Get ready to start raising backyard chickens with just three simple things: shelter, food/water, and some space! Farm fresh eggs are calling your name!
It happens. You see those cute little fluffy chicks at the pet store, and your heart just melts at their poofy sweetness, and suddenly you realize… you want chickens for a pet! WHAT??? Chickens??!
Well, let me just say… raising backyard chickens is not as life-altering, ultra-intimidating, super farm-geek crazy as some people may think.
It does not turn you into a redneck, it doesn’t stink up your yard (when done correctly 😉), and it doesn’t make you a slave to the farm life.
But it does help to make you (and/or your children!!) more responsible, more nutrition-minded, more respectful of your food sources, and more self-reliant.
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I recently shared a post on the pros and cons of raising backyard chickens, and why I believe every family should have some. So if y’all are starting to think you might like to bring home some little ladies… or even if you’re just curious about it… let’s talk today about what you would actually need in order to start raising backyard chickens! (And maybe someday soon you can actually bring home those cute little puff balls! 🐥💛)
Basics of Raising Backyard Chickens
There are really only a few things you need in order to start raising backyard chickens. Those are:
- and an appropriate amount of space.
There are, of course, plenty of extras you can indulge in. And yes, sometimes those extras make the whole process a lot more simple or fun. But they are just that– extra.
So don’t get overwhelmed with thinking you need to have all the fancy fru-fru stuff in order to add this element of self-reliance for your family. Start where you can, and let it grow with you.
Room To Roam
The biggest determining factor for if/how you raise backyard chickens is going to be space. The amount of space you can dedicate for your chickens will determine how many chickens you are able to support.
Do you have a spacious yard and want to let the ladies roam free? Then you can likely manage quite a few chickens.
Do you have a corner of your yard that you feel you could dedicate to a chicken pen? Then you could likely support 4-6 chickens in that space.
But even if you only have a very small area, you could still put in a little coop and run (a small penned in area attached to the coop) in that little space that could support 1-2 chickens. Again… the important part is not how fancy you start. Start with what you can, and it will grow with you.
We currently live on 17 acres and have around 30 chickens running free on the land. But when we started raising chickens, we lived on a 1/4 acre subdivision lot with a penned in corner of our yard (roughly 10×15) for about 4-6 little ladies. It was a perfect start for us.
How much space do chickens need?
The short answer to this is: as much space as you can give them! 😉
I’m not a stickler for numbers and following ‘this many chickens’ for this much space. It truly varies based on circumstances. But it is important to remember that although chickens are animals–and I do believe that God gave us animals to support us and sustain us–it is our responsibility to care for those animals and treat them respectfully. Part of that care and respect is giving chickens an appropriate amount of space to be chickens.
But a general rule of thumb is that chickens need about 4 square feet of space in a coop, per chicken, and about 10 square feet of space in a run.
Putting that into practical numbers… if you wanted to bring home 4 laying hens, you would want a chicken coop that is around 16 sq/ft and a run that is 40 sq/ft. So, your coop could be a 4’x4′, or 2’x8′, or 3’x5′ coop and those would all work great. Your run could be a space that is 8’x5′, 4’x10′, 7’x6′, etc. and be just fine.
As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of space. But just remember, the more space you can give them, the less stressed they will be and the less likely you’ll be to have personality conflicts among the little ladies. (Hey… we all need our personal space sometimes when others are getting on our nerves, right?? 😂) So keep in mind that these numbers are guidelines, and consider how much time your chickens will spend in a coop, in a run, and in a free-range environment when making decisions for how many chickens you want to put in your space.
Here’s a great article to read for more information to consider when determining how much space you want/need.
The Chicken Coop
Once you’ve determined a good space/location for your chickens, the next thing you need to start raising backyard chickens is some shelter. This comes in the form of a chicken coop.
There are many things that can and will threaten your backyard chickens, so it’s very important to keep them protected. This is particularly important during the night hours when most of their predators come out. Coons and possums are the biggest threat in my area, but there are plenty of other predator possibilities based on where you live.
