What is the life expectancy of a Backyard Chicken?

When considering the life expectancy of backyard chickens, several factors come into play. A good amount of these factors are dependent upon their specific breed, parent stock, method of hatch (hatchery vs broody momma) and how they were raise from chickhood. A backyard chicken keeper has control over some of these factors and no control over others.

Some breeds are just more delicate than others. For example, the Polish and Silkie in particular are a bit more susceptible to illness such as Wry Neck which can cause death if not treated quickly and effectively. You also have their sensitivity to winter weather, which can make them less harty in colder climates. However, with proper care and provisions, these breeds can live in colder climates without issue. I have a few members of these breeds, some going into their 5th winter. They do take a bit more care, but for the joy they bring, it’s worth it. To read my posts on care for these breeds, please click these links Polish or Silkies.

However, these factors aside, there are many things a keeper can do to extend the overall life expectancy of their flock. In this post, I will share with you practices I have implemented in caring for my girls. These methods have attributed to my oldest ladies celebrating 10 years of living the good life.

Here on the Kuntry Klucker Farm, my ladies are pets and treated well, even beyond their productive years. Even at 10 years of age, they still lay. They do not lay as dependably or as often as when they were younger. However, my senior ladies lay enough to let me know they are healthy and happy. Not all backyard chicken keepers allow their birds to remain on their farm past the point of productivity. Correspondingly, this blog post is specifically directed towards those who plan to allow their ladies to live out their natural lives long past their productive years. So, without further ado, allow me to share with you methods that I have implemented to ensure a long and happy life for my senior ladies.

I have raised chickens for about 10 years now. My first flock started with 17 Buff Orpington chicks. I had no idea when they arrived what joys were in store for me. I instantly fell in love with them. Thus began the greatest adventure of my life. Out of the original 17 chicks, 5 remain today. These are my oldest ladies, now at the ripe old age of 10. For a backyard chicken to reach 10 years of age, is a feat that defies the odds. Most backyard chickens, even raised as pets, rarely make it past the age of 7. Even at 7, this is still considered a good long pampered life. There are cases here and there of a pet chicken making it to 15 years and beyond. However amazing, these instances are rare, far and few in-between. Most backyard or pet chickens fall somewhere between 5-7 years as a general life expectancy. However, if they are well cared for, this expectancy can be extended by several years and beyond. I will list care taking techniques that have brought my ladies 10 happy years and hopefully many more to come.

Feed and Treats: All physical health begins with diet. For both human and animal, what you put in is what you get out. I have always been a consciouses eater; I do the same for my pets. My ladies are fed a complete poultry feed that accounts for all of their nutritional needs. I am not a poultry scientist; thus, I do not rely on my own knowledge to feed them a correct diet.

Laying hens have a lot of specialized nutritional needs that must be met in order to lay well and remain healthy. For this reason, I allow my girls to have treats very rarely. I do not want to dilute their nutritional needs by filling them up on treats. Many treats are not good for them. Many keepers like to feed their girls treats, but in reality, this is not in their best nutritional interest. I do however make one exception.

On occasion I will feed my girls dried mealworm. These little goodies contain nutrition that is essential for their health such as protein. During the summer months when they are free ranging, they will eat insects which are good sources of protein. During the winter months this source of protein is not available. Thus, I will supplement this natural part of their diet with dried mealworms. Additionally, I will use mealworms as boredom busters. During harsh winter weather, issues such as pecking can result when the flock is “cooped up” for too long. I make entertainment and games for my girls to distract them from picking at each other during these times. Outside of this, their diet consists of a poultry feed developed to meet all their specialized nutritional needs. As a general rule, I will only feed my girls Purina Premium Poultry Feed. I have tried other brands on occasion, but I find that when I feed them Purina, they are much healthier, their eggshells are stronger, and their feather quality is improved.

purina chicken feed

Fresh water, vitamins, probiotics and electrolytes: Every day my ladies get fresh water. Additionally, especially during hot and humid weather, I will add poultry vitamins and electrolytes to their water. Living in the south we get extremely hot summers with lots of humidity, making outdoor conditions nothing short of miserable. To assist my ladies in combating this weather, I make sure that they remain well hydrated. The vitamins given to them add an extra boost to keep them healthy in the heat. These vitamins also contain electrolytes, which further keep their bodies balanced during the heat. Several times a week I will add poultry probiotics to their water to keep their gut health in check.

