The Ultimate Guide to Raising Chickens for Beginners

Start raising chickens for beginners with our guide! Learn breed selection, brooder setup, and chick care. Fresh eggs and fun await!

young child holding a baby chick, raising chickens for beginners

Are you thinking about raising chickens for the first time and feeling a bit overwhelmed? No worries, we’ve got you covered. This guide is just for beginners like you and will take you step-by-step through raising chickens. We’ll guide you from choosing the right breed to setting up a cozy brooder for your baby chicks and caring for them as they grow, ensuring you have all the information to start.

Raising chickens can be a fun and rewarding hobby, providing a constant source of fresh eggs, natural fertilizer for your garden, and even a sense of accomplishment. Chickens are also great at controlling pests and make excellent pets. Plus, caring for chickens can be a relaxing and therapeutic activity.

We hope this guide will give you the knowledge and resources to start your own chicken-raising journey and enjoy the benefits of a healthy, happy flock.


chickens standing on a metal fence in front of a red barn

There are many breeds of chickens to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and requirements. Certain breeds adapt better to cold climates, while others thrive in warmer settings. Some breeds even fit well in smaller spaces like urban backyards.

When choosing the right breed of chicken for your situation, consider the following factors:

  • Climate: Different breeds are better suited for different climates. For example, chickens with feathered feet, such as the Brahma or Cochin, are hardier in cold weather. If you live in a warmer climate, consider breeds such as the Australorp or Leghorn, which are more heat-tolerant.
  • Space constraints: A general rule of thumb is to allow about 4 square feet per chicken in the coop and 8-10 square feet per chicken in the run. This will give your chickens enough space to move around and express their natural behaviors. If you have limited space, consider smaller breeds, such as the Serama or the Bantam. These breeds are also great for urban or suburban environments.
  • Egg production: If you’re raising chickens primarily for their eggs, choose a breed known for its high egg production. Some examples include the Leghorn, Sussex, and Rhode Island Red.
  • Personality: Chickens, like any animal, have their own personalities. Some breeds are known to be more docile, while others can be more high-strung. Consider the temperament of the breed when choosing your chickens.
  • Egg color and size: Chickens lay eggs in various colors, including white, light brown, dark brown, green, and even blue. The breed of the chicken determines the egg color, which doesn’t affect the egg’s taste or nutritional value. Chickens also lay eggs in different sizes, ranging from small to extra large.


baby chicks in a box

Once you’ve decided on what breeds you want, the next step is to buy them. Some of the most common places to buy chicks are through hatcheries or at local feed stores.

Hatcheries: Hatcheries are one of the most common places to buy baby chicks. They typically offer a wide variety of breeds and ship chicks directly to your location. Two popular hatcheries are Murray McMurray Hatchery and Meyer Hatchery, but you can also find local hatcheries in each state. Just Google your state name and the words chicken hatchery to find one in your state.

Local Feed Stores: Most feed stores also carry baby chicks, especially in the spring. Call ahead and check if they have baby chicks in stock, and get a list of available breeds if you can.


a child looking at baby chicks in a brooder

A brooder heats a container or small room to a consistent temperature, creating a warm and safe environment for your chicks. The brooder should be ready to go before your chicks arrive in your home so they can immediately get warm and start drinking and eating.

You can use various containers to set up a brooder for baby chicks, including popular options like plastic tubs, cardboard boxes, and metal stock tanks. Whichever type you choose will depend on your budget, the number of chicks you plan to raise, and the available space. Remember that the container should be easy to clean, move, and have good ventilation.


Choose the right space

Firstly, choose the right space: Depending on the number of chicks you plan to raise, the size of your brooder will vary. As a general rule of thumb, allocate at least 2 square feet per chick. Position the brooder in a draft-free area, away from direct sunlight or other heat sources.

Provide a heat source

Next, provide a heat source: Aim to maintain a consistent temperature of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the first week. After that, you can gradually decrease it by 5 degrees per week until the chicks have fully feathered and can regulate their own body heat. A heat lamp or a brooder heater can serve as your heat source.

Create a suitable floor

Then, create a suitable floor: Opt for wood shavings as bedding to give the chicks a comfortable and safe environment. Make sure to change the bedding regularly to avoid bacterial and parasitic buildup.

Set up feeders and waterers

Afterward, set up feeders and waterers: Use specialized chick feeders and waterers to minimize spillage and tipping. Keep these items clean and refill them as needed.

Provide good ventilation

Additionally, ensure good ventilation: Good airflow is crucial for chick health, but make sure there are no drafts.

Monitor temperature

Simultaneously, monitor the temperature: Regularly check the brooder’s internal temperature and adjust the heat source accordingly.

