Chicken Raising Basics: Our Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

chicken raising basics

Interested in finding out all about raising chickens?

After reviewing this page and the linked resources, you will get a better idea on everything that raising and caring for chickens entails.

So, let’s get started!

Is Raising Chickens Right For You?

Domestic chicken keeping can be a rewarding hobby. Creating a custom coop for your feathered family as a DIY project can also be fun.

Raising baby chicks can be an educational experience, but you must keep them warm and protected. Chickens can be kept in a coop and free range in a safe and secure area.

Egg layers require a balanced diet, and layer feed can provide the necessary nutrition to keep them healthy and laying regularly. Chickens will also molt or lose feathers and may require a grower feed during this time.

Keep in mind that it’s important to follow local ordinances for keeping chickens, which may include restrictions on the number of birds and proper waste disposal.

Topics To Learn About First

Before getting your own chickens, read our beginner’s guide with practical tips on:

  1. housing requirements
  2. chicken breeds
  3. feeding
  4. egg production

1. Preparing A Habitat/Housing

To prepare a habitat for your chickens, you’ll need to provide a safe and comfortable space that includes the following:

A Chicken Coop

This structure is a secure, ventilated shelter for your chickens to sleep and lay eggs in. A typical henhouse has several features, including a roosting area, nesting boxes, and a run for outdoor access. The roosting site provides a perch for the chickens to sleep on, which helps keep them safe from predators.

Nesting boxes are typically located within the coop, providing a comfortable and secure place for hens to lay their eggs. The run, which can be attached or separated from the cage, gives chickens a protected outdoor space to move around, scratch, and forage for food.

A well-designed coop should also have sufficient floor space, and proper ventilation, to prevent moisture buildup and ensure good air quality for the birds.

Chicken Coop Bedding

Nesting Boxes

These provide a place for hens to lay their eggs. Nesting boxes can be inside a chicken coop or in an outdoor structure. They should be comfortable, dry, and private to ensure hens feel safe while laying their eggs.

Nesting boxes should also be kept clean to prevent the buildup of bacteria and parasites that can cause health problems for the birds.

The size of nesting boxes should be appropriate for the breed of chicken you are raising, with enough space for the hen to sit and lay her eggs.

Chicken nesting box


Roosts are wooden bars for chickens to perch on while they sleep. They are typically located in the highest point of the chicken coop, as chickens have the instinct to seek out elevated positions to sleep.

Roosts should be at least two inches wide and positioned appropriately from walls to prevent chickens from feeling cramped or injured. They should be constructed from sturdy, non-slip materials, such as wood, to ensure they support the weight of the birds.

Roosts should be kept clean and debris-free to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and parasites.

Overall, a well-designed and maintained roosting area is essential for the health and well-being of your backyard chicken flock.

A Chicken Run Or Yard

Chickens should have an outdoor space to forage and exercise. This space is typically referred to as a chicken run or yard.

A chicken run should be enclosed with secure fencing to protect chickens from predators and prevent them from escaping.

The run size should be appropriate for your chickens, with at least four square feet per bird recommended. It should have a covered area for shelter from the sun and rain and room for dust, bathing, and scratching.

Bedding Material

Straw or wood shavings are suitable for keeping the coop clean and dry. These materials are absorbent and can help control odors and moisture in the chicken coop. Other appropriate bedding materials include chopped leaves, hay, or shredded paper.

The bedding material should be changed regularly to maintain cleanliness and prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and parasites. Bedding material should be spread out evenly on the coop floor and replaced entirely when it becomes soiled or damp.

A well-maintained bedding area is essential to a healthy and hygienic backyard chicken flock.

2. Choosing The Right Breed

Rhode Island Blue

The Rhode Island Blue is a popular breed of chicken that originated in the United States in the 19th century. They are known for their hardiness, productivity, and adaptability to different climates.

Rhode Island Blues are excellent layers, with the ability to produce around 250 brown eggs per year.

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Plymouth Rock

The Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose breed of chicken that originated in the United States in the 19th century. They are known for their friendly temperament and hardiness, making them popular with backyard chicken keepers.

