Sunnyside Lane Hobby Farm

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April 2011

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Poultry Power: Raising Chickens

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If you are interested in raising chickens for a hobby farm, then you probably, already know the legality of raising livestock in your area and have attained your proper permits. After that, well, you just get a bunch of chickens and let them roam. Actually, chickens can be a finicky part of your hobby farm. They have distinct needs, and you need to have a specific business plan laid out if you are planning to make money-raising chickens for a hobby farm.

First, you need to plan how many chickens you need to have to earn back money spent investing in them. If you have 6 laying hens that create 7 eggs a week for $3.00 a dozen, then you only make around $11 a week. However, chickens live an upwards of ten years, produce sellable eggs at around a year, and produce year round if temperatures do not drop too low in winter and they are properly cared for. They also create possible sources of revenue with fertilized chick eggs, day-old chicks, provide nitrogenous fertilizers, and can be a source of meat if you want to go that way.

However, you need to put down some money when raising chickens for a hobby farm. Once you have decided on your average number of birds, you need to create a coop and a run with space enough for them. You can let the chickens roam free for a certain period of the day, but be sure to lock them in their coop at night to ward off predators. A number of coop plans are available online to build coops or you can order a coop from $300-$2000. You should also invest in a chick rearing box, which consists of a cardboard box, a 250-watt light bulb, a chick feeder and Waterer, bedding, and chick food. If you plan on hatching eggs, you will also need an incubator.

Once you have housing arrangements for your birds, then you need to pick out your chickens. Do some research on the right birds for your needs. If you live with extremely hot summers or cold winters, choose your breed accordingly. Also, look to which chickens are better egg layers. You can either order day-old chicks from online, or find a breeder in your neighborhood. When you are first looking after your chicks, you need to check them around 5 times a day to see if they are at the appropriate temperature and if food available. Check to see if they have clogged “pasted over” anal vents and clean them off if they do. Do not give them bowls of water or they will drown. Place the lamp in one corner of the box, and monitor if the chicks are too cold and huddle in a ball under it or if they are too hot and spread out to the farthest corners of the box. Raise and lower the lamp accordingly. At 4-6 weeks, you can move them outside to their coop. It will take about 6 months for chickens to start laying eggs, and their first eggs will not be sellable. The shells will be very weak. Some may not have shells.

Despite the initial costs of raising chickens, they provide multiple benefits. Having farm fresh eggs both at your table and on the market means better taste and a better profit. Selling high-quality baby chicks or fertilized eggs is a great spin-off profit. You can cut prices on fertilizer by using chicken droppings, and cut prices on pesticides as chickens eat bugs in your garden. Just be willing to put out the first costs to get the authentic farm experience.

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