The chicken coop will likely be the biggest up front investment you will need to make when you start your backyard chicken flock. However, you can still accomplish this on the cheap if you’re handy and have some resources lying around. You can, of course, purchase a premade chicken coop, but those can be quite pricey. But there are tons of online ideas for building your own chicken coop (of all different shapes and sizes), so I totally recommend going that route if you’re able. (Check out this article for some inspiration on simple-to-build chicken coops!)
As you can see in the picture above, our first chicken coop was NOT fancy! It was made out of several little wood boxes hubby had gotten for free somewhere, and then he attached them together to form a tall little coop. He cut some of the wood out to form windows for ventilation (adding rabbit wire to keep it secure) and also cut out some of the wood to form the door. Added a roof, a rabbit wire floor, and boom. Chicken coop done. It was quite non-professional 😉, but it totally worked for our beginner needs.
Fast forward to today, and we now have our Chic-fil-A chicken palace that we simply LOVE. But we are now 10 years into this whole chicken raising thang. So remember… baby steps! (And PS. we still made this coop for super cheap! Recycled materials are fantastic!)
Another great option is to look for things you can repurpose into a chicken coop! A small shed, a children’s playhouse, or check out this post where the author builds a coop for under $50 by repurposing an old crib! Be creative and don’t get caught up in what a chicken coop “should” look like.
When considering a coop to build (or purchase), you will just need to make sure it has a few features:
- A place for the chickens to roost (usually a roosting bar),
- Nesting boxes where they can lay their eggs,
- And windows and doors.
Roosting in the Chicken Coop
When chickens roost at night, they like to have their feet grabbing around something. A roosting bar can be made with a something as simple as a big stick from a tree, or a 2×4 board you have lying around. Chickens also like to roost up high, so place your roosting bar up higher in your coop… but be sure that they have a way to get to it. Remember… chickens don’t fly. 😉
Nesting Boxes in the Chicken Coop
Nesting (or laying) boxes are where the chickens will lay their eggs. If you have a lot of chickens, you will want multiple nesting boxes. But these silly ladies will tend to all share the same box or two anyway. Not sure why they do that, but it sure is funny. So they don’t each need their own box. Just a few will suffice. And there are tons of inexpensive options to check out online.
Side note: The nesting boxes do not actually need to be inside the coop. Our very first chicken coop had a separate coop and nesting box area. We were just building with resources we had available and that’s what we came up with. But regardless of location, just make sure that there is a nesting box area for your ladies. And they prefer a little bit of privacy when they lay their eggs, so don’t just put something out in the open yard/pen.
Windows and Door for the Chicken Coop
And lastly, the coop needs to have some windows/ventilation, and a secure door. Your ladies will need some air flow so that they don’t overheat in the summer months. The windows don’t need to be legit… any sort of openings that allow air to flow through will work. But you do want to make sure they are secured so that animals can’t get in. And same thing goes for the door. You will want a latch on the door that little coon fingers can’t undo in order to keep the ladies safe at night. And then you’ll, of course, need to remember to actually lock them up at night. (We’ve lost our fair share of chickens when we have neglected to secure them at night. 😢)
As you can see, chicken coops can be pretty basic. Some extra things to consider, however, would be the ease of access for YOU to be able to clean the coop. Those lovely ladies sure do like to poop a lot at night. Which means the coop floor will need to be cleaned on a fairly regular basis. The easier it is for you to access the inside of the coop, the more likely you will be to not utterly despise this chore. So just keep that in mind. 😉
Same thing goes for their laying boxes. You will need to be gathering eggs from these boxes each day and keeping their bedding fresh, so make sure you have easy access to them. I also prefer to have a good view of the eggs in the box and not just have to blindly reach in and grab anything. Becauuuuse…. there may be a few occasions where you could potentially find your friendly neighborhood chicken snake making a snack of your eggs. 😬
Yaaaa….. I don’t ever blindly reach my hand into an.y.thing on the farm, y’all. I’m just not that kind of brave.
