Purely Poultry’s 12 Step Program for a Happier and Healthier YOU!
Looking for a way to change your life for the better? Look no further, Purely Poultry has the solution! There are countless positive aspects to raising poultry for kids from 1 to 92, as they say. The obvious are eggs, feathers, meat, and pest control, but other important aspects include plentiful, free, and all-natural fertilizer, increased nutritional content of the farm-raised foods, a continuation of the breed’s existence, and can be a source of income. Raising chickens or other poultry has lots of intangible positives, too! They offer endless hours of entertainment, provide a source of self-sustainability, and can be fantastic therapy and emotional support for individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders, autism, and depression, just to name a few.
It’s clear that we here at Purely Poultry are of the strong belief that every individual should be blessed with the experience of raising poultry. For that reason, we put together 12 Steps to Getting ready for Poultry – our 12-step program to making you happier and healthier! Once you have reviewed each step, you can order your chickens or ducks fully knowing that you will be successful and, therefore, be able to enjoy your experience from beginning to end.
1. Check local laws. Your town or local government may have rules against roosters or limits to numbers of birds. So check first and be prepared to plan for your flock accordingly.
2. Evaluate your property. Chickens and ducks will need a coop or safe predator-proof nighttime house and a safe space to roam during the day. To provide this, consider fencing in your yard. The most common day-time predators of poultry are neighborhood dogs, foxes, and birds of prey. Fencing helps protect against dogs, but some predators find a way under or over regular fencing. Consider portable electric fencing, which can thwart the efforts of mischievous and persistent carnivores from accessing your flock. To avoid hawk predation, give your birds access to brush or shrubbery where they can retreat if a hawk is flying overhead. If you choose not to fence, keeping a rooster, a goose, or some guinea with your flock can add a sort of alarm system that can protect your precious poultry as well.
3. Consider your coop design. There are two main coop options: a permanently-placed traditional coop or a chicken tractor. Either option must be predator-proof, be draft free and offer protection from the elements, and have year-round ventilation. You will be locking your birds up inside it every night, and it must be a fortress against nighttime predators. Position your traditional coop in a spot out of direct sun.
Don’t want to dedicate a single space to a coop? A chicken tractor might be a good option. A tractor is a movable coop that will allow your birds fresh foraging options each time you move it. You can enlarge the area that the tractor gives access to by using portable electric fencing.
Chicken Coops will need roosts for your flock to sleep on and nest boxes for laying eggs. One could also consider raising the coop to allow for your chickens to roam about in the shade underneath.
Duck Coops won’t need the roosts, and they will need to be low enough to the ground for the ducks to feel secure in entering and exiting the coop. Ducks will require water to dunk their heads at a minimum and would love a pool of water in which to “frolic”. Consider the daily cleaning of this pool when placing it as well.
4. Other Coop Placement Considerations. Find a convenient location – not too far from your house, but definitely upwind as it may not be pleasing to have the aroma of your coop floating in on a summer breeze during dinner. Also, consider how far the coop is from a water source, electric source, and from your compost pile. In the winter, hoses may freeze up, and you’ll end up carrying water. You may want to run an electric water-heater during the winter if you live in a cold area.
5. Decide on your breeds. It’s time to start thinking about what your flock with consist of. Do you hope for fresh eggs daily or would just a couple of eggs per week be plenty for your needs. Are you going to eat the eggs, hatch them, or both? Maybe you are hoping to have a freezer full of chicken later on or are hoping for some duck or goose down for a project? Is your main reason for wanting poultry for beauty and companionship? Check out the Purely Poultry site and read about the different breeds and chose ones that are appropriate for your needs. Also, consider your situation – some types need special care like Silkies or Wild Ducks. Others are quite fine all on their own. If you live in an area with harsh winters, pick cold hardy breeds from Northern locales like Sussex and Rhode Island Reds. Some chickens and ducks are especially good egg layers, while still others are bred for meat production.