The heat of summer is a great stressor on their little bodies. In fact, heat is more dangerous then wet and cold weather combined. If you have large standard size breeds with ample feathering such as the Orpington or Cochin, the heat is further compounded. I have over the years lost several girls to the heat but never to the cold or prolonged wet weather. Just like for us, high heat and humidity can be a swift and fast killer. To make these conditions easier on their bodies, I supplement their nutritional needs in their water.

During the hot summer months, they will drink more than eat from their feed. They will spend most their time grazing on the grass and eating other delectables they find, such as insects and worms. Since I have supplemented their water, I have not lost any more of my girls to the heat. This has no doubt aided my senior girls in their long and happy life. During the winter, I still add vitamins and probiotics to their water. I supplement their water as maintenance rather than essential survival of harsh summer weather conditions.

Poultry vitamins and electrolytes can be found at most farm/feed stores. At a MSRP of $7 to $10, they are an easy way to increase the health of your flock.

Clean and Dry Digs: Just like us, your girls also need a clean and dry place to call home. To underestimate the importance of a clean coop would be a detrimental condition for your girls. Although it is true that chickens are messy creatures, that does not mean that they can live in filthy unsanitary conditions. If allowed, disease and other illness will run rampant in a coop that is not cleaned and maintained.

A chicken coop needs to be cleaned on a daily basis. Every day, the poop from the overnight shift needs to be removed and disposed of. All my coops are cleaned daily, removing poop from the poop boards accumulated by the previous night. During the summer in order to keep the fly population down, I spray off the boards. In the pen, I remove poop and other debris, be it feathers, leaves or other objects from the previous day of activity.

Another reason to clean their coops daily, is their droppings say a lot about their health. As with all animals, fecal matter tells a story of what is happening inside the body. If you find blood or worms on the poop boards, a closer inspection may be warranted. Keeping a close eye on your ladies’ poo can help you catch health conditions before they become severe or grave.

In addition to maintaining the coop, you want to make sure that their digs remain dry. The coop should not leak, if it does some calking could go a long way. If you have a covered run, repair any leaks that may have developed over the past few months. You want your girls to have a clean dry place to call home. These regiments will go a long way for a healthy and happy flock. If you girls have a clean place to live, disease and other illness will have little opportunity to infect your flock. If you want your ladies to have a happy and long life it starts with a clean coop and pen. As they say, happy hens lay better eggs.

Protection from Predators: On the heels of a clean and dry coop, comes a secure coop. It is no surprise that chicken tastes good. Many predators feel the same way. It is the main objective for backyard chicken keepers to make sure that your girls are off the menu for predators. After all, this is the main reasons that we provide coops for our backyard ladies. These coops and pens need to be constructed with their safely in mind. Predation is easily the most significant factor affecting the life expectancy of backyard chickens. Even when the best is done to insure their safely, things can still happen. Not only is this a disastrous event for a keeper, it’s a very stressful situation for the flock. If a keeper elects to free range their flock, protection and safety becomes ever more important.

Although these dangers exist, I still chose to free range my flock during the day, weather permitting. One way I have insured their safely is a fenced in free ranging area. My backyard is enclosed with a 6ft privacy fence. Additionally, running the perimeter of the fence on the outside, is an electric fence to discourage any climbing or digging predators.  This has reduced predators to the flying (hawks) and crawling (snakes) varieties. In the 10 years that I have kept chickens, I have never lost a member to predator attacks. I live in the country, so I have several roosters out with the girls, providing additional protection. My gents have detoured hawks and other arial predators. I have such an event documented. You can read the harrowing story of my Rooster Roy here and his tangle with a hawk which saved the life of my girls.

To insure a long natural life for your ladies, it is imperative that measures be taken to ensure their safety and protection from predators. The only predators that are virtually impossible to protect your flock against is that of a bear or mountain lion. Although extremely rare, some cases of bear attacks have been recorded. Bears are the extreme and probably something that most keepers will not encounter. Living in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, reports of bears raiding chicken coops are not uncommon. I have to take extra measures to protect my ladies, such as building a secure fence around my property. Become familiar with the predators in your area, do your best to ensure the safety of your flock. Discourage predators from taking an active interest in your flock.

Routine Care for Internal and External Parasites: The final point that I will make is prevention of parasites (mites, lice and worms). Just like your dog or cat needs routine flea/tick treatment, so do your girls. Treatment for external and internal parasites is a very simple and a straightforward operation. Unlike your dog or cat, the assistance of a vet is not needed.

