The Best Supplies For When Your Chicks Hatch

Chicken Coop for the Soul

Keeping chickens is a great way to bring a little bit of nature to your backyard. Whether you’re keeping chickens for eggs, meat, or just because you like the way they look, you’ll quickly find yourself fascinated by their habits and personalities.

Caring for chickens is a good way to step back from the busy-ness of our daily business. Many people who keep backyard poultry have said that just five minutes with them first thing sets them up in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Do bear in mind, though, that chickens, and poultry in general, can often prove to be the gateway to keeping other, larger livestock, if you have the space – and to finding the space if you don’t already have it!

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What Do I Need to Keep Chickens?

Well, chickens, obviously! (Unless you go down the incubator route, which as you might guess from our name, we fully support!) Most novice poultry keepers start out with mixed breeds, which are generally cheaper to buy, and less demanding to keep. If you choose to move into showing, there are, of course, many different kinds of purebred chickens to choose from.

Before you get your chickens, however, you’ll need some basics. As with most animals, you can get all sorts of products and accessories to enrich their lives, but, for the most part, chickens have very simple needs.

  • They need to have somewhere to roost and lay their eggs, which provides shelter from extremes of weather, and protection from predators such as foxes and cats.
  • They need food and water – this is typically provided in feeders/drinkers, although feed can simply be scattered on the ground if your chickens free range.
  • If they’re not being given the run of your yard or acreage, they’ll need an enclosed run to provide access to the outside.

In terms of housing, you can re-purpose rabbit hutches and runs, as well as dog kennels, as chicken coops, or you can buy a purpose-built hen house. Some people have even made coops out of redundant children’s play houses! It comes down to how much money you want to spend, and what your DIY skills are like.

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What Do Chickens Eat?

The short answer is, anything! It used to be common for backyard poultry to be fed on table scraps and nothing else, but people are increasingly becoming aware that, just as with house pets, this doesn’t always provide chickens with all the nutrition they need, and that proprietary blends are a better option.

Whether you feed loose grain purchased from a local feed store, crumble mix, or pellets, depends on how you’re keeping your chickens. Pellets are better for chickens that have limited opportunity for accessing a variety of insects, grubs and plants during free range – those that are kept in a fairly sparse backyard, for instance – as they provide the appropriate amount of nutrients to ensure your chickens get exactly what they need.

Of course, your chickens will always appreciate table scraps in addition to their feed!

All birds need shell and oyster grit in addition to their feed, as they don’t have functional teeth the way other animals do. The grit fulfils the role of teeth, helping to break down the food to make it easier to digest.

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How Many Eggs Should I Expect?

Chickens kept in domestic settings don’t lay all that many eggs – a good average is to expect three eggs a day for every five hens. This is usually more than adequate for people who are simply looking to be a little more self-sufficient, or who want to be clear on where their food comes from.

Of course, some chickens will lay more eggs, some will lay fewer. And some won’t lay at all. If you are clear on wanting eggs, your best bet is to purchase laying hens, who are of an age where they have started producing eggs. This also means you avoid the additional expense of caring for chicks until they’re old enough to be moved in with your adult poultry.

Egg Hunts

Even if you provide the best hen house on the market, if your hens are free range, they may not lay their eggs where you’d expect!

A good rule of thumb is to look thoroughly, all over the space your hens have access to, twice a day, to ensure all eggs are recovered promptly.

Do I Need a Rooster?

No. Hens will produce eggs without input from a rooster, in the same way as human females will ovulate whether or not they are involved with a gentleman. Obviously, if you are looking to breed chickens, rather than just have a source of fresh, edible eggs, you will need to keep a rooster.

Be aware, however, that your neighbours may have objections to being raucously awoken at the crack of dawn every morning! If you don’t need a rooster for breeding purposes, don’t get one.

What Chickens?

As mentioned previously, most novice poultry keepers will start out with mixed-breed hens. However, if you only have a small area for your hens, bantams are recommended, as they are smaller than typical chickens, but will still produce perfectly acceptable eggs.