Plymouth Rocks are also good layers, with the ability to produce around 200 brown eggs per year.


The Leghorn is a breed of chicken that originated in Italy and was later developed in the United States. They are known for their high egg production, with the ability to lay up to 300 white eggs per year.

Leghorns are relatively small in size, with an active and flighty temperament. They come in several colors, including white, brown, and black.

Chicken Breeds


The Sussex is a breed of chicken that originated in England and is known for its dual-purpose nature. They are relatively large birds with a friendly and docile temperament, making them popular for backyard chicken flocks.

Sussex hens are good layers, with the ability to produce around 250 brown eggs per year.


The Orpington is a chicken breed developed in England in the late 19th century. They are known for their large size, gentle nature, and excellent meat qualities.

Orpington hens are also good layers, with the ability to produce around 200 brown eggs per year.


The Wyandotte is a breed of chicken that originated in the United States in the late 19th century. They are known for their distinctive appearance, with a rose comb and laced feathers.

Wyandottes are dual-purpose birds, prized for their meat and eggs, with hens capable of producing around 200 brown eggs annually.

They are also known for their calm and friendly temperament, making them popular with backyard chicken keepers.


The Australorp is a breed of chicken developed in Australia in the early 20th century. They are known for their excellent egg-laying abilities, with hens capable of producing around 250 brown eggs per year.

Australorps are also popular as meat birds, with their black feathers and white skin making them easy to pluck and prepare for cooking.


The Brahma is a large breed of chicken developed in the United States from birds imported from China. They are known for their massive size, with roosters weighing 12 pounds and hens weighing 9 pounds.

Brahmas are gentle birds popular for meat and eggs, with hens capable of producing around 150 brown eggs per year.

Frendliest Chicken Breeds


The Silkie is a breed of chicken that originated in China and is known for its soft, fluffy feathers that resemble fur. They are a small breed, with roosters weighing up to 4 pounds and hens up to 3 pounds.

Silkies are popular as ornamental birds due to their sweet personalities but are not known for their egg-laying abilities.

Easter Egger

The Easter Egger is a mixed-breed chicken known for its ability to lay eggs in several colors, including shades of blue, green, and pink.

They are not a recognized breed but rather a type of chicken often sold under this name. Easter Eggers are popular with backyard chicken keepers for their colorful eggs and friendly personalities.

What To Keep In Mind When Choosing a Chicken Breed

When choosing a breed, consider the following:


Some breeds better suited to cold climates include Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, and Orpingtons. These breeds have smaller combs and wattles and are less likely to be affected by frostbite. They also have denser feathering, which helps to insulate them against the cold.

On the other hand, some chicken breeds are better suited to hot climates. These include Leghorns, Sussex, and Mediterranean species like the Minorca and Ancona. These breeds have larger combs and wattles, which help to dissipate heat. They also have lighter feathering, which allows for better airflow and heat dissipation.

Additionally, some breeds, like the Naked Neck or Turken, have less feathering, which helps them to cope better with heat.

Egg production

Some breeds are better-laying hens than others. Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Australorps, and Sussex are well-known as prolific egg layers.

Laying Averages of Most Popular Chicken Breeds (Chart)
BreedAverage Eggs/Year
Silver Dorking170-190
Plymouth Rock200
Barred Rock250
Easter Eggers200-250
Black Silkies120
Buff Orpingtons150-200
White Leghorns280
Speckled Sussex250
Rhode Island Red260
Plymouth Rock280
Old English Game100-150
New Hampshire Red200
ISA Brown300
Sapphire Gem280
Golden Comet280-300


Some breeds are friendlier and easier to handle than others. These include Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Australorp, Wyandotte, and Sussex.

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Some breeds are larger than others and may require more space. Some of the larger domestic chickens in the US include Jersey Giant, Brahma, Cochin, Langshan, and Orpington.


Pullets are female chickens under one year old and have not yet started laying eggs. They are typically sold as young chicks and require special care and nutrition to ensure healthy growth and development.

Once they reach maturity and begin laying eggs, they are referred to as hens.

