Go Green: How to Get Started with Backyard Chickens


By Ms. Keri Collins Lewis

MSU Extension Service

Some people can’t resist the latest spring fashions. Others plant flowers in profusion.

Then there are those, like me, who are highly susceptible to the cheerful chirping of newly hatched chicks. Every spring I hover near the big tubs and troughs at the local co-op, alongside young children begging their parents for “just one” chick.

Like many things in life, having chickens is more complicated than one might think, especially when it comes to protection from predators. Young chicks need warmth, special feed, and grit to help them process their food. As chicks grow into pullets and then mature birds, their feed and space needs change. And, of course, the internet is filled with sometimes conflicting information about what is best for backyard chickens and what breeds are suitable (are you raising chickens for eggs, meat, both or simply as a pet?).

Different chicken breeds have different coloring, even as chicks. (File photo by Kat Lawrence)

As someone with 13 hens that live a luxurious country life in their custom-built poultry palace, I can assure you that having chickens is fun, entertaining, and rewarding, but it is work. I once read chickens are less work than a dog but more work than a cat, if that helps. But knowing what is required before you bring home a sweet bundle of fluff will make the experience more pleasant.

So before you succumb to the siren song of peeping chicks this spring, read “Managing the Backyard Flock”  or visit our page on small flock management.

And remember, chickens are social creatures that thrive in a flock, so you can’t get just one. Wink, wink.