Chicken Coop Size
We already discussed that a coop should be at least 4 sq/ft per chicken. But other than that, the size is really up to you and should be determined by your specific needs. It can be on the small side and up off the ground, or you can build a coop that you’re actually able to walk into (like our coop now).
But one thing to consider with size is how much time your ladies will need to spend in the coop. Here in SE Texas we do not have cold winters so our chickens are pretty much able to be outside all year long. But the parts of the country/world that have snowed-in winters would perhaps want a coop that their ladies can hangout in through the winter months. So keep that in mind as well when you think about size.
Check out some of these fun ideas for some DIY Chicken Coops to get the ideas flowing!
Food and Water
The last thing you’re going to need to start raising backyard chickens is some food and water. Obviously. They are living creatures, after all. 😉
Chickens are great for eating leftover table scraps, but they do need well-balanced nutrition in order to provide those amazing farm-fresh eggs that everyone loves.
If your chickens are roaming free on plenty of lush land, they are going to need very little (if any) supplemented feed. Bugs, grass, flowers, etc all make for a well-balanced diet. But if the chickens are spending all of their time in a coop/run, they will obviously need to have their food supplied to them.
There are options for making homemade chicken feed, growing fodder for your chickens, and of course, commercially available chicken food. Just know that what your chickens eat affects the quality of their eggs. (“You are what you eat???”)
When just starting out, I would recommend purchasing chicken feed (organic or non-organic based on your personal preferences). And if at all possible, try to let your chickens roam–at least occasionally. And then, after you’ve gotten your feet wet, if you feel like dabbling into homemade or homegrown chicken feed you can give that a go. But do yourself a favor and don’t overwhelm yourself right off the bat. We still have not gotten into making our own feed. Although we have tinkered with growing fodder. (Here’s an easy read for some ideas on what to feed your backyard chickens.)
And then you will, of course, also want to give your chickens access to fresh water at all times. There are plenty of chicken waterers available online, or you can also DIY a lot of really cool automatic feeders and waterers as well. Here’s a great video tutorial for how to make a chicken waterer from a 5-gallon bucket. So many cool ideas, y’all!
Bring home some chickens!
Once you’ve got your three chicken necessities in place (I know… it sounded like a lot more than three😝), you are officially ready to bring home some little ladies!
You can choose to start with those cute little fluffy puff balls you see at the farm/pet stores every spring (they’re SO hard to resist!!), however, for someone who is just starting out, I would definitely recommend getting chickens that are either already laying or are about to start laying. That way, you not only start enjoying some of the rewards right away, but you also avoid some of the challenges of raising baby chicks until you’ve got a handle on the chicken life. (Baby chicks require more attention and care, as well as more equipment… as all babies do.) 😉
You’ll also want to read up on the different types of chicken breeds to see what kind of flock you want. Different breeds are known for different things. Do you want colorful eggs? Try Ameraucanas or Easter Eggers. Do you want chickens that are high egg producers? Try Rhode Island Reds. Do you want beautifully unique chickens that are fun to look at? Check out some super cute Polish or Silkie chickens! There are a lot of options available, so just consider what your family would prefer. And yes… you can have a variety of breeds in the same coop.
And that’s it! You’ve begun your journey to self-reliance, responsibility, and sustainability! Not to mention, these little ladies just add such a FUN dimension to regular day-to-day life.
So what are you waiting for??! It’s time to start raising backyard chickens! Go check out that yard and see where your family’s new little flock belongs! 😁
Shop this post
- Hanging Chicken Feeder (similar to ours)
- Chicken Waterer (this is similar to the one we have, except ours is 5 gallons)
- “The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens: How to Raise a Happy Backyard Flock” by Anne Kuo
- Chicken Coop (a good option if you don’t want to build one)