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Getting Started

So, you want to get into raising chickens now do you?  Well everyone we know who has chickens love them!  Be warned though, as chickens are what we in the industry refer to as "the gateway drug" to other farm animals!  What started as cute little chicks at Tractor Supply has resulted in goats, horses, and even alpacas here at Tucker's Coops!

Step 1: Choosing a Breed!

Curious chicken

Just How Many Breeds are There?

To be honest, I'm not sure anyone knows the exact count.  Industry experts have estimated it to be in the hundreds.  However, everyone can generally agree that all of the breeds fall into one of the following four categories.

1. Heritage Breeds

Heritage chickens are natural breeding chickens that have a slow growth rate and live a long, productive, outdoor life.  There are many breeds that fall into this category, and they all must conform to the American Poultry Association's standard for that breed.

2. Egg Laying Breeds

Breeds like Leghorns and Australorps are good examples of bountiful egg producers.  Like the category name implies, these breeds have been bred to produce large quantities of eggs through their short production lifetimes.

3. Dual Purpose Breeds

For folks who want to have their cake and eat it too, this is the category for you.  These chickens are productive in the egg department and also grow large enough to be used as a meat bird later in their life.

4. Meat Breeds

I'm sure you can guess what these chickens are bred for.  Most backyard enthusiasts avoid these breeds, simply because they are meant for meat and not egg production.

Step 2: Getting Your Chickens!

Hatching Eggs

Hatching Eggs

Hatching Eggs

Chicken eggs on a table

Your first option is to buy fertilized eggs that you will need to incubate.  Hobbyists new to chickens should avoid starting with this approach, as there is definitely a developed art to it.


Hatching Eggs

Hatching Eggs

Baby Chicks

The cheapest and most widely used for beginners, you can select the breeds you'd like and when you want them.  Depending on the time of year and breed, you can get them for between $0.25 and $3.00 per chick




Close up of a chicken

Pullets refers to chickens between four to six months in age.  These chicks have been raised to adulthood and should start to lay eggs soon after purchase! These typically cost more than chicks but less than adults.




Flock of chickens

Adult hens in their prime are the most expensive and more difficult to come by.  Typically, breeders like to sell their birds before they get too old since they cost more to feed.  Make sure to check your local shelters or sanctuaries!

Step 3: Getting Your Coop!

Chicken Coop

Basic Coop Requirements:

No matter where you decide to buy your coop, make sure to look out for these 7 requirements!

1. Weather Proof

Arguably the most important need of all, your new flock will need a place to get out of the hot summer sun and cold winter winds.  Make sure inside the coop is water proof, a wet chicken is a miserable chicken.

2. Enough Space

Adequate space is another essential requirement, especially to your flock to co-habit peacefully.  The more crowded together your birds are, the more likely they are to start picking and pecking each other.  All of our coops come with recommendations for how many chickens they should house.

3. Ventilation

Proper coop ventilation will ensure the coop is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  A good air flow keeps the coop at optimal temperatures year round.

4. Nesting Boxes

There always seems to be more nesting boxes than necessary, usually there is one favorite box they will all squabble over.  It's a good idea to have at least one box for every three hens. 

5. Roosts

Each night the chickens will snuggle up on roosts to sleep.  They usually like to all sleep on the same perch/roost, although some occasionally prefer their own.

6. Outside Roaming/Runs

In addition to the space inside the coop, your chickens will need some outside space.  This can either be a contained space, like a run, or free range.  Our most popular model, the "Nancy" has both a coop and run, making it a great choice for beginners.

7. Safety & Security

Heavy duty, PVC coated wire  should surround the coop/run and be buried around the coop to prevent predators from digging in.  Keep the runs covered to prevent larger birds from swooping in, and use a locking mechanism to lock the coop doors at night.  Raccoons are notoriously smart animals that can open simply locks and bolts.

Step 4: Preparing for Your Chicks

Before you buy the most adorable little chicks you have ever seen, make sure you have everything you will need for the chicks in advance.  Your local farm store should have a large amount of chicken related items, and of course you can find almost anything online!  Below you'll find a brief list of some materials you will want to pick up before you purchase your new feathery friends.

  1. Brooding Box - These can come in a variety of styles, sizes, and costs, but can also be as simple as a cardboard box.  Make sure whatever you choose is tall enough to keep the chicks from jumping out and will protect them from cold drafts.
  2. Bedding - We recommend soft pine shavings.  They are fairly inexpensive and most farm stores keep them in stock.   Make sure to lay some paper towels under the bedding so the chicks can grip and stand properly!
  3. Warmth - Chicks do not have true feathers until they are six to seven weeks old, so they will require lots of extra warmth!  We recommend using a heat lamp to heat the brooding box to approximately 95F, then decrease by five degrees each week.
  4. Food - There are a ton of different chicken feeds out there, but the basic idea is to feed the chicks 18-20% starter feed crumbles for the first 8 weeks, then reduce to 16-18% starter/grower until the chicks are 14 weeks.  From 15-18 weeks, use 16% finisher and then from 18 weeks on, use 16% layer feed.
  5. Feeder - Chickens are not picky when it comes to feeding time!  There are a large variety of feeders out there, and everyone has a preference.   Just make sure you have one so you're not dumping food on the group 
  6. Drinker -  You can fill any type of plastic container with water, but a drinker  with rubber nipples will eliminate some of the mess.
  7. Vitamins - If your feed doesn't include vitamins, make sure you add vitamins A, E, D3, B12, and Omega 3 to their food.  This will keep your chickens healthy, and increase the nutrient levels in their eggs!

Baby chicks

Baby chicks

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