Raising Backyard Chickens for Eggs, Meat, (and maybe Money)
Raising backyard chickens is a great way to start growing your own food, and perhaps starting a side-line business as well. Follow these steps to decide if raising chickens in your backyard is right for you.
Making a Living on Your Small Farm
- Assess your space. Do you have enough room to raise chickens? If all you want is a few hens for eggs, almost any yard will do, even as small as a couple hundred square feet. An open-bottom portable coop that you can move around your yard is a great way to raise a few laying hens. Hens are happier and lay healthier eggs if you give them access to fresh grass. Raising meat birds takes more room, if you want them on grass. Raising 25 meat birds and rotating them regularly to fresh ground would take 1000-1500 square feet.
- Assess your environment. Are there local by-laws that may interfere with raising backyard chickens in your neighborhood? How will your neighbours react to the idea of a flock of birds in your yard? They may be scared of avian flu,or have objections to the possibility of noise or smells.
- Assess your equipment. You will need feeders, waterers, a broody box or other warm enclosure and bedding material (for the baby chicks), feed, and a coop of some kind. Depending on your ability to scrounge/build what you need, this can cost you several hundred dollars
- Assess your commitment. The birds will need care every day, at least twice a day. Meat birds can take 10-12 weeks to raise to broiler size (on organic feed). Laying hens are a year-round enterprise. If you want to go on vacation you will need a 'chicken sitter'
- Assess your market. Can you sell a few birds or some eggs to your friends or neighbours, or share the costs in exchange for some of the meat or eggs? This might be a good way to get perhaps reluctant neighbours on side with raising chickens in your backyard.
Next: Raising chickens step by step.
How to Raise Chickens
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