Essential Poultry Purchases

We’ve reviewed the best of the basic supplies you’ll need for your chickens below – hen houses and coop heaters, drinkers, and feed – so you can make the best choice of accessories for your new additions. Chicken feeders will be discussed and reviewed in full in a separate section.

Hen Houses

Confidence Pet 62” Hutch/Coop

The chicken coop or hen house will be the most important accessory you buy for your backyard brood. It is where they’ll roost at night, lay their eggs, and go for shelter and safety.

This coop comes with a built-on run, which gives your chickens secure access to the outside. The hen house and run set up is relatively light, meaning you can easily move your chickens around the yard. This means they won’t deplete one area, and also that rats are less likely to be drawn to your chickens, as their waste won’t be in one area, giving off a very clear aroma to the local vermin population.

The Confidence Pet Hutch/Coop has an anti-fungal, weather proof finish, and is easy to assemble. The run area is made from heavy-duty steel wire, which will keep your hens in, and predators out.

The Confidence Pet Hutch/Coop does come up smaller than it looks, which is something to bear in mind if you have a large flock. For areas where storms are frequent, this chicken coop is not recommended, as it isn’t to withstand strong winds or storm-level rainfall.

Pros

  • Built on run
  • Weather proofed and coated with anti-fungal treatment – ready to set up and go
  • Easy to assemble

Cons

  • Build quality not recommended for storm-prone areas
  • Smaller than it looks

Who Is It For?

This hen house is ideal for the novice chicken-keeper, who is purchasing supplies for a small number of backyard hens.

Value For Money?

When you’re buying new, coops start at around the $100 mark, and the Confidence Pet is right on the nail. If you keep bantams, or three or four average sized hens, and don’t have the ability to allow your chickens to free range safely, this is a good choice of coop, as it includes the built on, secure run, and is light enough to be moved around.

Sale
Confidence 62 Inch Rabbit Hutch Chicken Coop
195 Ratings
Confidence 62 Inch Rabbit Hutch Chicken Coop
  • Suitable for rabbits, ferrets, and guinea pigs
  • Furniture-grade wood with waterproof antifungal finish
  • Double-level hutch

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Formex Snap Lock Large Chicken Coop

The Formex Snap Lock Large Chicken Coop is intended for poultry keepers whose hens are fully free range. There is no run with this coop, which, considering the price (this is definitely a luxury purchase!) is a bit of a let down – even if your chickens are free range, there may well be times it is best to keep them secured in one area.

The Formex is maintenance-free, and requires no tools to put together. It offers adjustable ventilation, so you can ensure your hens are comfortable in all weathers, and is predator resistant.

The size and design of the Formex makes egg collection a breeze, always assuming your hens comply with your intention that they lay their eggs in their coop, which is never guaranteed, although the nest boxes are a little small, and may be uncomfortable for some of the larger breeds of chicken.

There is a removable litter tray, which makes for easy cleaning.

Pros

  • Easy to assemble – no tools required
  • Predator resistant
  • Easy to clean
  • Maintenance free
  • Adjustable ventilation
  • Suitable for larger flocks

Cons

  • No run included
  • Very expensive
  • Nest boxes are a little on the small side

Who Is It For?

This is clearly a chicken coop for those with acreage who are able to allow their flock to free range. Given the price tag (around $800) this is aimed at those who are approaching poultry keeping as a professional or semi-professional endeavour, rather than those who just want a few eggs, and the simple joy of backyard chicken-watching.

Value For Money?

It has been noted that you could probably, with a little imagination, re-purpose a child’s play house, and attach a decent sized run, for less money than this coop costs.

Sale
SnapLock Formex Large Chicken Coop Backyard Hen House 4-6 Large 6-12 Bantams
90 Ratings
SnapLock Formex Large Chicken Coop Backyard Hen House 4-6 Large 6-12 Bantams
  • LARGE CHICKEN COOP - 4 nesting spots with removable dividers, three 36" roosts.
  • STURDY - Water and chemical resistant, impact and ultraviolet resistant.
  • MAINTENANCE FREE - Removable litter tray, large adjustable ventilation, easy access for egg collection.