At some point in your adventure with keeping backyard chickens, they will get a case of mites or lice. Don’t worry though, you cannot become infected with poultry mites/lice, they are species specific (nonzoonotic) and only affect birds. Your girls can however get mites and lice from wild birds. You don’t need to keep your girls locked up in solitary, they can be out in the yard and enjoy their normal actives. Treating for mites and lice is very simple.

If you look on the internet there will be millions of methods presented to treat mite or lice infestations. I will say this though, the natural methods do not work well. DE or diatomaceous Earth is not effective on mites or lice. Not only it is one of the least effective treatments, but it is also very dangerous for you as well as your flocks’ lungs.

If you look at DE under a microscope, you will see very sharp and jagged edges. This serrated characteristic makes DE a respitorary irritant for both you and your flock alike. DE is only effective if the insects have constant contact with it. In order to use this treatment, your girls also need constant contact with it as well. This sets the stage for disastrous health complications for your flock.

Contrary to popular opinion, a keeper only needs to treat for mites and lice when the circumstance arises. This is because chickens are well adapted to manage mite/lice on their bodies through dustbathing. A good way to assist your flock in this instinctive practice is by providing a dust bathing medium (sand, peat moss, and regular dirt). The act of dust bathing smothers the little beasties and cleans their feathers all at the same time. However, if the condition arises and you notice little bugs crowing on your ladies, its time to bring out the big guns.

A heavy mite/lice load on a chicken can and will kill them. The little beasties suck blood to the point where they become anemic and weak. If not treated properly, death can result. To treat mites and lice I use a very simple yet effective product. It’s called Eprinex, developed for cattle, at low doses its very effective in treating mites and lice on chickens. Eprinex can be found at Tractor Supply and other feed stores in your area and carries a MSRP of about $50. However, since you use so little, it will last years.

To administer Eprinex, obtain a syringe (remove the needle) and apply the liquid directly to the skin at the base of the neck. In the same manner that an owner or vet would administer flea/tick treatment for a cat or dog. For a large or standard bird, apply 1/2 cc or ml and for a bantam bird, apply 1/4cc or ml. If you have birds with head crests, such as the Polish or Silkie, apply a drop or two on top of their head. These breeds are susceptible to mites/lice on the head due inability to preen this area. Reapply in 10 days. NOTE: an egg withdraw will be mandatory during treatment. This means that from start to finish, a 28–30-day egg withdrawal will need to be observed.

Its that simple!

Eprinex

Now for the internal parasites. At some point, you will run into a situation where your flock will need wormed. Chickens naturally have a worm load inside them. Usually, they manage well but at times such as times of stress, they can become overwhelmed. Typical signs of worms are weakness, weight loss, fatigue and in a worst-case scenario finding worms in their poop. Don’t freak out though, treating worms in your flock is very simple. As with the mites and lice there are many treatments out there. Again, I will reinforce the fact that natural methods of worming are not very effective. If your flock or several members have worms, you need to acquire an effective treatment and get rid of the little nasties. Worm left untreated will kill your birds.

Worms can kill a chicken very fast, faster than you would expect. Additionally, if they have a heavy worm load, you may even find worms in your eggs. My product of choice is Safeguard. Originally developed for goats, it is very effective at small doses for worming. I like this product because it is a broad-spectrum wormer. It will not only take care of round worms but it will also take care of tape, flat, gape, lung and other worms that chickens can get. Some other wormers are only effective on round worms. Although round worms are most common in chickens, they can pick up other worms in their environment. You can find Safeguard at Tractor Supply and other feed stores. It usually runs anywhere between $30-50 depending on location.

To use Safeguard to worm your girls you need to give this to them orally. The easiest way I have found to worm them it to put the wormer on a small piece of bread and feed a piece to every member of your flock. Once again, use a syringe with the needle removed. For a standard size bird, measure 1/2cc or ml on a piece of bread and feed to the bird. For a bantam size bird, measure 1/4cc or ml and feed to bird. Repeat this process in 10 days. The first dose kills all the live worms in their body, the second kills all the worms that hatched. After two worming sessions, you are done, and your girls are free of worms.

