm. A red 250 watt bulb is the best. If it is too warm the birds will scatter far away from the light. If it’s not enough and they are cold the will huddle under it. Watch your birds for answers on what they are happy with.

5. Also you will want to block off the nesting boxes so they don’t get in the habit of sleeping in them.

Finally it’s time to get your chickens! I ordered my chickens from Murray McMurray Hatchery which a friend had recommended. I didn’t want to go through raising day old chicks. I wanted to be able to put them outside in the coop when they arrived. When I placed my order I ordered 4-9 wk old chickens. I ordered 6 chickens one wasn’t available (that’s a sore subject)  so I ended up with 5. They were sent to my local post office. Once I received an email that my order was shipped I called the post office to let them know that I was expecting a shipment of live birds. I asked them to call me when they arrived.

The following are the types of chickens I choose and how old they were when they arrived and the color egg they lay.

Buff Rock ~ 7wks ~ Brown eggs
Black Star ~ 5wks ~ Brown eggs
Araucana ~ 6wks ~ Blue,Green, Olive eggs
Cuckoo Maran ~5 wks ~ Dark Chocolate eggs
Red Star ~ 6wks ~ Brown eggs

They arrived in a cardboard box and I couldn’t wait to get them home. They were all very healthy. I was please with their condition. They were sent with cucumbers to keep them hydrated during the trip. I set them up in their coop and I have checked on them a hundred times today!! I left them in the coop with the door closed today and I plan on leaving them in there for the next day or two so they can adjust to their new surroundings before I let them out into the run. Chickens get stressed out very easily. Try to keep things stress free for them the best you can. That’s not just good advice for chickens!! We could all use a simpler, less stressful way of life.

Enjoy your little ladies. I know I am!!! I will keep you updated on my chicken journey! Please let me know about your journey of chicken keeping. Feel free to add some of your helpful tips. I would LOVE to hear them!