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Heating

Your hen house will almost certainly need additional heating. Traditionally, this would have been heat bulbs. One major issue with heat bulbs is that they emit light, as well as heat. Organic rearing standards state that chickens need 8-12 hours of darkness for appropriate roosting, which is obviously not possible with a light-emitting heat source. Also, heat bulbs do pose a risk of shattering, meaning your coop is littered with tiny shards of broken glass.

Other options for heat sources are ceramic heaters, and flat-panel heaters. We’ve reviewed one of each.

Cozy Products Safe Chicken Coop 200w Zoom Heater

This from Cozy Products is a flat-panel coop heater that mounts on the wall of your hen house. It is reasonably priced, and there are no bulbs, etc to replace. However, if you live in a particularly cold area, you’ll need to buy a couple of these heaters. This is also the case if you have a large coop. All heaters will have the same issue with not providing sufficient heat for very cold areas, or larger coops, though, so the cost of potentially having to purchase more than one heater should be borne in mind.

Pros

  • Flat panel – spreads heat quite well in average-sized coops.
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Not sufficient for very cold areas or large coops

Who Is It For?

Backyard chicken breeders with mid-sized coops who live in areas that don’t have extreme winters.

Value For Money?

If your coop is a little larger than could be heated by a small heater, but not huge, and you live in a relatively clement area, then this is a powerful, affordable coop heater.

Sale
Cozy Products CL Safe Chicken Coop Heater 200 Watts Safer Than Brooder Lamps, One Size, Black
360 Ratings
Cozy Products CL Safe Chicken Coop Heater 200 Watts Safer Than Brooder Lamps, One Size, Black
  • Safe for chicken coops
  • Recommended by the chicken Chick
  • Uses Only 200 watts

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BYB 150w Ceramic Heat Lamp

The BYB 150w is an affordable, heater, ideal for most small backyard coops. It is water and humidity proof, and fits all standard US power sockets. While this isn’t as hot as a heat bulb, and is not suitable for heating brooders, it is ideal for those who want to ensure their poultry is kept in accordance with organic standards, as it emits no light at all, ensuring your chickens get sufficient darkness for roosting.

Pros

  • Water and humidity proof
  • Ideal for those keeping just two or three chickens
  • Organic standards compliant

Cons

  • Not suitable for heating brooders
  • Less heat than a heat bulb

Who Is It For?

This is an ideal heat lamp for those keeping two or three chickens in a small backyard coop.

Value For Money?

This is a very affordable heater, which means it is cost-effective to purchase two, to heat a slightly larger coop, or if the weather becomes very inclement.

BYB - 150W 110V Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter Brooder Coop Pet Infrared Lamp Bulb, Black
499 Ratings
BYB - 150W 110V Ceramic Infrared Heat Emitter Brooder Coop Pet Infrared Lamp Bulb, Black
  • Perfect for high humidity terrariums; lasts up to 10,000 hours
  • Use only with a porcelain socket (E26 socket). To avoid scald, please wait at least 1 hour of cool down after turn it off
  • Voltage: AC 110-120V; Power: 150w; Material: Ceramic, Metal, NiCrAl

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Drinkers

Chickens, like all animals, require a constant supply of fresh water. With poultry, it is also important to ensure that the water container can’t be tipped over, or soiled with scratchings and droppings. Poultry drinkers are designed to meet both these criteria.

Harris Farms' EZ Fill Poultry Drinker

Harris Farms’ EZ Fill is ideal for a larger flock, or when you will be out of town for a couple of days, and want to be certain your chickens will have enough to drink.

This drinker is suitable for placing either indoors, in your chicken coop, or out in the yard. It is generally recommended to have two drinkers, to ensure that lower-ranking hens aren’t bullied away from one by those higher in the pecking order.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Good for large flocks
  • Top fill – easy to top up/replace water

Cons

  • Poor quality floating valve – water spills quite easily

Who Is It For?

This is ideal for poultry keepers who want to be able to just fill up their flock’s drinker once a day, and be comfortable leaving them to get on with it, and for those with larger flocks.

Value For Money?

This is a reasonably-priced drinker, and saves on having to check the water level throughout the day – fill in the morning, check it in the evening, and your hens should be fine until you refresh the water the following day.

