Keeping backyard chickens has become a trendy hobby. The lure of producing fresh eggs at home and new conveniently sized chicken coops or movable tractors has made poultry keeping more accessible even for city dwellers. However, no matter how big or small your setup is, some essential pieces of equipment are required to maintain your flock’s health.
Poultry-raising equipment must take all breeds and seasons into account. In addition to a safe coop, all chickens need perches, feeders, non-freezing drinkers, and laying boxes. For breeds with large combs, heaters may be required in winter, and brooding lamps are essential if purchasing chicks.
Let’s go through a checklist of 10 essential pieces of equipment you need to raise healthy, safe chickens. In addition, we have included some handy items that you may like to add as extras as you progress that will make your poultry-raising experience more enjoyable.
What Equipment Do I Need To Raise Poultry?
While you may be eagerly awaiting the arrival of your first chickens, it is essential to remember that every predator in your district is equally excited about the new menu prospects. At all stages of your chicken’s life, hygiene and safety must be top priorities.
No matter how elaborate and spacious your chicken coop is, it only takes one fox, hawk, or mongoose to cause destruction. Even rats can become a nuisance and destroy an otherwise excellent setup.
While everyone needs the basics like feeders and drinkers, some poultry-keeping equipment is only essential in some regions or for particular breeds. This includes things like overhead heating to prevent combs from freezing and nipple water drinkers for bearded breeds like Ameraucanas or roosters with large wattles.
When moving through the list of essential items, gauge whether it is necessary for your particular setup. For example, you will need a heating lamp or brooder if you plan to start with day-old chicks. However, if you are investing in point-of-lay hens, they would not require a heater.
Other items you may need include:
- Egg incubator – if you have fertile eggs and want to hatch them yourself.
- Egg candler – To check the development of chicks and discard unfertilized eggs.
- Shade nets or tarps – Especially important if you don’t have a lot of shade or hiding places from overhead predators.
Safe And Spacious Coop
When thinking about acquiring poultry, the coop is usually the first consideration. There are plenty of variations in setups available, and even some very cute, mobile chicken tractor styles that may be suitable if you only want to keep a few hens.
A safe nesting and sleeping area for poultry is essential. Chickens roost at night and become easy pickings for predators if they can get into the coop.
When considering what type of coop you need, take the following:
- Will the poultry be confined to the coop, or will they be free-ranging? If they are confined, you will need a much bigger coop than if it is just a laying and roosting area. Confined birds require sufficient space per bird to avoid behavioral conditions caused by overcrowding.
- Does it have sufficient ventilation? Snug and warm sounds ideal, but ammonia from droppings can quickly build up in a stuffy coop. Even in icy conditions, there must be sufficient ventilation in coops.
- Is the coop sheltered and dry? Chickens are not waterproof; if the inside layer of fluffy feathers gets wet, health problems can quickly arise.
- Is there enough space and hiding places for less dominant birds to escape higher-ranking birds?
Chicken Food Containers With Tightly Fitted Lids
To keep your chickens healthy and laying, you will want to feed them a balanced diet. However, rats and mice will also be eager to share the bounty.
Chicken feed usually comes in large bags. To limit wastage and spoilage from rats, invest in large feed drums that are easy for you to get the food out of but impossible for rats to access.
Chicken Feeders And Grit Box
The type of feeders you will need depends on the age of your chickens and the consistency of their feed. Since chickens love to scratch and forage about, even in a coop situation, feeders often have limited opening sizes to prevent birds from being able to stand in their feed.
Keep the following in mind when planning for chicken feeders:
- Have multiple feeders in your coop. Chickens are not great at sharing. Birds that are low on the pecking order may be too frightened to use a central feeder.
- Chicks require a low tray-style feeder to access their fine grower feed.
- Hens need a grit box to ad-lib feed on a calcium-rich oyster shell supplement to support healthy egg production.
All Weather, Safe Water Drinkers
Chickens are athletic birds, but they are terrible swimmers. Therefore, choosing water drinkers appropriate to the chickens’ age and breed is essential.
Always set up your coop drinkers with the youngest birds in mind, so while taller birds can easily drink from a low dog bowl, chicks will inevitably fall in and drown. If you use hanging drinkers, remember to lower them if your coop is blessed with a clutch of chicks.
Some points to remember when investing in water drinkers for your coop:
- Chickens need access to clean, liquid water at all times. If you live in a zone where temperatures go below zero, you will need a freeze-proof chicken drinker.
- Chickens with large wattles or beards need specialized drinkers, so they don’t have to get wet. This is particularly important in cold regions as freezing wattles can quickly lead to frostbite. Consider poultry watering nipples for these breeds.