3. Feeding

Chickens require a balanced diet that includes a combination of grains, protein, and vitamins.

Happy chickens have access to clean water at all times, which is essential for their digestion and overall health.

Waterers should be checked and refilled daily to ensure the chickens have an adequate supply.

Chicken feeding

4. Egg-Laying Patterns

Chickens typically lay eggs in the morning, with peak production occurring in the first few hours after sunrise. The egg-laying frequency varies depending on the chickens’ breed, age, and environment.

Some breeds may lay up to six eggs per week, while others may lay up to one daily. Collecting eggs daily can prevent the eggs from being damaged or broken and reduce the risk of contamination from bacteria. To collect eggs, gently reach under the chicken and lift the egg from the nest box.

It’s important to clean the eggs before storage by wiping them with a dry cloth or brushing off any dirt or debris.

Proper egg collection and handling can help ensure the quality and freshness of the eggs.

Sourcing And Buying

You can buy chickens from hatcheries, farm supply stores, or local breeders.

When sourcing chickens, consider the breed you want, the age of the chickens, the number of chickens you want, and the availability of the chickens you want.

Other Topics To Consider


Keeping a chicken coop clean is important for your chickens’ overall health and well-being. Accumulated droppings and dirty bedding can harbor harmful bacteria and parasites that can cause disease.

A clean coop also helps to reduce odor and flies and makes egg collection easier and more hygienic.

Health care

Regularly monitoring your chickens’ health ensures their well-being and productivity. Early detection and prompt treatment of any illness can prevent the spread of disease to other birds.

Preventing hazards such as mites by maintaining a clean and hygienic environment free of poop and following biosecurity measures also minimizes the risk of disease transmission.

Egg Handling And Storage

Proper hatching, egg handling, and storage are important to ensure food safety and maintain the quality of eggs.

Dirty eggs should be washed with warm water and dried before refrigerating, while cracked or damaged eggs should be discarded.

Eggs should be stored in their original cartons, with the pointy end facing downwards, in the refrigerator to prevent bacterial growth and maintain freshness.

Winter Care

Winter care for domestic chickens ensures their survival during the cold months. Therefore, it is essential to provide them with a warm and dry shelter, access to clean water that doesn’t freeze, and a suitable diet to maintain their health.

Proper insulation, ventilation, and lighting can also help keep chickens healthy and comfortable during the winter.

Chicken winter care

Chicken-Related Health Issues & Care

The Basics Of Chicken Anatomy And Behavior

Chickens have a unique anatomy designed for their specific needs, including a crop for food storage, a gizzard for grinding food, and a cloaca for egg-laying and waste elimination.

Chickens are also social creatures that have a pecking order, communicate with one another through vocalizations and body language, and exhibit a range of behaviors such as dust-bathing, foraging, and roosting.

Understanding the basics of chicken anatomy and behavior is important for properly caring for and managing these birds.

Chicken Anatomy 101

Common Health Issues And How To Prevent Them

Common chicken health issues include:

  • respiratory infections
  • parasitic infestations
  • egg-laying problems

These can be prevented by ensuring good hygiene practices in the coop, providing clean and fresh water and food, and maintaining proper ventilation.

Regular checkups by a veterinarian and vaccination against common diseases can also help prevent illnesses. Parasite control through regular deworming and the use of insecticides can reduce the risk of infestations.

Adequate space and proper nutrition can help prevent egg-laying issues such as soft-shelled eggs and egg-binding.

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By taking these preventive measures, chicken owners can help ensure the health and well-being of their birds.

How To Care For Chicks And Young Chickens

 Caring for chicks and young chickens requires attention to their basic needs, including clean water, nutritious food, warmth, and adequate space.

Provide a heat source such as a heat lamp or brooder to maintain a temperature of around 90 to 95°F for the first few weeks of life.

Offer a chick starter feed formulated specifically for their nutritional needs. Change their water frequently to prevent contamination and provide adequate space for them to move around and exercise.

Clean their living area regularly to maintain good hygiene and prevent bacteria buildup. Observe them closely for signs of illness or distress and seek veterinary care if necessary.