Like treatments for mites/lice, a mandatory egg withdrawal is necessary. When undergoing treatment, residue from the wormer and/or worms may pass into the eggs. An egg withdraw for 28-30 days will need to be observed. Safeguard is a very safe and effective treatment for worms in your flock. Just like the mites and lice, only worm when need. A Chicken’s body is able to handle a normal worm load. Once it crosses a threshold, worming will be needed. You will know when you need to worm your flock. Worms in droppings, weak, and sick hens are all signs that you need to take action.

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Taking routine care of internal and external parasites will go a long way to extending the life of your ladies. If they are free from pests, their bodies are in a much healthier state. Over the course of 10 years, I have only needed to worm a handful of times. I usually have more of an issue with the mites and lice during the colder months of the year. Even in those situations, outbreaks are very easy to address and eradicate. Just like you extend the life of your cat or dog by keeping them flea and worm free, the same applies to your chickens. In doing so, you have much more time to love and enjoy their company.

I hope that you have found this post informative or helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you liked this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As Always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

The Essential Beginners Guide to Backyard Chickens.

So, you want to raise chickens but you have absolutely no idea where to begin. In this post, I will tell you how I began my adventure with raising chickens and show you how to begin your own backyard chicken endeavor.

It was about 10 years ago when the thought of keeping chickens first crossed my mind. I never had chickens before, nor was I raised around them. My grandparents had a farm where they raised produce and pigs. I visited every summer, that was the extent of my country upbringing. I had a good handle on how to garden and grow crops, as to livestock, I had to start from square one.

In a world where we can buy literally everything we need at the store, I waned to have a say as to where my food came from. I wanted to have farm fresh eggs and a garden where I could grow organic produce for my family. I also needed guidence on how to cultivate hard red clay here in Tennessee.

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Backyard homestead and gardens.

I found through this endeavor, soil conditioning and fertilizer in the form of manure is a good place to start. I also found out that chicken manure is the best from of fertilizer. Chicken, as opposed to cow or horse manure does not contain seeds, chickens process everything they consume. Due to the grinding organ, the gizzard, all seeds are broken down into usable fuel for a garden. Cow and horses on the other hand do not process all the seeds they eat, resulting in fertile weed seeds for your garden. In order to have the homestead and garden I wanted, I had to get chickens. Thus stated the adventure with my backyard divas.

Why do you want chickens?

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Buff Orpington eggs in a nesting box

If you are reading this blog post, you have already decided that you want to get chickens. This is the first and foremost thing to consider before getting your first flock. Keeping backyard chickens is very rewarding with many benefits. However, they do require daily care and attention. Knowing why you want to dedicate the time and resources required is very important.

Know your zoning laws.

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The Kuntry Klucker Farm “coop-hood”.

Before you even look at coop designs and hatcheries, you need to find out what your zoning laws require. Every state has a different zoning law when it comes to livestock. Unlike a cat or dog, there are strict laws concerning pet chickens, the state views them as “livestock”. If you are in the city, if allowed, you will be limited to a small number of hens in your backyard, usually 6 or so, omitting roosters. Most city ordinances do not allow roosters per the noise issue.

If you live in the county or country, livestock is most likely permitted. You still need to check your zoning laws to be sure of any and all restrictions. For example, I live in a rural county in East Tennessee. Although I am outside city limits, I have to abide by certain guidelines. For example, my coops need to be at least 250 feet away from my neighbor’s front door, my animals must be contained by either a fence or pen attached to their coop, and I need to have a good waste management routine implemented to reduce both varmints and odors that may bother my neighbors. I have met the requirements, stipulations and more. My girls’ coops are in our backyard, enclosed by a 6-foot wood privacy fence. Their coops and pens are cleaned and maintained daily, I practice good manure management, aiding in both good health and odor reduction.

The Kuntry Klucker Crew

Do your research..Breeds, temperament, disposition.

Ask yourself what kind of chickens you want? Do you want to keep a flock of chickens for eggs, or do you want them for meat?

Do you want to involve your kids in keeping backyard chickens? Do you want to keep them purely for the enjoyment and fun of owning backyard chickens? What temperament do you want in your backyard flock?

These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself. Of course, chickens can offer much more then eggs and meat, they can be pets, forms of entertainment and a companion like a family dog. The spectrum is so wide ranging when it comes to chickens, you can literally have your cake and eat it too.

Most people want to have a flock of chickens that are docile and friendly. If children will be involved with caring for the chickens, this is of upmost importance to beginning keepers. Luckily there are many breeds that would fit this need.

