Let’s get real. I made so many mistakes as a new chicken keeper! I wasn’t prepared at all. Is that you too? It’s okay, I learned from my mistakes, and I’m here to help! We’ll get through this together, you GOT THIS! I want to help you to get past the 5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make.
Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make
1. Not Having Supplies Before Getting Chickens
Do you have all the “stuff” needed for chickens? When you first get chickens, it’s great if you have everything needed to take care of them. Make sure you have a chicken coop set up for them and plenty of feeders and waterers.
The chicken coop should be big enough to accommodate not only the chickens you intend to buy initially, but it’s a great idea to have a bigger chicken coop to start with. WHY?
Well, the thing about chickens is that they are simply amazing and you’re sure to fall in love with them. You’ll most likely want MORE! I know I did! This is called #CHICKENMATH.
It’ll be cheaper in the long run if you start out bigger, plus more room is fine for the girls. It gives them space to sleep comfortably.
- Chicken Coop – You can make one like our Horse Trailer Chicken Coop or the Truck Topper Chicken Coop or BUY ONE. Although, I don’t suggest buying one unless you are willing to buy an expensive one.
- Chicken Feed
- Chicken Scratch (not chicken feed only a treat!)
- Bedding: Wood shavings, to soak up and catch poop below the roosts.
- Chicken First Aid Kit
- Coop Refresh! – *Optional. Keep the coop smelling fresh and clean. Or click here to learn how to make your own coop refresher!
Commercial Chicken Coops
I wouldn’t recommend buying a commercial chicken coop unless you’re going to spend thousands of dollars.
There’s a “cedar” or other paper-thin “wood: made in China, that they use to make these coop with. Thin crap that molds and warps, and will deteriorate in about 6-12 months. This coop cost about $800. At that price, it should last years, not months.
Quality built coops typically cost thousands of dollars. They are gorgeous, and usually have pretty good design elements.
Feeders & Waterers
About the feeders and waterers… If you live in a hot climate, the girls and guys will drink a lot more water in the hotter months.
2. Can You Legally Have Chickens?
There are a couple of things you should do before you get chickens, like checking the local zoning ordinances.
We live outside the city. In our city, they don’t allow people to keep roosters, plus they limit the number of hens too. Mostly because it would break the noise ordinance. Our laws aren’t too bad here and are common among cities all over the US.
However, some cities don’t allow chickens at all. The last thing you need is the neighbors calling on you & being tattletales.
Neighbors Can Be a Pain or a Blessing
Speaking of neighbors, do you have them? Mine are about a few acres away. The people in front of us have chickens, the people behind us don’t.
When I spoke to them about us getting chickens they were excited. My neighbor actually said he was looking forward to the noises of the chickens because he enjoys it.
Most neighbors are not excited, let me tell you… You might want to check with your neighbors if they are close by. Having an open dialog may help, plus you can help them learn more about chickens.
If they say that the noise would bother them, maybe you can tempt them with free eggs.
3. Predators | Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make
Being unprepared for predator attacks is one of the mistakes new chicken keepers make. Here at our new homestead, we have dealt with bears, raccoons, opossums, foxes, & coyotes. Raccoons being our biggest nuisance! They like to eat eggs, and if those aren’t available they will take a chicken or two.
For a raccoon, scaling the 6-foot fence is as easy as slicing soft butter. They can open latches, rip a head off with precision, and not think twice. They also love to eat chicken food and chicken eggs!
A bear tried to rip the roof off the chicken coop. The opossum stole a couple of chickens. The coyotes haven’t done any damage to OUR property yet, but we’ve heard sounds as if they did get something like a small dog in the field next to us. Which is literally a sound I hope to never hear again! It’s pretty terrifying.
Protecting Fenced-In Chickens
So how do you prepare for predators for fenced chickens? Making your coop undiggable by laying hardware cloth at the bottom is a great tactic. Most people bury it in the ground horizontally a few inches into the ground. When a predator starts digging they quickly realize it’s futile and give up.
You can also place your chicken coop in a fenced area, that has a roof over it. That way they cannot gain access through the roof like they did ours.
Dealing With Daytime Predators and Free-Range Chickens
Coyotes and foxes will hunt whenever. They are opportunistic hunters.
Raccoons are typically night hunters, but they are also pretty smart, they know when to come to take eggs before we gather them, and when to grab a chicken before they are locked up for the night. When they are hungry they will typically hunt for food no matter what time of day it is.
For these daytime predators, it can be a little difficult when free-ranging your birds. Especially, if you don’t have many places for the chooks to run and hide! We live in the forest. There is a ton of room to roam and hide here. However, that doesn’t mean they are safe!
We still free-range our birds. Although we didn’t lose many birds in the first few years, the predator situation is getting worse. We saw our first fox this year. He has taken 2 birds in one week. We thought it was a raccoon until we laid eyes on him.
Update: The fox killed all of the neighbors poultry except for the guinea who live here now.
Typically, when dealing with a predator that is stalking our chickens, we will attempt to kill them. We also have a black mouth cur (dog), she’s not a shepherd dog, but she was bred to be a hunter, and a great one she is! So we not only do we use our dog, but we can call the dog back once it’s injured enough, to shoot and kill the animal.
The picture below was when we were trapping the raccoons. I trapped two in one cage! Go me, go me! *dances while celebrating…
We don’t trap them anymore. Typically, we turn the hunter into the hunted.
