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

MIXED FLOCK

Yes, you can raise chickens, ducks & geese together.  You will need to pay more attention to them as they grow at different rates, and you don’t want anyone getting picked on.  You will also have to change the bedding more often because ducks and geese love to play in the water. You don’t want the birds to become crowded so you may have to enlarge your brooder space as the birds grow. 


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. The birds will be in a brooder for about six to eight weeks, then transitioned into a closed coop. A brooder needs to have at least 1 sq. ft of space per bird. This gives your birds plenty of room to jump, run, squabble, play, explore, and stretch their legs and wings and groom themselves.


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 chicks 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 chick’s arrival.


Waterers 

Start small so the chicks can reach the water. When moving to the coop it is a great time to add a larger capacity of water. Waterers should be available 24 hours a day. Refresh water 2-3 times a day. Check often if the ducks & geese are playing in the water. 


Feeders

Start small no taller than 1 inch so the chicks can reach the feed. When moving to the coop is a great time to add larger capacity feeder.  

Step 2: Feed And Supplements

Supplements

Nutritional products are designed to provide extra nutritional support, prevent a weak immune system, or improve a specific concern about growth/development. 


Starter Feed - Poultry feed comes in a wide array of choices that can be confusing, so here is the scoop. Mixed flock is going to be a little different schedule.  

Non-Medicated Feed

For vaccinated bird, waterfowl (duck, geese), turkey and mixed flocks (chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese). These feeds can be fed from hatch to eight weeks. 



All Flock

For chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and pheasants as a sole ration from eight weeks of age and on. 

Step 3: Training Your Birds

Around four weeks of age is a good time to introduce a perch to your flock.  Perching keeps birds up off the ground which means they are less likely to be exposed to bacteria, mites, and lice. Chickens also find perching a secure place to relax and sleep. 

This is a great time to socialize with your birds.  By socializing with the birds, it can make interacting with them a lot easier, especially if they get hurt or need help and it’s a way to discover their individual personalities. 

Step 1: Moving Them Into The Coop

Whether 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. Once the birds are adjusted to the coop you can open the door to the outside run and let them explore their new home. If you have ducks place nesting boxes on the floor as they do not perch. This is a good time to introduce a duck waterer and pool. 


If you have other birds, you will need to introduce them slowly.  The best way is to place the chicks in a crate and place the crate inside the coop during the day.  This way they will become acclimated without the older birds picking on them.  After a few days of doing this, you will be able to go into the coop at night and place the chicks on the perch with the older birds. 

Step 1: Transition To Layer Feed Adding Supplements And Treats

Layer Feeds

Are specially formulated to encourage healthy growth and production formulated by the species, type, and desired effect of feed. Many have additional vitamins and amino acids to maintain growing and adult flocks. 


Supplement

This is a great time to introduce oyster shell and girt to your flock for digestive support. 


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 when 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.  


Dried Animal Proteins

Are designed to be fed as a snack to adult poultry. Containing rich dried animal proteins (mealworms, fly larvae, crickets, grasshopper, fish, shrimp) 


Mixed Proteins

Are designed to be fed as a snack to adult poultry. Containing rich dried animal proteins, grains and dried plant proteins