Below, I will list a few of the friendliest breeds. I have most of the breeds or have interacted with them and can vouch for calm and friendly behavior. As with people, chickens have personalities, some may not be as friendly as others. When viewed as a whole, these breeds are great choices for a beginning backyard setting. If roosters are a concern, I have much experience with roosters, I currently have 13 gents. I have examined the temperament and demeanor of various breeds. To read my research and experience with rooster, click here.

Buff Orphington

Silkie

Polish

Silver Lace Wyandotte

Australorp

Cochin

Easter Egger

Brahma

Sussex

Faverolles

Leghorns

Rhode Island Reds

Plymouth Rocks

For egg potential, the best layer breeds are Orpingtons, Australorps, Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds, Production Reds, Leghorns and Plymouth Rocks.

As for meat chickens, typically any standard or large dual-purpose bird will do. However, Cornish Crosses are typically chosen to meet this need. I do not raise chickens for meat; thus, I am I am not able to speak into this. There are many YouTube and other sources on the net to help you get started on this path.

Where to get your chicks? Hatcheries or Feed Store.

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After you have decided what purpose, you want your chickens to fill, you need to decide where to purchase chicks. I have purchased chicks from both feed stores and from hatcheries. There are pros and cons to both. I will list them below for your consideration.

Feed store chicks

~ pros: cheap, no waiting time, you can hand pick your chicks, usually older chicks typically a week old or more, don’t need to be picked up early in the morning at the post office.

~ Cons: usually only basic breeds, depending on store the care of the chicks can be poor, easy to purchase too many (I struggle with this one, I want them all), typically sold as straight runs (not sexed, you WILL get both hens and roosters), chicks tend to be more high strung and flighty due to feed store environment, sold during the spring months only (February thru April) although some locations may have chicks in the fall.

Hatchery

~ Pros: Chicks are sexed (you can purchase only pullets or hens, omitting roosters), chicks are usually in better health, can purchase rare breeds, chicks are typically of better quality, can order your chicks to be shipped any month (except winter months).

~ Cons: more expensive (you will need to pay shipping which can be as much as $45 depending on location), you will need to schedule a time to be home to receive your chicks ( you will need to clear two days from your calendar to pick up your chicks at the post office, they can be delayed in the mail), chicks will arrive at your post office (you will be called early usually between 5-7am to pick up your chicks when the overnight truck arrives), some chicks may die in transportation (be prepared to open your box and find dead chicks, this has only happened to me once in 10 years), orders typically need to be placed in November around Thanksgiving for spring chicks.

Given both methods of acquiring chicks, I prefer to work through hatcheries. Yes, it is a bit more expensive, I have several reasons for this preference. I will list them below.

1.) I like knowing I am the only one to care for them from the moment they arrive. Such things as the feed to the quality of the water and vitamins I administer in their water.

2.) I like the wider selection that hatcheries offer. I tend to gravitate towards more rare breeds not offered in the feed stores.

3.) I find that they are healthier and less traumatized than those purchased at the feed store.

4.) I have found that they are less flighty. Chicks sold in feed stores constantly have hands grabbing for them, causing them to be flightier and higher strung. The chicks that I purchased from the hatchery, despite traveling are much calmer and easier to hand raise. Chicks bought from the feed store are very skittish and harder to hand raise. Due to their exposure to the feed store setting, they are often terrified of hands.

If you decide that chicks from the feed store meet your needs, visit your local Tractor Supply or equivalent in your area and begin your backyard chicken adventure.

For those who decide after careful consideration that hatcheries are a better route for you, do your research before you order. There are many hatcheries out there to choose from. Who you order from will have a lot to do with what breeds you want. Some hatcheries specialize in heritage breeds, others offer rare breeds.

I have ordered from several hatcheries, all with good experiences. Below I will list the hatcheries I have done business with. I can vouch for their service and quality of chicks.

Cackle Hatchery – I ordered my first clutch of chicks from Cackle. 9 years later, I still have 5 of the original 17 Buff Orpingtons I ordered.

My Pet Chicken – I order all my Silkies and White Crested Polish Chickens from MPC. They are great outfit and offer some of the rarer breeds of chickens. Their customer service is top notch. If any chicks pass during shipping, they will reimburse you for the loss of chicks.

McMurray Hatchery – I have ordered some of my very rare Polish breeds through McMurray. They also stock some extremely rare breeds. If you are interested in something a little bit different for your backyard flock, they are the best place to go.

Preparing The Brooder.

