Backyard chicken rearing can really be fun just like keeping any other pet. The very first step is to educate yourself about local laws with respect to keeping backyard chicken. Be sure it is not forbidden and be ready to abide by every condition stipulated by the city. Once that is done, you are ready to start practicing everything you’ll learn from this guide.
Housing and early age nurturing
From day one, you’ll take on the role of the hen by providing a house with warmth, water and feed. This is called “brooding,” and it’s similar to what mother hens do while raising their chicks and the house is called a “brooder.” You can make a low cost brooder by forming a big cylinder or a box out of cardboards. The size will depend on the number of chicks you intend to raise. A garage, basement or a well-ventilated but enclosed room would be perfect.
Soft wood shavings will serve as bedding material for your chicks. Get plastic chick waterers and feeders to serve food and clean water. You’ll need to raise them up so the chicks will not mix up the water and food with the wood shavings. Get a light bulb just about 2 feet above the ground to provide heat and lighting.
Generally, your concern at this stage is to make the chicks comfortable and secure. Watch for predators like rodents or your other pets. You’ll continue to expand your brooder as your chicks grow bigger and begin to have little feathers. This could take between 4- 6 weeks after which you’ll set up an outdoor permanent rearing house. You are now ready to bring in your chicks.
Chick selection and feeding
Your choice of chick would depend on your objective, but you probably want egg-laying chickens called “layers”. Request for pullet chicks from a nearby farm, a local hatchery or online. Food and water should be served with unrestricted access at the early age. Chick starter mash is readily available at poultry stores and is pretty affordable.
Rearing in coops or free range
Now your chickens are grown with full feathers above 6 weeks old. Transfer your chickens from the brooder to the coops and feed them with growers mash. You can get specifications about building your chicken coops from local farm stores. Your permanent coops should be built so that there is enough space and ventilation.
You can adopt one out of the three different rearing systems. 1. Intensive system- where your chickens are kept permanently in coops and you provide them with food and water. 2. Semi-Intensive – where your chickens roam during the day and come back to nest. Here, you only need to supplement their food and water requirement. 3. Extensive system- Your responsibility here is just security. This is not so advisable because chickens are prey. Your choice would depend on a number of factors. Local laws regarding free range and space considerations would be the major factors.
By instinct, your chickens know when to enter the coops to lay. Average age for commencement of laying is between 18- 22 weeks. By this time, there is nothing much to do than to love and care for your chickens.