Thursday, August 20, 2015

Backyard Chicken Keeping for the Complete Novice, Part 1

Recently, my family and I took up residence in the not so Great State of Texas. We bought a house with a big backyard and immediately began to dream up all its potential. We decided we wanted to create a small, easily managed, suburban mini homestead that would include water reclamation, a vegetable garden, compost and chickens. Of all our best laid plans, the chickens have so far been the most successful.

I guess you could say that I am a city girl, having never grown up around livestock or having any sort of experience dealing with farm type animals. So the idea of starting off on a project like this seemed a little daunting. I took to the interwebs with alacrity, searching out the best breeds for our climate, the best coops, the best feed, etc. There are a plethora of websites available with amazing information on how to start your own backyard flock. There are even great blog articles telling you exactly what you need to get started. That being said, there is no substitute for personal experience and therefore, I see no harm in adding my experience to the collective pool of information.

This will be a multi-part series, wherein I hope to offer advice to the absolute novice. My articles will chronicle the raising of four baby chicks to laying hens in a suburban setting.

Part 1: Assessing Your Situation.

Before you go to the feed store or co-op and fall in love with those adorable little bundles of fluff, you should first find out what your city and county laws are on the keeping of livestock.

Many cities are catching on to the idea of suburban homesteading and are changing bylaws to allow things like small flocks and water reclamation, but you don't want to break any laws so do your research before you even get started.

Then you need to really sit down with your family and talk over the responsibilities and work that will be involved with your flock. Backyard chickens, kept for their egg laying abilities rather than their meat, will become family pets (for some).

We bought our chickens when they were three days old and raised them in our home for the first 8 weeks before moving them outside. You may decide to buy older chickens, called pullets which are closer to being able to lay eggs.

If you buy them as baby chicks, you'll need a warm, safe place away from predators and weather, to rear the chicks until they are strong enough to go outside.

Once outside, they need space to roam around that you don't mind getting destroyed (chickens are very destructive), a safe coop and hen house to protect them from predators, a place to roost, and a comfy nesting box for the eventual eggs you'll receive. So the very first step in a backyard flock is figuring out if you can provide these things.

Backyard chicken keeping requires:
  • Patience 
  • Flexibility
  • Food and water
  • A safe chicken coop
  • Space for them to roam
  • Protection from predators
  • Patience and flexibility
  • A sense of humor 
Not completely necessary, but very helpful would also be handiness. We have had to build and modify many things along our suburban homestead journey so it helps to know how to operate woodworking tools and equipment.

Once you've figured out if are willing and able to provide all of those things, the next step will be to build or purchase a quality chicken coop. Part 2 will go over my Dos and Don'ts of Chicken Coops.

Have you taken the plunge? What advice do you have for beginners?



  1. Thank you for sharing your experience and tips with us @ #HomeMatterParty Lauren.We would love to have you again next week.

  2. Well what an interesting post. I live in an apartment in the City so can appreciate your move from City to Country. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about keeping chickens with us at #AnythingGoes and have a lovely day.

  3. Thanks for sharing this with us at SYC. I have toyed with the idea of getting chickens.

  4. Thanks for sharing on My 2 Favorite Things on Thursday! Hope to see you again this week! Pinned!

  5. Thanks for the advice! I really REALLY want chickens one day!!!!

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  6. My hubby and I have talked about possibly raising chickens. We have plenty of property. This is timely information for me! Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday.

  7. If I ever had the time I would love to keep backyard chickens, in fact I would love to have a farm!
    twinkle at optonline dot net

  8. Useful post, I have seen people growing chicken in their backyard in India Thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  9. I'll be interested to read more of your stories about when the chickens grow. Thanks for sharing with us at #WednesdaysWisdom

    1. I've got a few more posts lined up to show our journey so far. Stay tuned! :)

  10. I am still trying to talk my husband into having chickens but I enjoyed reading your post Lauren:). Thanks so much for sharing your chicken tips at Dream. Create. Inspire. Link. I hope you will join us again tonight at 8 EST! Take care, Tara

  11. I love learning about your homesteading journey. I'm not sure that we could have a coop in the city limits here, but we garden and it would be cool to provide our own eggs too. I'm going to follow this and gather the knowledge, I love that you;re doing this and sharing! Thanks for linking to #WAYWOW. The rules for the linkup are changing this week, you can link any style of post and you can add up to 3 links. I want the linkup to be beneficial to all of you! Hope to see you there!

    1. I was surprised to learn how many urban and suburban areas are now accepting of a backyard flock.