Our Beginners Guide to Backyard Chickens

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Thinking about getting chickens? Our beginners guide to backyard chickens will help you decide if it’s the right decision for you. We have had our girls for three years and we big fans!

A Beginner's Guide To Backyard Chickens

Everyone is talking about the price of eggs these days. Ouch. Not a great reason to get chickens, but it sure has a lot of you considering it so we thought we would share our three year chicken ownership journey with you.

Back in 2019 Colt and I were pressuring JJ to get on board with our desire to get chickens and he continued to give us the hand as he had done for years. While we outnumbered him and could have gotten chickens, he held the trump card. They needed a place to live and neither of us had the skill set or the desire to build a chicken coop. 

Enter the covid era and a realization that we were about as self reliable as a newborn baby and suddenly JJ was interested. So in the spring of 2020 Colt and I bought six baby chicks and JJ got busy building a chicken coop for them.

I can’t even explain how much fun owning six baby chicks was. They are beyond cute. They stayed in my office when they were tiny and I loved watching them and listening to their sweet peeps. 

baby chickens in brooder

Before your chickens are coop ready, you will need to keep them warm and safe. JJ built a brooder box for our new babies. You can use an oversized storage bin or purchase a brooder. With the storage bin you will need to create some sort of mesh covering for the top as they age because they start to get their wings and can get out. With the brooder, you will want to line the bottom and 4 – 6 inches up the side so you don’t end up with shavings everywhere. They are messy, so I recommend a plastic or wood line. Cardboard will be a wet mess. 

baby chicks brooder diy

You will also need a heater, waterer, feeder, thermometer and starter feed. Everything we used to start out is in this Baby Chicken Starter Kit

IMPORTANT: Be very aware of where you are placing your heater. It should be close enough to keep their space around 92ish degrees at all times but far enough away it doesn’t burn them or cause a fire. 

Something to Know 

There’s no guarantee your baby chicks are hens not roosters. We gleefully left the chicken supplier with what we thought were six baby hens. “There’s an 80% chance these are girls,” they said with a smile. Through their lying teeth. 

Weeks later, after we put the girls in the coop we heard a cock-a-doodle-do. 

What to Do If You Get a Rooster

Keeping it real … good luck. It ain’t easy.

When I called the supplier I purchased the babies from, I was told hesitantly, “Most people just let them out and let nature take care of it.” OMG. NOPE. I mean just look at that face below.

I spent hours on the phone, calling every feed store in town and I finally found one that said they heard that a local wholesale flower supplier was on the hunt for a rooster for their hens. I called and they were indeed looking so I dropped off rooster number one. Call anyone and everyone. You will find someone.

Two weeks later we heard another cock-a-doodle-doo and I called again. Thankfully, they also took Friday, our affectionately named Rooster who was decidedly NOT coyote feed.

what to do if you get a rooster
What to Know About the Chicken Coop & Run

When your babies have outgrown their brooder, around six weeks, you will move them out to their new big girl home, your chicken coop.

The two most important things about building your coop and run are predator safety and space, in that order. 

Our chickens are not free to roam. We get constant visits from bobcats and coyotes on our property. The girls would have been gone long ago if we let them out. We instead made a sizable area aka run for them that surrounds the coop and allows them to safely play and forage. 

We transferred them out to the coop around week six and they have been safe and egg producing ever since. Check back Wednesday for the plans we used for the chicken coop as well as the run JJ built that keeps our girls protected all hours of the day and the watering and feeding system that allows us to leave for a week at a time and they are self sufficient.

Have questions regarding chicken ownership? Ask us in the comments below!

Join the Conversation

  1. Sara Duiser says:

    Hi,
    I’m considering backyard chickens… this article is great but I’d like to receive the chicken coop & feeding & watering system info?
    Should their coop move around or be stationary & what’s the best way to keep it clean & healthy for the chickens?
    Thank you!

    1. SMullen Author says:

      Hi Sara! Thanks for stopping by the blog. We are working on the follow up to this post which will include the feeding and watering system and the coop we built. Please check back over the next two weeks for the posts! We create a food and watering system that makes having chickens less time consuming. They always have water and the food needs to be filled every 5 days. We still take treats out daily and gather eggs but if we forget, they are fine. We built a stationary coop with large open space for them to roam as we can’t let them out or they will get eaten by predators. We have bobcats and coyotes on the property consistently. Regarding keeping it clean and healthy for the chickens we use hemp bedding. We rotate it every couple of months, by turning it over and adding a small layer over the top. We typically only remove it once a year in the spring. Please let us know if you have any other questions!

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