6. Decide on Number of Birds. Even if your town allows you to raise unlimited numbers of chickens or ducks, you need to make some decisions. Consider space – how big of a coop will you be building? 2 square feet of space is required per chicken while 4 square feet is needed for ducks. Space requirements change based on the number of birds so check out our care instructions for your breeds for space requirements, both in coop or for pasturing space if you want to free-range.
7. Consider your finances. Decide on a budget. The set up is the most expensive part of raising chickens. Building the coop and putting up fencing can be inexpensive or costly, depending upon your choices for your birds. Determine the cost of your chosen feed and bedding, and allow for any health supplies and treats you may decide to purchase. Feed prices will vary depending on your location and if you use certified organic feed or not. Both chickens and ducks will get some of their dietary needs met by free-ranging, and your garden extras will be a welcome and inexpensive treat as well.
8. Consider your time. You will need to be present in the morning to let them out and then again at dusk to close the coop. Plan on setting aside at least a half-hour each day for feeding, freshening the water, collecting the eggs, and freshening up nest boxes and bedding when needed. Seasonal changes could require a bit more.
Visit the coop to collect eggs at least once a day; I usually check for eggs when I open the coop in the morning and when I close it up in the evening. If you go away, you will need to ask someone to take on the chicken chores.
9. Supplies. Besides feed, you will also need some other supplies for your flock. Laying chickens should be given access to Oyster Shell or another calcium/mineral supplement. All birds need access to grit in order to properly digest grains. Feeders and waterers for distributing the feed and water in clean and sanitary ways would also be necessary supplies. Keep in mind that treats can be useful as you get to know your chickens and establish a relationship. Using goodies that your flock loves, such as Mealworms, to train your chickens to come when called or go in the coop at night time can make life simpler.
10. Prep your yard. Chickens and ducks are full-circle contributors to the vegetable garden – they eat bugs, weed seeds, and provide manure and also love the treats of the surplus and unused vegetables that grow there. Be choosy about timing the access to your garden while you still have tender shoots or low-hanging fruit, however. While chickens dig and scratch up flower beds and lawns, ducks will dig small holes with their bills in the muddy ground. Be prepared to give them areas for digging (it is a natural and effective way to prevent parasites). Fence in your garden and flower beds as necessary to protect them from the chickens.
11. Decide if you want to start with hatching eggs, chicks or started (young) chickens. No matter which you choose, it is necessary to start your flock off on the right track. You’ll have healthier, happier, and easier-to-care-for chickens and ducks.
Eggs will need an incubator and time. You can find detailed instructions on incubation in our resource pages here. Day old chicks and ducklings will need a brooder, starter feed, fresh water, and a heat source. You can set up a brooder in your house or a cozy shed or barn. Babies will need to be nice and toasty at about 95 degrees F for their first week and 5 degrees less each week after that until they are fully feathered. Have your brooder all set up before your chicks arrive so they can be placed directly inside the warm space immediately. You can find more on the care of chicks here and ducklings here, but no worries, our Chick Starter Kit is designed to provide a new poultry owner with everything they need.
It is good to handle your babies often and get them used to people. That is one of the benefits of starting them so young.
Starting with “Started Birds”
Started chickens can be two months old or adults. You don’t need to go through the brooder stage, which makes life simpler. But you don’t get to establish a relationship from early on as you would when starting with chicks. However, chickens and ducks, in general, have strong personalities and, after initial caution, will accept you. Some will be friendly, while others will enjoy your attention from afar.
The main rule to bringing home Started Birds is to make sure they understand their new home. You don’t want the new birds to get creative with where to go at nighttime. To establish a clear ‘home base’ don’t allow your new birds to free range for at least 2-3 weeks. So that means you will have to keep them cooped up in either your coop or chicken tractor for that time. Once your flock understands that is where they roost or sleep, they will automatically gather back to ‘home base’ every day at dusk.
If you’re still reading, you have probably decided that you are capable and willing to start your flock and we are so very happy about that! Call, email, text, or browse our website today. We are happy to answer any additional questions you have and get you started on your new and healthy hobby that will give back to you in spades. Now the only question left is .. what color should you choose? And that, dear customer, is the long-debated decision of many a bird lover.