Before we jump into the post, I want to thank Bluebonnet Feeds for sponsoring this post. All opinions and thoughts are my own, and I am very excited to share with you my minimalist approach to chicken keeping.
When my husband and I first started talking about the future, we always discussed having different animals to care for. We dreamed of having cows, chickens, pigs, goats, and of course, our fur babies. The hard part was figuring how to make it happen.
It was not until we found a piece of land to purchase that we saw our vision of actually caring for all of the animals come into fruition. But we were still reluctant to get started. We had no idea how to take care of anything besides our dogs, which seemed a lot simpler than farm animals.
After a lot of research, we decided it was time to just dive into it. My husband built a chicken coop and a brooder. I got the supplies and started searching for chicks.
We started with 26 dual purpose breed chickens. Since we purchased straight-run chicks [which means we don’t know if they are a hen or rooster], we knew there would be several we would send onto freezer camp. Our end goal was to end up with about 10-15 hens, which we accomplished!
Fast forward nearly three years later, we have learned a lot about chickens. We know what they need, treats they enjoy, and when something is not right. We also learned that actually raising chickens is not nearly as complex or complicated as the internet would like for you to believe.
And since I am all about removing the excess from our lives, I want to share with you my minimalist approach to chicken keeping. There are things you definitely need to have healthy, happy chickens and somethings that are more for marketing schemes.
Also, if you have chickens and believe they need something that is not on my list, please let me know down in the comments. I think it is interesting to see how we differ in raising chickens.
Minimalist Approach to Chicken Keeping with Bluebonnet Feeds
Chicken Coop //
First and foremost, chickens need a chicken coop. Just like humans, chickens love to know they have a safe home to go to when scared, tired, hungry, or what have you. This coop needs an area where they can roost off the ground, laying boxes to lay their eggs, and a dry place for the food and water.
Each chicken needs about 10 square feet to roam within the coop, but I suggest more if your chickens do not have a place to roam outside of the coop. The coop does not have to be fancy, but if you like fancy, go for it! I have seen coops that are framed out of a dog pen with a metal roof and have poles in the back for their roost. Then I have seen some very fancy coops that are the size of a barn with tons of space for the chickens to roam around out of the weather. It just depends on what works best for you.
Feed [& Water] //
Let me preface this by saying, my chickens picked their feed. You see after my chickens grew out of the starter feed, I kept feeding them crumbles, because that is what they were used to eating. However, they enjoyed sharing their feed with the ground more than they cared to eat it. I tried a couple of varieties of crumbles, but all shared the same results. The mess was so annoying, so I moved onto pellets.
They did better with the pellets, but I could tell they did not care for it. They ate at half the rate as they did with the crumbles and what they shared with the ground was about the same. Again, I tried a couple of varieties just to see if it was the formula, but it wasn’t.
My chickens are PICKY!
After talking with my local feed store, they suggested Bluebonnet Feeds’ Nature’s Balance Egg Booster Nibblets. They are about half the size of pellets, so I decided to let them try it.
Y’all! Within a week, I could tell that my chickens LOVED this feed. They ate at the same rate as they did with the crumbles and cleaned up any mess they made! My chickens are officially zero waste when it comes to their food! I have never experienced anything like this, because I have some pretty messy chickens.
I’ve fed Bluebonnet Feeds’ Nature’s Balance Egg Booster Nibblets to my chickens for over a year and am so impressed with how much my chickens still love it. I personally love it for them, because it is healthier for them than other options that are available in my area.
And I believe providing water for your chickens at all times goes without saying. However, I will say it anyways. Please always provide water for your chickens.
If your chickens have space to roam, scratch around, and have an act for eating bugs then they need grit. This allows for their crops to continue digesting what they eat and prevent sour crop, which can kill your chickens.
Keeping a small bowl of grit in the coop is all your chickens need. They know what it is and know how much they need in their crops at all times. Their instincts with grit fascinates me. My flock never saw another chicken eating grit. They automatically knew what it is and how to use it.
Wood Ash //
Chickens need to dust bathe consistently. This keeps them free of mites and other little nasty critters that like to crawl on them. If conditions are dry and the ground is… well dusty, then you do not have to worry with this.