Now that you have ordered or plan to pick up your chicks at your local feed store or co-op, it’s time to set up the brooder. A brooder is basically a heated home for your newly hatched chicks. In nature, the mother hen would be the brooder. She would keep them warm, teach them how to drink and what to eat. Since you picked up or ordered your chicks, essentially you have to be the mother hen to these little ones. Don’t worry, it’s not complicated. There are just a few very important steps that need to be taken to insure the successful transition of your chicks.

     what you will need:

1. Enclosed container with sides and a top.

     2. Heat source

     3. Feeder and Feed

     4. Waterer and vitamins to put in the water

     5. Pine Shavings

     6. Other accessories such as perches or toys to keep them occupied.

My brooder container or choice, puppy play pen.

For my brooder set up I use a Puppy Play Pen these can be found on Amazon and most pet stores. I like to use these for brooders for several reasons.

~ 1. They are completely enclosed, this means that all the shaving stays in the brooder, reducing much of the mess. The screened sides allow for air flow and visual access to your chicks. Due to the fact that the chicks can see and observe their world outside of the brooder, they are more laid back and less flighty.

~ 2. They have a top. This will become important when the chicks get to the flying phase of their development.

~ 3. They are easy to clean, fold up, and store easily.

Heat:

As for the heat source, I discourage the use of heat lamps. Most people associate brooding chicks with the big red 500-watt bulbs blasting the chicks with intense heat and light. This was the common way of brooding chicks during our grandparent’s day. As for today’s chicks, brooding has taken on a better much safer route to supplying heat to your chicks. Brooder lamps as they are known are very dangerous. There is no way to safely mount a heat lamp around shaving (kindling wood) and flying animals. I cannot recount how many times I have heard, or I see coop, barn, and house fires caused by the humble heat lamp.

Brinsea Ecoglow heat plate in brooder.

In lieu of a hazardous heat lamp I use a Brinsea Ecoglow Radiant Heat Plate. These radiant heat plates mimic the heat from a mother hen, rather than blasting the chicks with unnatural light 24/7. These are a much safer option for heating and do not carry the risk of fires, injury, and death as the heat lamp of yesteryear.

Feeders:

Next, you will need chick feed and a feeder. When it comes to chick feed there are two school of thought. Medicated or unmedicated. Medicated chick feed has a medicine in the feed to prevent or give the chicks an immunity to coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is a disease of the intestinal track; chicks are very susceptible to this condition. Coccidiosis contributes to a large percentage of high mortality rates in young chicks. The medicated feed prevents this condition, giving them a much healthier start in life.

Unmedicated feed is also a good choice, used mainly by people who choose to give their chicks a more organic start to life. Either is fine, you as the caretaker need to decide which route is best for you. As for me, I am pro medicated chick feed. Since I switched to medicated feed, I find that I lose less chicks and that they are healthier from the beginning. As for the feeder, feed stores have a wide variety of feeders to choose from. Just pick the one that fits your brooder set up the best.

Waterers and vitamins:

The type of waterer you have is very important. The goal of the waterer is to give your chicks access to clean fresh water, taking great care that they do not get wet. Once again when it comes to waterers there are two schools of thought, traditional waterers or poultry nipple drinkers.

The traditional waterers are widely available at feed stores, just make sure that you get a small one to prevent the chicks from getting wet. The poultry nipples can be found at some feed stores, but most of them have to be ordered. I do not use the nipple drinkers, I cannot into how to train your chicks to use them. I know that others use them with much success. I find that the traditional waterers work best for me.

Like people, vitamins are very important to young growing chicks. I put vitamins in my chick’s water daily for the first several months. The vitamins ensure that the chicks are getting all the nutrients that they need to get a good start in life. Some vitamins have probiotics in them which gives them an additional boost in the right direction. Most feed stores have poultry vitamins available; I typically pick them up at Tractor Supply.

Shavings or bedding:

Brooder bedding serves the purpose of absorbing moisture, keeping your chicks healthy and happy. The safest bedding to use around chicks is pine shaving. Most feed stores stock pine shavings, they can also be found at Walmart and pet stores. An important note about shavings, cedar is toxic to chicks, take care to make sure that you use pine shavings in your brooder set up.

The pine shaving should be cleaned out once a week and replaced with fresh. More often if you have a quite a few chicks in your brooder.

How to Introduce your new chicks to the brooder and teach them to eat and drink.