Harris Farms 1000267 Not Available Poultry Drinker, 6.25 Gallon
399 Ratings
Harris Farms 1000267 Not Available Poultry Drinker, 6.25 Gallon
  • Accomodates up to 100 chickens or game birds
  • Top fill bucket, easy-fill and easy-clean
  • Excellent for indoor and outdoor use

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Small Rite Farms Drinker

This from Small Rite Farms is the ideal accessory for the very small backyard flock, of perhaps three or four birds. It will need to be checked, and, if necessary, topped up, throughout the day, so would best suit those who are home most of the time, or who are rearing young chicks in the house.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Good for baby chicks

Cons

  • Will need refilling throughout the day if being used with larger birds

Who Is It For?

Those rearing young chicks, or who are just keeping two or three bantams in their backyard.

Value For Money?

If you don’t mind checking and refilling your drinker throughout the day, the Small Rite Farms can’t be beaten on price and value.

SMALL RITE FARM PRODUCTS HD 1 QUART/32 OZ CHICKEN WATERER & HANDLE POULTRY CHICK
4 Ratings
SMALL RITE FARM PRODUCTS HD 1 QUART/32 OZ CHICKEN WATERER & HANDLE POULTRY CHICK
  • Perfect for baby chicks
  • Drinker holds 1 quart of water
  • Heavy duty poly made to last

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cute little cartoon chick pngPellets

As well as the traditional feed store grain that is often simply scattered around the free-range area, there are also pellet and crumble feeds available for chickens and other poultry. The right kind of feed, in quantities that mean you won’t have to be constantly ordering, or driving out to the feed store, is an essential part of stocking up your chicken supplies, but do make sure you have somewhere secure to store it, where rats and mice can’t get to it.

If your hens are of an age to start laying, you will need to ensure you’re purchasing designated layer feed, as this has a higher calcium content, which helps produce good-quality, thick-shelled eggs.

Brown's Encore Layer Booster Dairy Diet Chicken Pellets

This is, as the name implies, a pellet feed. It has a higher level of calcium than many commercially available brands, and contains no animal protein – ideal for those who want to raise their chickens in an exclusively organic fashion. The protein in these pellets is exclusively natural plant protein.

Pros

  • High calcium
  • Pellets – provides all necessary nutrition, easy for chickens to eat

Cons

  • Expensive

Who Is It For?

Poultry keepers looking for an easy way to ensure their birds get everything they need, in a form that won’t cause too much of a problem if it’s left scattered for a few hours. (It is always advisable to sweep out left over feed at the end of a day, to discourage vermin.)

Value For Money?

This is quite expensive online, and, if you have a feed store near you, can often be found cheaper.

Sale
F.M. Brown's Encore Natural Egg Layer Booster Daily Diet for Pets, 20-Pound
141 Ratings
F.M. Brown's Encore Natural Egg Layer Booster Daily Diet for Pets, 20-Pound
  • 16% Protein, High Calcium Formula For Top-Producing, Laying Hens 18 Weeks Or Older
  • Natural Plant Protein... Free Of Animal Proteins & Fats
  • Fortified with Vitamins, Minerals and Calcium for Strong Egg Shells and Egg Production

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Manna Pro Crumble

Manna Pro Crumble is a crumb-style, soy-free, non-GMO mix. It does contain animal protein. Manna Pro has added vitamins and minerals, to help keep your chickens healthy and happy. However, it does go stale very quickly.

Pros

  • Added vitamins and minerals

Cons

  • Goes stale very quickly

Who Is It For?

Because of how readily it goes stale, crumble mix is best suited to those poultry keepers who are out regularly with their birds.

Value For Money?

If you are looking for a feed you can put out and leave, a pellet-based feed would be a better, if slightly more expensive, option.

Manna Pro Gamebird/Showbird Crumbles, 5 lb
99 Ratings
Manna Pro Gamebird/Showbird Crumbles, 5 lb
  • 25% protein for fast growth, efficient gain, and high-quality plumage.
  • Yeast cultures for enhanced digestion
  • Vitamins and minerals for sound development and health

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