Owning chickens is a very good first step to becoming self-sufficient in protein, whether you want chickens just for their eggs, or whether you plan on raising them to eat. There are a lot of things to consider before you get started such as the size, type, purpose and breed, which will all have an effect on the size of their coup and how much feed they eat. This overview is designed to give you a better idea of what is involved with keeping chickens.

Types of Chickens
Before you choose which breed of chicken to buy, you must first decide what the purpose of the chickens will be. While all chickens can lay eggs and be eaten, some chicken breeds are designed to be better at one or the other.

Broiler (meat) chickens: These breeds are chosen because they grow faster and have more meat on them. They take between 6 – 10 weeks to grow until they are ready for slaughter. They are more sedentary than layer birds so they don’t require as much space to live in.

This is a fascinating series of videos which show chickens being raised for meat from week 1 to 8: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-O8flggtY_sHir6Suq3rBh9BNnAxqVwi

Egg layer chickens: These breeds lay more eggs than broilers, but tend to be smaller. They take about 18 to 24 weeks to start laying eggs and will have the best egg laying rates from around 1 ½ to 2 years. Because this type of chicken is reared for longer, they have a higher chance of getting diseases.

Dual Purpose chickens: These breeds are designed to both lay lots of eggs and also grow big enough to provide lots of meat. They have a longer lifespan over other types of breeds and are also tend to be healthier due to more stable genetics.

Another factor to consider before choosing the breed of chicken to get is the size of the chicken, which are split into two sizes: Large fowl and Bantams. Large fowl require more space and feed however they provide more meat and are more productive egg layers, whereas bantams are the opposite.

Once you have decided on what you want the chicken for and what size of chicken is suitable for your needs, it is then time to decide what breed of chicken you want to get.

Here’s a brilliant article for helping you choose chicken breeds for meat: https://morningchores.com/meat-chickens/

This article will help you choose egg layer chicken breeds: https://morningchores.com/egg-laying-chickens/

Finally, you will have to decide upon the age of the chickens that you will purchase. For the purposes of this article however, I will be assuming that as you will likely be thinking about trying chicken farming out for the first time that you will be looking at chickens that at 10 weeks old (called pullets) and older. Here is an article that goes into more detail on this subject: https://www.backyardchickencoops.com.au/blogs/learning-centre/what-age-chicken-should-i-buy

How to Get Started
Once you have decided what breed of chicken that you want to buy, now is the time to get everything set up so that you can buy the chickens and start raising them.

Chicken Coop and Run: The first thing that you will need is a place to keep the chickens. You will need both a place for the chickens to roost (coop) and a fenced off outdoor area (run). It is useful to have an idea in mind of how many chickens you intend to get and to get a coop and run that is a bit bigger than necessary just in case you decide to get some more chickens if you really get into it. The minimum amount of space for a hen is 1 square foot of floor space per bird inside the coop, although you should plan for a bit more space.

The chicken run needs to be sturdy enough to protect your birds from predators, including predatory birds. It should also be flat on the ground with no gaps, as this could be an easy point for predators to get in and eat your chickens.

Here is a very good article that goes into a lot of detail about chicken coops: https://www.keepingchickensuk.co.uk/a-guide-to-buying-a-chicken-coop-and-run/. Here is a useful article on runs: https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/getting-started/chicken-runs/.

The cost of a coop and runs varies based on the size and materials used, however a wooden coop and run designed for 4 – 6 chickens cost around £250 - £400. Here are some websites for buying chicken coops and runs in the UK:
https://www.chickencoopsdirect.com/
https://www.chickencoopsandhouses.co.uk/

Chickens: Once you have decided what type and breed of chicken you want, it is then time to buy them. There are a few different types of places that you can go and buy chickens from, such as specialist breeders, poultry shows, private breeders and poultry auctions.

A specialist breeder will command the highest prices; however you are going to be getting a higher quality of bird from someone who is highly knowledgeable about the breed. Poultry shows will have standards for the birds on sale, so you have a better chance of getting good quality birds. The quality and prices of chickens sold by private breeders will vary and finally poultry auctions can have chickens of a decent quality, however they can be a place where people try to sell their lower quality chickens.

It is very important that you inspect the chickens for health problems before buying them. This article gives you a quick idea of what to look out for:
https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/chickens/choosing-healthy-chickens/

Other Equipment and Supplies: Here is a list of equipment and supplies that you should have on hand before you go to buy your chickens:

  • Transportation Box: When you go to buy the chickens, you will need a container to transport them in. Make sure that the container has enough holes to not only allow air in for the chickens to breathe, but also as ventilation so that they don’t overheat, which can cause death.

  • Feed: There are quite a few different things that you can feed your chickens with, which must be high in protein and other nutrients if you want your chickens to be both healthy and productive. This article goes into more detail about the different choices available: https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/getting-started/chicken-feed/

  • Grit: Grit is used by chickens to help grind their food up in an organ called the gizzard. Chickens that are allowed to roam freely will naturally pick enough of it up, however as this isn’t always feasible you will need to provide it.

  • Water: Chickens will need easy access to cool, fresh water which can be stored and distributed using a water container and is changed daily. The water container must be kept in the shade when the weather is warm so the water doesn’t get hot, as the chickens will use cool water to help reduce their temperature.

  • Bedding: This is put on the floor of the chicken coup in order to soak up moisture and provides insulation. There are a few different types of bedding that can be used such as dust-extracted wood shavings, straw and shredded hemp to name just three.

Other important considerations and why are needed are discussed in this very good article: https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/what-to-keep-in-stock/

Other Considerations
In the UK, you can keep up to 50 poultry on the premises without any regulations, however if you keep more than 50 poultry, then you will need to register with DEFRA (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs). In addition, make sure to check your housing deeds, tenancy agreements and local laws to make sure that they don’t prevent you from keeping any chickens.

Other laws that you will need to be aware of that will affect you if you decide to keep chickens are:

• The Protection of Animals Act – This page is a good summary: https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/getting-started/rules-and-regulations/the-protection-of-animals-act-and-chickens/
• The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act – Here is a good summary: https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/getting-started/rules-and-regulations/the-prevention-of-damage-by-pests-act/

Useful Websites:
https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/
https://www.keepingchickensuk.co.uk/