So you're ready to add some livestock to your homestead and everyone has said to start with chickens. Great idea! Maybe you're here because you want to know what you need to do to get started. Another great idea! Do your research before you bring a single fluffy butt home!
First, you need to decide what you expect to get from your chickens. Are you wanting a lot of eggs? Will you be eating the birds? Are they going to be pets or entertainment? Once you know what you want, you can hit the internet to do your research on breeds. Take into account your weather conditions year round and then look into the coop you need for adequate shelter, size, and protection from predators. By the way, are your chickens going to be fenced in or allowed to free range? The predator population in your area is going to play a big part in that decision. Ask your neighbors or local extension about predators!
I really can't add anything to all that expertise. BUT I do think it's important to also prepare yourself for how owning chickens can change your life. I can add my own experiences to help you mentally meet the challenge and make sure you're up to the daily added responsibilities of owning chickens if you follow these simple instructions. Ready? Here we go...
Step One: Buy some eggs. Like a lot of eggs. Take the maximum number of eggs you expect to get from your hens in one day(one per bird) and multiply that by fourteen. That's two weeks worth of eggs in your fridge. So if you have 3 hens X 14 days = 42 eggs. Now, try to eat all those eggs while imagining 3 more eggs being added to your fridge daily. Start collecting egg recipes and imagining how you can use up all those wonderful eggs!
Step Two: Find out how much chicken feed is at your local feed store and the recommended feeding amount per chicken per day. When you've figured out the daily cost of feed, imagine paying that in the wintertime plus the cost of how many eggs you will need. Molting in the fall or spring will also cause a drop in egg production.
Step Three: Set an alarm everyday for two hours before sun-up (if you will have a rooster.) Plus- set one for the time you will be letting the chickens out of the coop and also for the time they will need to be locked back up. Make arrangements to be home everyday at that time. Every. single. day.
Step Four: Put an egg in your pocket and "forget" it's there. Leave it there for the entire day. You'll never let that happen when you get chickens? Of course you won't.
Step Five: Attempt to open every door in your home with 2 eggs in your hand. Because you know what happens if you've properly completed Step Four.
The rest of the instructions only apply if you decide to free range your birds.
Step Six: For every 5 steps you take in your yard, assume you've stepped on a "land mine" and must now wash or change your shoes.
Step Seven: Rip out every plant in your garden. Or you can skip this step and go straight to...
Step Eight: Purchase or build a fence for your garden.
Step Nine: Play hide and seek. Try to find every place a nest of eggs could fit.
Step Ten: Remember that all the previous steps are much more fun when you have fluffy butted hens to watch. Yes, there's some responsibility but the rewards are so worth it!