Wood ash is more so something you need to provide for your chickens when conditions are too wet for them to dust bathe. We use a wood burning stove to heat our home during the colder months, which is also normally our wet months. Those ashes go directly to the chickens once the ashes cool. I put them in the coop for the chickens to dust bathe until they feel content.
If it is raining, I will wait until first thing in the morning to put it out for them since the coop floor is not weather proof. This still gives them time to dust bathe.
Side note: You may see a lot of people recommending Diatomaceous Earth for dust bathing, but I personally do not. It is a known carcinogen and causes respiratory issues. On the bag, you will find a warning telling you to wear a face mask of some kind due to the harmful side effects of breathing it into your lungs. It can also cut the skin of the chicken, which is not good either.
Of course, do not just take my word for it. Do your research and decide for yourself. I just wanted to add that little snippet in there for you to think about.
Apple Cider Vinegar //
Apple cider vinegar [ACV] is like a natural antibiotic for chickens. It helps them get over colds and other sickly things. It takes just a little bit in their water to help cleanse their system.
This is not something you need to do all of the time. Providing them with a round of ACV water once every couple of weeks is plenty, unless you notice your chickens need it more often.
I give them a dose similar to how human sickness goes around each year. For example, as it cools off I will give them a little more than when it is consistently warm. If it is really wet and nasty for an extended period of time, I will provide it to them more as well. When the weather is pleasantly warm and dry, I only provide it to them once every two or three weeks.
Again, there is a good bit of controversy about providing ACV for chickens. Just do your research and determine what is best for your chickens. I personally find that giving it them as I suggested above does great for my chickens.
Safe place to roam //
One difficult lesson every homesteader or animal caretaker learns is losing chickens to predators. Unfortunately, it happens and it is important to learn how to improve your setup. We were lucky to have not faced a predator [besides our hunting dog…] until nearly two years into keeping chickens.
I came home to a HUGE hawk in our chicken run and my chickens were terrified. I never realized how much of a chicken momma I was until that moment. It was one of the most challenging days as a homesteader.
Handsome [my rooster] fought hard against the hawk, but there was only so much he could do. The hawk ended up killing two of our biggest and most consistent laying hens before I got home. It is something I pray chicken owners never have to face, but the truth is you probably will one day.
What you can do is provide adequate fencing around the chicken run to keep out ground predators. For the predators in the sky, I honestly have not found the best solution. Some suggest white string overhead with white fabric dispersed throughout the string line. It is supposed to throw off the vision to the ground.
I did not find luck in that approach, but many chicken keepers swear by it. The most important thing is to protect your chickens as best as possible. You can only do so much to protect them, and you cannot beat yourself up about the one time it was not enough.
Of course, treats are not a necessity, but after getting to experience the different personalities of your chickens, it is hard to not want to treat them.
Pumpkins are a perfect treat due to them being a natural dewormer. Mine are obsessed with pumpkin and devour them quickly.
Anything RED chickens love! From tomatoes to watermelons, if you have something red, chickens want it.
Tomatoes are my chickens’ absolute favorite treat of all! Of course they love anything red, but I believe there is a bit more to it. You see, my chickens expect to be tossed something from the garden in the evenings due to an abundance of tomatoes last year. I think the anticipation of me tossing a red delicious tomato to them makes them even more excited.
Meal worms or other insects are also a great treat for them, too!
I hope you learned that chicken keeping does not have to be so difficult or complex. By providing chickens with the things they absolutely need, you are providing them with a great home. Anything else is either an added bonus or just necessary. Chickens do love being entertained, but they love being cared for the most.
Just promise me that if you have yet to try raising chickens, you will! & if you have chickens, please provide them with adequate care.
Lastly, love those funny little modern day dinosaurs, because I promise they love you!
Again, thank you to Bluebonnet Feeds for sponsoring this post! It is truly a dream come true to work with such an amazing company that my chickens love! Be sure to check you area for the Nature’s Balance Egg Booster Nibblets and see if your chickens are just as crazy about them as mine are. [Wow! Sorry that sounded a bit swarmy… but you seriously need to give them a try! Your chickens will love you even more for it!]