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When you first arrive home with your new chicks, the first thing you want to do is teach them what water is and where to find it. After traveling for several days, they will be thirsty. To relay this important survival information to your chicks, dip their beaks in the water. As you remove them from their shipping container and place them in the brooder, dip their beaks in the water. Do this for every one of the chicks. You may need to dip their beaks in the water more than once for them to make the connection. You will know that the connection has been made when they drink from the waterer on their own. They will be thirsty; it will not take them long to appreciate the water.

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Chicks naturally have a pecking instinct; this means that they will peck at anything that is in front of them. It is your job as a caretaker to teach them what is food. The best way to do this is to line the bottom of your brooder with paper towels for the first few days. On top of the paper towels, scatter some chick feed. The chicks will instinctively peck at the feed, teaching them that “this is food”. If you put new chicks on the shavings, they may eat the shavings mistaking them for food. After they learn to identify their food, the source by eating from feeder, you can remove the paper towels and expose the shavings. They will enjoy scratching in the shavings looking for food, much like adult hens do when looking for bugs in the grass.

Once everyone is eating and drinking on their own, you can take a sigh of relief. From this point on they are able to take care of their needs, regulating their food as water intake as needed. The first week they will spend a lot of time under the heater and sleep a lot. Beginning in the second week, they will be a lot more active and enjoy interacting with their caretaker.

Once the young brood is completely feathered, they can move into their outdoor digs. The time of year you acquire your brood will make a huge difference on when they can be moved outside to their coop. If you get them during the colder months (February – April) depending on your location, you may have to keep them inside a bit longer. To get around this, I typically request my hatch dates to be in May and June. During these months, the temps are warmer especially at night. I do this so that I can get them outside a lot sooner. During these summer months, I can even brood my chicks outdoors in a protected coop. I often resort to this method of brooding. I find that the chicks do much better early on if raised outdoors. Additionally, it frees me from the shaving mess and dust that chicks produce, giving our allergies a much-needed break.

I set up a brooder outside just the same as I would set up one indoors. I provide the essentials food, water, and heat. I simply purchase an industrial outdoor extension cord, run it to the coop and hook the power up. I am currently brooding a clutch of 6 White Crested Polish Bantam chicks in The Coop De Ville. All are doing well and are enjoying the coop life.

Getting the Coop purchased and constructed

Now that that you have your new additions home and brooding, if you have not already, it’s time to get their outdoor digs ready.

Once again, when it comes to coops there are two schools of thought, hand-built or prefab. I have done both and will link the blog post where I discuss this in detail here.  Whichever method you choose is up to you. I really don’t think one is necessary better than the other, its whatever works for you and your family.

Backyard “coop-hood”.

I have 5 prefab coops; with proper care they last a long time. I also have 2 hand-built coops also with proper care are long lasting. Both prefab and hand-built coops will require care and Maintenace. My oldest prefab coop is 5 years old. My first coop, The Kuntry Klucker I built 10 years ago. It comes down to your budget, skills in wood working, and time. It takes longer to build a coop, more money and the skills needed to conceptualize and execute.

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If building a coop is not in your wheelhouse that’s ok. Tractor Supply and other co-ops have a great selection of coops in stores as well as online. I own three Tractor Supply prefab coops; I am pleased with all of them. They are holding up very well and make excellent homes for all my girls.

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I hope that is you have found this post helpful in staring your own flock. It may seem daunting at first, especially if you were not raised around livestock. It takes a bit of time and research. Once you get rolling, you will find that chickens are simple creatures. They require little but give back a lot in return. Aside from the small amount of time they require, chickens really are lot of fun and are very rewarding.

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Here is a short video of my chicken yard. As you can see, I have both prefab and hand-built coops. Both make excellent homes for your ladies and gent.

Link to my blog post entitled Bachelor Pens for Roosters, mentioned in the above video. If you need a solution for extra roosters, a bachelor pen is a great option.

If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments. You can also drop me a line at kuntryklucker@gmail.com.

I am a published author, multi-disciplinary writer and blog contributor. If you like this blog, please visit some of my other sites.

Knowledge of the Spheres – Exploring the Celestial Spheres!

Coffee and Coelophysis – A blog about Dinosaurs!

Chicken Math University – Adventures in Homeschooling.

If you liked this post, peck the subscribe button. As always, thanks for reading. Till next time, keep on crowing!

~ The Kuntry Klucker Crew ~

Fi (Silver Lace Polish) perching on a hammock chair under the shade of the grape arbor.