Provide a light source

Also, provide a source of light: If natural sunlight isn’t available, a heat lamp can double as a light source, helping the chicks to maintain a consistent body temperature.

Monitor chicks

Finally, keep monitoring: Track the growth and overall health of your chicks, watching for any signs of illness or disease.

Once your chicks have grown their feathers, you’ll know it’s time to transition them from the brooder to their permanent home: the coop.


a green willow homestead chicken tractor
Source: Green Willow Homestead

The next step in raising chickens is setting up a suitable coop. You can either build a coop yourself or purchase a pre-made one. Several different types of chicken coops are commonly used for backyard chickens.


The Traditional Coop: This is the most classic type of chicken coop, often made of wood and featuring a slanted roof, a small porch or run, and a nesting area for the chickens. It typically houses a small flock of chickens and can be easily built or purchased pre-made.

The Portable Coop or “Chicken Tractor”: The portable coop from Green Willow Homestead (pictured above) is designed for easy movement around the yard or garden. (If you like this design, you can build it yourself using their DIY build plans.) This type of coop is good for people who want to rotate the chickens around their property to different areas for foraging and manure management.

The Walk-In Coop: A walk-in coop is a larger coop that allows for easy access for the owner. It often includes a small porch or runs and a nesting area. This coop is good for people with a larger flock of chickens who want to make it easy to access the chickens and their eggs.

The Pallet Coop: A pallet coop is a coop that is made from reclaimed or repurposed wooden pallets. This type of coop is a budget-friendly option that can be easily built with minimal tools and skills.

There are many styles and designs of chicken coops, but these are some of the most common. The best coop for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. Either way, there are a few essential features that your coop should have:


  • Adequate ventilation: Chickens need fresh air to stay healthy, so include plenty of windows and vents in your coop.
  • Predator-proofing: To keep your chickens safe from predators, make sure the coop is well-secured and has a sturdy roof. Electric fencing can also be an effective deterrent.
  • Nesting boxes: Chickens need a place to lay their eggs, so include nesting boxes in your coop. A general rule of thumb is to provide one box for every 4-5 hens. Nesting boxes should be private, secure, and comfortable, with a soft bedding material such as straw or wood shavings.
  • Perches: Chickens like to sleep off the ground, so include perches in your coop. Perches should be sturdy and at a comfortable height for your chickens.
  • Lighting: Chickens need a consistent light cycle to regulate their egg production. You can use natural or artificial light to provide the necessary light. If using artificial light, provide 14-16 hours of light per day during winter and at least 8 hours per day during summer.


a woman feeding her flock of chickens inside a chicken coop

Proper care is essential for the health and happiness of your chickens. Here are a few tips for keeping your flock healthy:

  • Feeding: Chickens need a balanced diet of grains, vegetables, and a source of calcium (such as crushed oyster shells) and grit. Be sure to provide fresh water at all times. In addition to commercial chicken feed, you can supplement your chickens’ diet with kitchen scraps, such as fruits and vegetables. Just be sure to avoid giving them moldy or spoiled foods, as this can harm their health.
  • Environment: Chickens need a clean, dry environment to thrive. Be sure to clean the coop regularly and provide plenty of bedding, such as straw or wood shavings. Chickens also need access to natural light, so include windows or skylights in the coop.
  • Health issues: Chickens can be prone to certain health issues, such as mites, lice, and respiratory infections. To prevent these issues, practice good hygiene and regularly check your chickens for signs of illness. Common signs of illness include lethargy, diarrhea, and respiratory distress. If you suspect your chicken is sick, isolate it from the rest of the flock and consult a veterinarian. Some preventative measures include regularly cleaning the coop, adding diatomaceous earth to their bedding and dust bath, providing clean water and food, and isolating sick chickens. 


a woman collecting eggs from a nesting box

Chickens typically lay eggs every 24-26 hours, and the number of eggs they produce can vary based on age, breed, and season. To collect eggs, check the nesting boxes once or twice a day and carefully remove any eggs you find.

Handle eggs with care to prevent contamination and ensure they stay fresh. Wash your hands after collecting eggs. You can store unwashed eggs on the counter for several weeks or wash and store them in the refrigerator. 


a woman holding a chicken standing in front of her flock of chickens and modern chicken coop

Raising chickens can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, providing you with fresh eggs, natural fertilizer, pest control, and even a sense of accomplishment. With the right breed, coop, and care, you can enjoy the benefits of a healthy, happy flock.

We hope this guide has given you the information you need to start your own chicken-raising journey and provided you with the knowledge and resources to care for your chickens successfully. Whether you’re a first-time chicken owner or an experienced chicken keeper, we hope you find this guide helpful and informative. Happy chicken-keeping!

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The Top 10 Best Chicken Breeds for Your Homestead

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