Todd’s Note: Some things just make a lot of sense! Raising your own chickens is one of them. Unfortunately, we have moved so far from keeping a few chickens for eggs and meat that something so simple has been lost to the average American. But more people are waking up to the benefits of keeping chickens. Below you will find some basic information that can help you get started if you are considering raising chickens.
By Tyler Chambers of Art of Surviving
Raising Chickens for Beginners
At some point in time, everyone interested in prepping and overall survival will begin to ponder about raising animals. One of the easiest animals to start with is chickens. Chickens can also be one of the most economically feasible animals to raise, assuming you don’t mind a little manual labor and can follow some pretty basic instructions.
There are many rewards associated with raising animals, however there are also many drawbacks. If you are looking to save money by raising your own animals, or to make a profit, you will have to have a fairly large-scale operation. Economies of scale (cost advantages of large businesses that buy in bulk and usually wholesale) prevent just about any small-time farm operation from either saving money or making money. Granted, it can be done, through discipline and lots of hard work, but it is tough.
There are many things to consider once you decide that you want to raise chickens. Of course, you will have to make sure that you have enough land for the chickens, you will have to decide how you will house and protect the chickens, and you will have to think about your overall goals in raising them. If you are simply raising chickens for your personal use (for example, on your homestead), you will have fewer “political hoops” to jump through than someone looking to raise chickens as a primary source of income.
Planning for Raising Chickens
One of the first steps in raising chickens is to set aside some land. Depending on how you plan to raise the chickens (free range or caged, which we will discuss later), you will need anywhere from 1-15 acres. This estimate really depends on your personal goals and how many chickens you plan to raise.
You will also need to plan to build a chicken coop. This is where the chickens will go to roost and lay eggs. A chicken coop is not hard to build, and there are some great examples if you do a little research.
Free Range Chickens vs. Caged Chickens
Once you have set aside land and built (or planned for) a chicken coop, it is time to decide how you want to contain the chickens. This is a topic that is constantly debated, and one that I will not delve too deeply into. However, free range chickens generally are allowed to “roam freely” and will stay on a few acres of land – allowing them a much happier life. Caged chickens are generally confined by a cage – which can be a good idea, considering predators and other dangers to them.
The key is to decide for yourself which you prefer. Obviously, caged chickens have security benefits, and building a cage that is big enough to allow chickens to roam while not confining them to less space than they need can be a real expense.
It is ultimately up to you decide how you would like to contain your chickens based on your situation.
Caring for Chickens
After you have done the planning and obtained some chickens, it is important to follow a few guidelines for caring for your chickens:
· Make sure to keep your chicken coop clean and well maintained.
· Make sure the chickens have some insulation, such as newspaper, sawdust, and straw on top for bedding.
· Have plenty of water sources (such as water feeders) and make sure that the chickens always have adequate water.
· Make sure you have plenty of feeders, and that the chickens have access to food when they need it.
· Make sure to secure your coop with fence (electric, if you can), and secure the doors to the coop at night, to avoid predators.
Chickens can be a great source of eggs, meat, and fertilizer for your garden. If adequately cared for, they can also be very rewarding to raise. Follow this guide, and you will be raising chickens in no time!
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