Chickens roost at night and prefer to be above ground level so they can sleep safely, out of the reach of predators. They snuggle up together on a perch, which is also an excellent method of staying warm during cold weather.
Your chicken perch is an essential piece of equipment and must be set out mindfully. These are things to keep in mind:
- Accessibility – Chickens need a way to get up the perch each evening. Some birds are younger or older than others, so include a few perch levels so oldies and juveniles can also get a comfortable night’s shut-eye.
- Perch height and safety – chickens love to roost high off the ground at night, but heavy breeds like Jersey Giants can injure themselves coming down. Imagine landing a jumbo jet without wheels – to prevent injury, keep a soft and gentle touchdown in mind when setting up the perch in your coop.
- Perch Material – Avoid metal perches. Besides being smooth and difficult to grip, it can freeze and cause discomfort and injury.
- Perch width – In colder climates, slightly wider perches are an excellent, no-fuss way to keep birds warm from below.
Hens do not like laying out in the open as they are completely vulnerable during the laying process. They need quiet places where they can comfortably relax without predators sneaking up on them.
Things to remember when planning your laying boxes:
- They should be dimly lit, snug, and cozy
- Set them out to be easy for you to collect the eggs.
- Have enough laying boxes to avoid stress amongst your hens. Although you may find two or three hens sharing a single laying box, there must be enough available to spread out if they want to.
Coop Heater For Cold Climates
Poultry owners should select a poultry breed based on two factors: primary purpose and climate. Of course, you wouldn’t choose Polish chickens if you want meat birds or Easter Eggers if you dream of entering poultry shows.
Some breeds fare better in cold climates than others. Wyandottes, for example, are excellent, attractive cold-hardy birds. They have rose combs which stands them in good stead when temperatures plummet.
Fortunately, there are coop heaters available specifically to prevent frostbite. An overhead heater, like a Sweeter Heater, is essential for poultry owners who keep chickens with larger combs or live in icy regions.
For such small birds, chickens poop a lot! Poultry owners must have everything they need on hand to clean and sanitize coops regularly.
Keeping everything hygienic will also discourage vermin like rats and parasites like mites. There are some essential items you will need:
- Dust mask
- Large sprayer – a backpack type is ideal. This is to regularly disinfect the entire coop and kill any parasites lingering on perches etc.
- Hand sanitizer or nearby washing facilities – Washing your hands thoroughly after handling poultry is essential.
Chicken manure is an excellent addition to the garden, but only after it has aged. It can quickly burn plants and lawns if it is applied when it is fresh. Have a designated area, like a compost pile, to dispose of chicken manure and let it break down before using it as a natural plant fertilizer.
The moment you notice a sick bird or one with a visible injury, it needs to be isolated and treated. The last thing you need is a disease to spread throughout your flock or one poor henpecked bird to be bullied to death.
While it may not seem like an essential item at first, prevention is always better than cure when raising poultry. A comfortable separate smaller cage can also serve as a quiet nesting area for brooding hens if you have fertile eggs and want to increase your numbers naturally.
A popular start-up kit for new chicken owners is to purchase day-old chicks from breeders. No matter which chicken breed you choose, they are adorable little balls of fluff.
If you buy young chicks, purchasing a brooder or heating lamp is essential. Even if you live in a warm region, in nature, chicks depend on their mother to keep them warm, so a heat source is vital.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Five Popular Types Of Poultry?
Chickens come in all shapes and sizes -from tiny bantams to Jersey Giants that can weigh up to 15 lbs.
The breed you choose must be based on the desired product and climatic conditions. Some popular choices for new poultry owners to consider are:
- Rhode Island Red – Top choice for reliable egg production.
- Cornish – Ideal for poultry owners who need a tender meat bird.
- Barred Plymouth Rock – A dual-purpose, egg/meat chicken that is also cold-hardy and attractive.
- Easter eggers – Inexpensive, hardy birds that lay light blue eggs. Great for free-ranging and excellent at dodging predators.
- Polish chickens – they make excellent good-natured pets. They are especially recommended for families with children or anyone wanting to show their birds. This comical-looking breed can lay around 200 eggs per year.
What Are Four Types Of Poultry Industries?
In commercial farming setups, there are four major industries:
- Breeders (producing and/or hatching fertile eggs)
- Laying – production of table eggs
- Raising pullets – rearing female chicks until point-of-lay. They then move on to laying facilities.
However, most backyard chicken keepers can do a bit of all of the above, and their chickens can even fall into a 5th category – pets or show animals.
There are some essential pieces of equipment required to raise poultry successfully, including feeders, drinkers, heating, and coop security. The most important items relate to planning for all temperature zones and ensuring that coops remain safe and hygienic.