Things to Consider Before Getting Poultry 

  • Check your local town and county ordinances. Many areas, particularly residential settings, have restrictions on the number and type of animals you may have.
  • Select a secure area where you can set up a coop and run that will meet the basic requirement of protection from weather (sun, wind, rain, snow) and predators (cats, dogs, children, wild animals). 
  • Chickens are social creatures and require being in a flock, plan to keep a minimum of three to six birds.  

Choosing the Right Breed

When choosing a breed of bird you need to consider several things:
  • Why do you want to raise birds? Eggs, meat, pet, therapeutic, competition or a combination of reasons.
  • How much effort and time are you willing to dedicate to the birds? Some breeds are high- maintenance and require more of your time. Average lifespan is seven years and egg production three years.
  • What is your local weather climate? Make sure the birds you choose fit your climate or they will require more of your time and a controlled living environment.
  • Egg Laying Breeds: These birds have been bred to produce large quantities of eggs through their short production lifetimes. Remember the color of eggs and the quantity of eggs laid depends on the breed of hen. 
  • Dual Purpose Breeds: These birds are the best of both worlds in utility terms. They are productive in the egg department and grow large enough to be used as a meat bird later in life. Remember, these birds do not lay quiet as well because they have a dual purpose. 
  • Meat Breeds: As the name suggests these breeds of chicken are bred for meat purposes. They grow very, very quickly. They put on weight at an alarming rate and are ready for slaughter at around nine weeks. The growth, meat production, flavor and tenderness depend on the bird's breed. Types of meat birds: game hen 1 to 1 ½ pounds, broiler, or fryer 4 to 4 ½ pounds, roaster 6 to 8 pounds, stewing dual purpose bird removed from egg production due to age.    
  • Waterfowl: Domestic Ducks and Geese are often raised for eggs, meat, weed and pest control, and feathers. Waterfowl eggs and meat are higher in protein than chicken eggs and meat.
  • Turkey, Game birds and other poultry: Turkeys, Guinea fowl, Quail, and Pheasants are often raised for show or exhibition, meat production or release into nature. 
  • Bantams: A diminutive chicken about one-fourth the size of a regular chicken.  Some Bantams are distinct breeds: other are miniatures of large breeds.  They are often raised for eggs, meat, pets, and exhibition. Excellent choice for small spaces.
  • Exhibition Breeds: Only breeds and varieties admitted to the American Standard of Perfection may compete for the American Poultry Association Inc special prizes and awards. Non-recognized varieties may only be awarded RV and BV, and non-recognized breeds may only be awarded RB and BB.  

Helpful Chicken Terminology:

Cockerel – A male bird under twelve months of age. (guaranteed a rooster). 

Straight Run – Chicks are not sexed (fifty/fifty chance of getting a rooster). 

Pullet – A female chick under twelve months of age. (future layer). 


Click To Learn More About Each Type

GAME BIRDS

Guinea fowl, Quail, and Pheasants are often raised for show or exhibition, meat production or release into nature.


Step 1: Preparing For Your Birds' Arrival

Brooder

When setting up a brooder, you will want to consider a couple of key factors: size, sturdiness, security, protection, and ease of cleaning and a covered top. The birds will be in a brooder for about six weeks, then transitioned into a closed coop or set free.  

Game birds tend to spook or startle easily so care must be taken to give them separate, protected space to roost and relax. They can also exhibit more cannibalistic behavior and pecking than other poultry so they will need additional space and a close eye on their habits.


Bedding

Should be 1-2 inches deep. It should be kept clean and dry. Do not use cedar shavings or slick bedding material. Bedding should be changed weekly or when wet or dirty.


Heat Source

Start birds at 95 degrees. Drop the temperature 5 degrees per week down to 65 degrees and/or until no heat is needed (fully feathered or outside temperature above 65 degrees). Keep a thermometer at bird level so you can manage the temperature accurately. Also be sure you have room in the area where they can all be under the heat source or out of the heat source if they need it. Pre-heat the brooder area 24 hours prior to your bird's arrival. 


Waterers 

Start small so the birds can reach the water. When you move them to the coop is a great time to add a larger capacity water. Water should be available 24 hours a day. Refresh water 2-3 times a day.


Feeders

Start small, no taller than 1 inch so the birds can reach the feed. When you move them to the coop is a great time to add larger capacity feeders. 

Step 2: Feed And Treats

Feed – These feeds apply to Gamebirds only. Poultry feed comes in a wide array of choices that can be confusing, so here is the scoop:  

Gamebird Feed

Formulated for game birds (turkey, pheasant, quail, chukar, guinea fowl) 


Treats - Should make up no more than 10% of the total diet for adult poultry. The best time to give a snack is in the evening once they have consumed the bulk of their daily nutritional needs. 

Grains

Are designed to be fed as a treat to adult poultry. Provides poultry with supplemental energy to support egg production and growth. 


Blocks

Are designed to be fed as a treat to adult poultry. Provides supplemental energy to support egg production and growth. Ideal for laying hens and mixed poultry flocks. Keeps poultry busy and entertained in between feedings.  

Step 3: Moving Into The Coop Or Release.

Regardless of if you choose to buy a coop or build one remember the seven essential features: roosting perches, nesting boxes, good ventilation, lockable doors, room for waters and feeders, and enclosed outdoor run.  

Around 5 weeks birds need to be transferred to a closed coop for several days once they are mature enough. Once the birds are adjusted to the coop you can open the door to the outside run and let them explore their new home. Put nesting boxes on the ground as some gamebirds prefer to sleep on the ground. 

If you plan to release your gamebirds, ensure you have a plan in place where and when to release them.  

For more information on building a habitat, Idaho Land Conservation Assistance Network is a good resource.  


Waterers

Large capacity of water. Waterers should be available 24 hours a day.  


Feeders

Large capacity feeder. Check regularly.

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