Thinking about getting backyard chickens? It can be overwhelming to try and figure out everything you need before you pick up your first baby chicks or grown hens, so we’ve broken down a list of 10 essential items you need to get started raising your hens!
1. Chicken Coop
Chicken coops are essential to the safety of your chickens. They serve as an enclosed space to house your chickens in at night or during bad weather. Many of the most common chicken predators do their hunting during the nighttime, so providing a safe space for them when it’s dark is essential. Plus, they’ll need a quiet and controlled spot to lay their eggs, although you may have to train them to lay in their nesting boxes at first!
2. Chicken Feed
Although it is possible to make your own feed from scratch, when you are first starting out in the world of backyard chickens, it may be best to ease into it with a pre-made feed. If you are starting with chicks rather than adult hens, it is absolutely vital that they get the proper nutrients while still young in order to maintain their health and provide you with lots of delicious eggs! Store bought feeds will provide all the proper vitamins and minerals that they need to grow into healthy adult chickens. Plus, as you learn more, you can eventually transition to your own feed mixture.
On average, a full-grown chicken needs a pint of water a day. That’s a lot of water! If you don’t have a large 1, 3, or 4 gallon waterer, you’re going to be doing a lot of back and forth trips refilling your bucket. Waterers are essential not only as time savers, but to ensure that your water is clean and safe for your chickens. If you want to be extra safe, consider adding water protector to keep pests at bay.
There are options for regular and heated water fountains. If you live in an area that gets cold enough for your water to freeze in the winter, it may be a good idea to go ahead and invest in a heated waterer ahead of time.
Feeders will keep your chickens’ food clean and dry. They will also save you plenty of time lugging food back and forth to your coop all day. If you live in a particular rainy or moist area, it may be a good idea to consider a feeder with a rain shield!
5. Nesting Boxes & Accessories
Your chickens will need somewhere to lay their eggs eventually, and if you don’t want to go on a daily Easter egg hunt, we recommend investing in nesting boxes early on. There are all sorts of funny places we’ve heard of chickens laying when they don’t have a designated spot – buckets, trash cans, shoes, and more! While it is definitely cute and funny at first, if you are ever unable to find an egg it can start to rot and smell. The sooner you can train them to lay exclusively in their boxes, the better!
In addition to nesting boxes, they’ll also need a soft place for their eggs to land. Some people opt for straw or wood shavings, and others for plastic nest pads. Nest pads are easier to clean and require much less maintenance than other forms of bedding, so this is the option we recommend going with!
6. Diatomaceous Earth
This magical mineral is great for your chickens in so many ways!
Dust it on your coop’s floor to keep mites and lice away. It is also great to add to your chickens’ feed since it works as a natural wormer and adds a lot of great nutrients.
It can also be helpful around the Fall season when they start to molt. Adding it to their dust bath mixture along with wood ash can help ease out those loose feathers in a way that is comfortable for your girls.
7. Egg Cartons or Flats
Even if you’re only starting out with 2-3 chickens, you’d be surprised how quickly eggs can start to pile up! While it’s not absolutely necessary to store them in cartons/flats, using these as opposed to a bowl can help prevent breaks from happening (and from getting raw egg all over your fridge – gross!)
Eventually, you may get sick of eggs after a while. As delicious as farm fresh eggs are, everyone needs a break now and then. Having cartons ready to go is a great way to be able to easily gift your extra eggs to friends and family!
8. Chicken Treats
While not quite as necessary as the rest of the items on this list, treats are a great way to bond with your new chickens and even teach them some tricks! Make sure you get treats specially made for chickens so that you know all of the ingredients are safe. If you want them to last longer, consider freezing them in water so your hens will have to peck at their treat for a while before eating!
9. Chicken Toys
Grabbing (or DIY-ing) a few ‘toys’ for your chickens is more important for your flock than you would think! Getting the right toys is important for their overall enrichment and well-being. Plus, it’s tons of fun to watch your flock take turns on a chicken swing or peck at a hanging head of cabbage.
Once you have all the necessary supplies, it’s time for the most exciting part of all – picking your chickens! There is such a wide variety of breeds to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. Check out our list of the Best Layers for Lots of Eggs and the Best Layers for Jumbo Eggs to help you with your search!