Dealing With The Law Concerning Wildlife
Sometimes shooting an animal is illegal. This is where the law comes into play. Before you deal with a wild animal, it’s important to understand the laws in your area.
We are allowed to shoot most animals that are attacking our livestock even the neighbors dog! Yep I said it…
However, we are NOT allowed to shoot a bear that is attacking our livestock. You can only shoot a bear around these parts if it’s trying to murder you. Other animals we are not allowed to kill would be the Florida panther, and I believe most eagles or at least the Bald eagle is not allowed.
So, do your research! Check with the fish & game website for your area and see what it takes to get it removed from the area. Some animals cannot be removed. Like around here, they will NOT remove a bear! I understand why not, but goodness gracious I wish there was something we could do sometimes. It can be scary living among bears.
Laws differ from state to state. Where I live, you must hire a professional wildlife relocator when you have an annoying or dangerous animal living near you…This costs money, obviously this service is not free.
Livestock Guardian Dogs
Dogs… Many people use Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs). These dogs are bred to protect livestock. They live, eat and breathe this work. It’s what they live for.
They usually live outside. I have a friend who has one of them, and their animals are never locked up tight, and she says she’s never lost an animal. It’s hard to believe, but hey I’m not judging, I just wish I could afford to have an LGD myself!
My dog (black mouth Cur) is amazing, but she is not only bred to be a hunter, but also a family dog, so she lives inside. She’s the kind of dog that need a lot of attention and love. She’s a great protector and she’s very smart too! Absolutely, hands down the best dog I’ve ever had!
4. Starting With Baby Chicks Is One Of The Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make
Starting out with baby chicks is one of the easier mistakes new chicken keepers make. It can be done, for sure. It’s just better to start out with laying hens, in my opinion. Why?
Because they have the ability to give you eggs right away. Babies are a lot of fun, a lot of poop, and needy at times. Laying hens are just easier. They need and want less from you.
Also, with baby chicks, you need the space to raise them. You’ll need a special brooder, special waterers, feeders, feed, and even a heat lamp! It’s a lot of special accessories that you’ll really only use for baby chicks, and as they get bigger you’ll have purchase adult supplies.
Check out How to Raise Baby Chicks to learn everything you need to know about raising baby chicks!
5. Wounds, Disease, and Disorders | Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make
Not being prepared for dealing with a sick or wounded bird, is one of the biggest mistakes new chicken keepers make. Right now I have Fat Boy in Quarantine. Why?
Because he is bleeding from his wattle. The girls kept pecking at it, making it worse. Yes, this is something that happens more often than you might think.
Usually, it’s minor and only needs a quarantine for the better part of a day, but this time Fat Boy is bleeding pretty badly. I cleaned it up with some Vetericyn and wiped the blood with a clean cloth.
Blue Kote is great for covering up the color RED! Red means pecking and we don’t want chickens to peck at sores. It’s also a germicidal and a fungicidal! So it can help keep those wounds clean so they can heal up faster. This stuff is typically a deep blue-purple color. It will stain! So be careful when applying it!
Then, I added some first aid ointment. I will have to keep him quarantined for a few days until the wound improved.
Do you have a place set up for quarantined birds? I use a dog cage, with two doors. I like two doors because I can turn one side pointing up, so it’s easier to put birds in and take them out. Plus, you can add food and water, without them trying to escape.
Fresh Water For An Injured Chicken
These hanging bowls are a great addition to a pet cage. However, I purchased these, and I wish that I had gotten some that are securely attached. I link to some of those below. These bowls are easily knocked down. We currently have Camo, our head honcho (rooster) is currently in quarantine and he accidentally knock them down when he does his scratch and peck moves. Bobbing his head up and down, all the while trying to call the girls over as if he got anything but wood chips in his crate!
These bowls are the ones I was talking about or something like this would be better! They attach to basically any crate or cage. Plus, it would probably be difficult to knock them down. I’m totally thinking about purchasing these!
Check out the Chicken First Aid Kit article for more information about being prepared for chicken wounds, diseases, and disorders.
5 Mistakes New Chicken Keepers Make
- Not having supplies before getting chickens – This is a really important step. Being ready is one of the most important steps and that’s why it’s #1!
- Not checking the local zoning ordinances – You can dream about chickens all you want, but before you buy that beautiful chicken coop, make sure it’s legal to have chickens in your backyard!
- Unprepared for predator attacks – There are day and night predators. Is your coop prepared to keep out predators at night? Do you have any defenses for the daytime?
Some people use Geese, others use Great Pyrenees or other livestock guardian dogs.
- Not researching and being ready for sick or wounded birds – What if a bird is hurt? What do you have to help your sick or wounded birds? Check out the Chicken First Aid Kit post, to learn how to put one together.
- Starting with chicks – You may pay more for an adult hen, but there are many supplies little chicks need like chick feeders, waterers, starter feed, brooder, lamp, and all the time it will take for them to grow into adults.
Starting with adult hens can get you eggs a lot sooner, and you’ll be able to gain the experience needed for taking care of them.
You can always try chicks later on, and by then you will have a regular supply of fresh eggs already coming in. Also, check out How to Raise Baby Chicks and How to Care for Chickens.
I’d love To Know what you think!… Leave me a comment!
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