Biosecurity Measures To Prevent Disease Transmission

Biosecurity measures are essential for preventing the transmission of diseases among chickens. These measures include limiting access to the flock by using fencing, gates, and biosecurity barriers.

Visitors should wear protective clothing and footwear when entering the coop or pen. Provide a separate area for quarantine and observation of new or sick birds to prevent the spread of disease. Keep the cage and surrounding area clean and debris-free, and disinfect equipment and surfaces regularly.

Provide clean water and feed, and do not share equipment or tools with other poultry producers. Implementing these biosecurity measures protects your flock from infectious diseases.

A List of Basic Equipment Needed To Raise Chickens

To get started with raising backyard chickens, you’ll need some basic equipment, including:

  • Chicken coop and run
  • Nesting boxes
  • Feeders and waterers
  • Bedding material
  • Heat lamps (if raising chicks)
  • Basic medical supplies (such as antiseptic and bandages)

Books To Read

There are many helpful books available on raising chickens, I recommend the following:

Local/Regional Orgs And Resources

Local and regional organizations and resources can provide valuable information and support for raising chickens.

Check for local groups, including:

Local Farm And Agriculture Organizations

In the United States, several local chicken farm and agriculture organizations provide support and resources for farmers and backyard chicken enthusiasts.

One such organization is the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA), which promotes sustainable and humane poultry production practices.

The Sustainable Poultry Network (SPN) is another organization preserving poultry’s heritage breeds and genetic diversity.

Local farming associations, such as the California Poultry Federation and the Georgia Poultry Federation, provide advocacy and support for commercial chicken farmers in their respective states.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is a national organization representing the interests of all farmers, including poultry producers.

Cooperative Extension Offices

In the United States, Cooperative Extension offices are a valuable resource for chicken farmers and backyard enthusiasts. These offices partner with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and local universities, providing education and support for farmers and communities.

Cooperative Extension offices offer various services, including workshops, training programs, and publications on flock management and biosecurity. Many offices also provide testing services for diseases and parasites affecting chickens.

Cooperative Extension offices are in every state, making them easily accessible to farmers and backyard chicken keepers.

Poultry Clubs And Associations

These clubs and associations are typically organized around specific breeds of chickens or poultry interests, such as showing at exhibitions or conservation breeding.

Examples of such clubs include the American Poultry Association and the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities. These organizations offer various services, including education, networking, and resources for breeders and exhibitors.

Many clubs and associations also hold shows and events throughout the year, allowing members to showcase their birds and learn from other enthusiasts.

Farmer’s Markets

Many farmer’s markets feature small-scale poultry farmers who sell eggs, chicken, and other poultry products directly to consumers.

Local farmer’s markets provide many benefits, including support for local agriculture, access to fresh, healthy food, and opportunities for consumers to learn about sustainable and humane farming practices.

Local farmer’s markets are an excellent resource for consumers looking to support their local food system and purchase high-quality poultry products directly from local farmers.

Hatcheries And Feed Stores

Local chicken hatcheries and feed stores support backyard chicken keeping and small-scale poultry production. These establishments offer services, including selling day-old chicks, poultry feed, and other supplies.

Many hatcheries specialize in rare and heritage breeds, providing a valuable resource for breeders and poultry enthusiasts. Local feed stores often carry a variety of chicken feed options, including organic and non-GMO feeds.

These stores may also advise and support customers on poultry nutrition and care. Overall, local hatcheries and feed stores are an important resource for those looking to start or maintain a backyard chicken flock or small-scale poultry operation.

Local/State Laws

Before getting chickens, check your local and state laws regarding chicken ownership.

Some cities and towns have zoning laws that regulate the number of chickens you can keep, the type of housing required, and where the coop can be located.


Alex grew up in a rural area with chickens, cows, goats, and rabbits. He has always enjoyed waking up at 6 am to tend to his flock and vegetable garden. He bought his first cow at 25 and named her "104". In 2021, he set up an aquarium and now spends his lazy time watching his fish. He is happiest watching small animals and plants grow big, not to mention writing to share his farm-life experiences.

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