Are you thinking about getting backyard chickens? If so, trying to figure out what your chicks and chickens will need can seem a bit overwhelming. One expert says certain chicken supplies are critical, while another says they’re just “nice-to-have.”
And this might confuse you. If you’ve been trying to figure out exactly what supplies backyard chickens need, you’re in the right place. Here’s what we discovered when we got our own chickens last year.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Must-Have Backyard Chicken Supplies
We started with 20 Western Rustic chicks last April. Soon we added 10 more Barred Rock chicks to our off grid homestead. We harvested some of our meat chickens last summer. But this year we added another 10 random chickens. And we also started raising turkeys.
With a combination of meat chickens and layers, we quickly discovered which supplies and tools made it easier to manage our backyard poultry flock. Here are a few of the supplies that will help you succeed with your own backyard chickens.
A Backyard for Your Chickens
Your chickens will need access to both grass and dry earth. The grass helps them forage for their own food, like bugs, insects, and grubs. And grass/scrub generally keeps them happy and healthy.
However, chickens also need access to dry earth. Chickens use dust to keep themselves clean, sweet-smelling, and cool. Now, it’s true that some backyard chicken breeds tolerate being confined all the time. Keep in mind that if you don’t give them access to dry earth, you will need to provide a dust bath (affiliate link) for them.
A Backyard Chicken Coop
Chickens don’t typically live indoors with families. And this means they’ll need a home. This is where the chicken coop comes into play.
Yes, you’ll find all sorts of fancy backyard chicken coops online. You’ll see some kits that cost an arm and a leg when searching for chicken supplies. That’s why we used scrap material to build our DIY chicken coop last year.
Make sure your coop is large enough to house all your chickens. In fact, it makes sense to make it bigger. After all, chicken math is a real thing! (This refers to what happens when you start getting more and more and more chickens…)
If you have room, attaching a chicken run to your coop is also great. This allows your birds to use the yard as they need to. If, however, your area is like ours, you’ll need to think about how to protect your chickens from predators.
We watch out for wolves, bears, eagles, pine martens, lynx, foxes, etc. If this is an issue in your neck of the woods, add some chicken wire to your chicken supplies list.
Are you planning to get hens? And a rooster? If so, chances are you’ll get eggs at some point. And that means you’ll need a few nesting boxes.
Your hens will need a safe spot to lay their eggs. Ideally, you will need one nesting box for every four chickens. However, we’ve found that most of the time our girls all use just one nesting box.
Just about anything your chicken can climb into and lay will work as a nesting box. This includes old dressers or kitchen drawers, and milk crates. Or, add a commercially made nesting box to your chicken supply list.
Put your nesting box where your backyard chickens can get to easily. And that means in an area that’s lower than their roosts. However, if the floor of your coop freezes in winter, insulate it with extra hay or raise it up a bit.
Make sure the nesting box is covered. Also, ensure it doesn’t have sharp edges or parts that could harm your chickens. Then fill it with straw. That is really all there is to nesting boxes for backyard chickens.
Both the coop floor itself and your nesting boxes will need bedding. Yes, you can use the same type of bedding for both; however, in the case of the nesting boxes, it helps to use something with some cushion to it so that any eggs that are stepped on are more protected.
For most backyard chicken coops, hay or straw works well. Other options include medium to coarse grain sand, shredded leaves, shredded newspaper, pine shavings, cedar shavings, and grass clippings.
Temperature Control for Chicken Coop
- Your coop may get excessively hot or excessively cold depending on where you live. One of our biggest challenges homesteading off the grid is keeping our chicken coop warm in -50C weather.
If you live in an extreme climate as we do, you may need to include some temperature control items on your chicken supplies list.
Since your coop is outdoors, your best option for doing this, one option is to use a solar powered chicken coop heater or a solar power chicken coop fan depending on the season. Both options will allow you to regular the temp for your chickens without needing to run extension cords to do so.
We don't get enough sun in the winter here to use the solar-powered heater. And the summers don't usually get warm enough to need the fan.
We also have a remote thermometer to monitor the chicken coop temperature. It sits in our kitchen. That way, we can see at a glance if it’s getting too cold (or too hot) in the coop.
So when we built our coop, chose our cold-hardy chicken breeds and got our backyard chicken supplies, we didn’t even think about mosquitoes. Yet bug season in Canada’s far north can test even the heartiest homestead animals.
Luckily, Dan had an extra bug zapper. We ran an extension cord from our house out to the coop, and it’s keeping the bugs off our backyard hens and rooster. We’re collecting those fried mosquitoes and feeding them back to the birds!
Obviously, your flock is going to need feed. Not only will they need good, high quality chicken feed, but they will also need treats. Treats like oyster shells ensure they are receiving all the nutrients their bodies need.
In addition to their feed, however, you will want to feed them plenty of fruits and vegetables to keep them happy. A few great options are: vegetable peels, cereal without sugar (do not feed chickens sugary cereals), bananas, apples, spinach, and watermelon rinds.
To keep our costs down, we also pick up leftover grain from our local brewery in town whenever we can. We call it “drunk chicken feed.” And our chickens go nuts over it. In addition, we use homemade chicken feed recipes whenever possible. And we're even experimenting with making our own fermented chicken feed.
Don’t forget to include a chicken feeder on your list of must-have supplies to buy for your chickens. We have a large tin feeder that hangs from a hook in the ceiling of our chicken coop.
Just like you, your chickens will also need water. This is simple enough to do. You can buy a chicken waterer or you can simply use a bowl. We use both - one big chicken waterer in the coop, and a smaller one out in the chicken run. We’ve also experimented with chicken waterer metal attachments to screw onto our old mason jars.
However, whatever you ultimately end up using should be low profile enough that your chickens can reach it. It should also not be easily tipped since they will likely stand on it. And finally, you should place it on an even surface to avoid spilling. If your ground is uneven, using a tray of some sort under it (or a large, flat rock) can help even it out.
Chicken First Aid Kit
Yes, you can make your own chicken first aid kit! I'll be adding one next week. For now though, try your hand at making this easy 4-ingredient DIY chicken salve with calendula.
Finally, chickens have finicky digestive systems. So they need some help to digest their food.
In addition, they may also need calcium added to their diet if you have egg layers. This will avoid soft eggshells since the added calcium helps to strengthen them. So add some grit to your backyard chicken supplies list.
There are two types of chicken grit; oyster shell grit and flint grit.
Oyster shell grit helps increase calcium in the diet, where flint grunt is used to aid digestion.
If you would rather try a DIY chicken grit, try grinding eggshells in place of the oyster shell grit. However, remember that doing so means you won’t know exactly how much calcium your birds are getting. And make sure to grind it extra fine.
Getting backyard chicken supplies doesn’t need to be expensive. After all, remember that the pioneer homesteaders couldn’t buy backyard chicken feeders, waterers, or grain. However, these chicken supplies do make life easier when you’re getting started with backyard chickens.
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