A Beginner’s Guide to Chickens

A Beginner's Guide to Chickens

Are you thinking about getting chickens or do you already have a flock? This post includes some of Thrifty Homesteader’s most useful posts and videos about keeping chickens…

Getting Your Chickens

chicks from hatchery

The first step to successfully raising chickens is to buy them from a trusted source. You could be purchasing diseased or old animals if you purchase them from a swap meet or sale barn. It’s best to start with day-old chicks from a hatchery that is certified disease free. 

Not sure which breed to raise? Check out our comprehensive list of chicken breeds available in the US.

Hatching & Brooding Chicks

chicks in brooder

What do you do with chicks once you bring them home? Since they don’t have a mother to keep them warm, they need a brooder, and of course, you don’t want to burn down your house. You may wonder what those things have to do with each other, but heat lamps are the #1 cause of barn fires, so check out these posts on how to get your chicks started and how to use heat lamps safely. And contrary to popular belief, spring is not the only time to get started with chicks. I actually prefer fall chicks for several reasons, which I discuss in this first article …

Chicken Keeping Basics

chickens and turkeys together

Chicken Health and Feeding

Chickens are incredibly hardy animals. With a flock of about 80 hens and a few roosters, we have lost about one hen every three years to a natural death. In other words, most chickens wind up as someone’s dinner, either ours or a predator’s. We have locally grown non-GMO feed mixed by a local farmer, and we feed a little spent brew grain daily, which comes from a local beer brewery. Plus the hens get whatever bugs and caterpillars they can catch in the pasture. 


mobile chicken house

If you’ve never had chickens before you might just assume you’ll have a permanent chicken coop that sits in one place forever. However, there are a lot of disadvantages to that, as we learned over the ten years or so that we had that type of old-fashioned chicken coop. Today we have a movable hen house that we call the Henmobile, and we use chicken tractors for the young chickens after they come out of the brooder. At about four months of age, almost all of the cockerels become dinner, and the pullets are moved to the Henmobile to join the layers. 

In this video, I’m showing you what we do to avoid escaping chickens and to keep them safe from predators getting into the chicken tractor when we have to set it on uneven ground.


Book Reviews & Additional Resources

These are some of my favorite books on raising chickens. If you asked me to recommend just one, it would be The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery. It is required reading in my Pastured Poultry class that I teach for UMass-Amherst online, as well as Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profits, which I would suggest if you want to start a business selling chicken meat or eggs.

chicken books

Need more chicken book suggestions? Check out my list of 9 Best Chicken Books.

Sometimes, even after reading everything you can find, you still have questions. That’s when it’s helpful to have another person to ask! Thrifty Homesteading is our Facebook group where we talk about all things related to homesteading, including chickens and livestock. Join us!

Do you have experiences to share or questions about keeping chickens? Post in the comment section below!

Guide to Chickens

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