Chickens: What You Need to Start
Before you start off on your chicken-journey, be sure to gather the essentials that you will need to keep them safe, warm, well-fed and healthy.
If you are buying day old chicks, here is a short list of what you will need to start them off for the first six weeks or so of their life.
- A brooder – a rubbermaid tub or similar is perfect. As they grow, you may need to add a mesh lid to stop them flying out.
- Bedding – you will need to line the brooder with something, and pine shavings are a good choice. The added bonus of these is that they can be emptied straight into your compost pile!
- A heat lamp – usually a metal clamp style lamp with a reflector. Take care using this, they are a fire hazard and should always be double secured with nothing touching the reflector.
- A chick waterer – to begin with this should be the small quart type, with a few pebbles placed in the water tray to ensure that the chicks cannot drown if they fall in. As they grow, the pebbles can be removed. Try elevating the waterer above the level of the bedding so that the chicks cannot scratch shavings into the water tray.
- A feeder – the covered type with holes is perfect, as it means that they chicks can’t climb into their food and poop all over it.
They key to your new birds is to keep them at the correct temperature while they feather out, and to make sure that their brooder is always dry and clean, to prevent the outbreak and spread of disease.
If, however, you are getting your first adult birds, you’ll need a few extra things:
- A coop for them to roost in at night, where they will be safe from predators – and where they will lay their eggs during the day
- Pine shavings for the floor of the coop
- Wheat straw or hay for lining the nest boxes
- A waterer – using one of the larger 3, 5 or 7 gallon founts will ensure that your birds have sufficient water throughout the day, but be sure to clean and sanitize them regularly
- A feeder – one large enough for all the birds to have space to eat without having to fight for room; a hungry hen will not lay to their maximum potential
- An enclosed run – they will need space to spread their wings and scratch around during the day, and for the first few weeks they will need to be contained, so they know where ‘home’ is. After they have learned, you may wish to allow them to free range during the day.
With the correct feeding and housing, your birds will be productive members of the family, and you’ll be searching for new ways to use eggs in no time!
Hoegger Farmyard Contributor
Happily returning to her farming roots, Katy raises Nigerian Dwarf and Angora goats, chickens and Dutch rabbits in North Georgia – alongside an ever-expanding four season garden. The goal of sustainability and complete self-sufficiency is never far from her mind, and she seeks to share the love and inspire others to get closer to their food and provide for their families from their own back yard.