Basic Chicken Supplies Checklist

It’s no secret that I’m a little chicken obsessed, which by the way is totally amusing because my husband kind of despises having chickens around here. Anyways, we had them at our last farm and over two years later we are getting chickens again this weekend!

Our experience last time probably totally explains my husband’s blatant displeasure, not even the birds’ fault really. I had found an ad on our local Craigslist for a free coop & 8 Rhode Island Red laying hens with a rooster nearby. Honestly, it was a fantastic deal and I ran to scoop them up that next day. My husband came along to help (with a bit of cajoling) and in the end, we had to enlist the help of 4 burly guy friends and a flatbed trailer to move the coop! It turned out to be a 10’ x 10’ SOLID built coop complete with exterior doors, windows, and roofing shingles.

In the end I had to buy steak and beer for everyone that evening because it was so traumatizing and our friend Robert didn’t speak to us again for several months. Hah! But apparently it was not so traumatizing that I couldn’t get a few more, three to be exact.

 

My husband swears these will be the only three chickens we get, but I have sincere doubts about that! I met a fantastic woman named Liv on Instagram and it turns out she is only a short 2.5 hours away from us. When she posted the other day that she had a few stunningly beautiful (and rare) Svart Hona chickens for sale I jumped on it claiming fate made me do it! Ever heard the saying “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission”? Well that’s the theory I ran with for a few days but felt uber guilty about all of it so after making my husband a nice dinner one evening I popped the question:

 “Can we get chickens honey”?

He balked until I angled them as a financial investment for our farm (I am getting a breeding trio) showed him how amazingly cold hardy they could be (they’re from Sweden originally), and proved their aptitude for free ranging thus keeping feed costs minimal thus he relented. I usually get my way in these things, poor guy.

I ran into a small problem though, in all our moving these past few years I had gotten rid of all my chicken stuff. Being the frugal nerd that I am I went through some lists of basic chicken supplies I might need and decided to compile my own all-encompassing list for you!

 

  1. The Coop & Run

The first thing you’ll want to build/buy/or otherwise fashion is somewhere for your birds to stay. This needs to be safe, clear of predators’ grasp, and spacious enough for your birds. Honestly, most store-bought coop kits you find are not big enough for your birds to be happy in. If you can swing it, get larger than what is “required” because chickens are like Doritos and you can’t have just one!

All the recommendations I found online generally allow for 4 sq. ft/bird in the coop and 10 sq. ft/bird in the run. Again, if you can give more then definitely do so! Our girls will free range, but we still needed to allow them this much space, at a minimum, for days when they can’t be let out (3’ of snow, hawks circling overhead, etc.). For us, there were two coops on the property that we bought and we (I) have spent the last week preparing it for our new birds.

Little Blue Coop

 

  1. Waterer

There are quite a few types of waterer on the market. The typical waterer is a screw on jar with a plastic bottom well, these are what I remember my grandmother using for her flock of layers. There are also automatic systems, nipple waterers, and DIY versions. You’ll have to do some poking around to decide which is best for you and your bids.

Ultimately, we decided to DIY a waterer using a 5-gallon bucket with holes drilled around the sides at the bottom and set into a rubber feed pan so that our girls have a larger quantity of water (great in the summer and helps keep it from freezing in the winter) and it stays clean with less maintenance.

Ours looks just like this one from fivegallonideas.com

  1. Feeder

If you haven’t been on Pinterest yet and searched DIY chicken feeder, then you’re missing out. People can be so creative and frugal these days! From PVC pipes to Rubbermaid totes and everything in between.

You could always just throw your feed on the ground if you had to and let them scratch at it like in nature, but we find this to be so wasteful. There are also gravity feeders similar to our water solution above. We have decided to do a similar 5-gallon bucket feeder while using a snack tray from Dollar Tree bolted underneath as a gravity feeder for our chickens (pic soon!).

 

  1. Feed

Depending on your birds’ age their nutrition requirements may vary. We are getting birds already weaned off chick starter ration and put onto a laying feed. This will put them at 14%-16% protein content. If you are raising broilers (birds for meat) then you will want them to continue with a higher protein diet.

You can buy commercial feed at any local feed or co-op store near you. It is also available online (can’t beat that Prime shipping sometimes) or you can make your own. For most beginner’s I suggest buying a commercial feed that is premixed so that all your nutrients are in proper ratios. As you dive further down the rabbit hole that is chickens you may want to experiment with making your own rations.

We also plan to supplement our feed in the winter (keeps it natural and is cheaper for us) with fodder we’ve sprouted inside. A whole other post on this will be up soon but if you have questions in the meantime shoot me an email!

  1. Nesting Box(es)

Your girls need somewhere to lay their eggs, or you might start finding them in some strange places! You should provide about 1 box per 5 hens. If you don’t have enough your ladies may get territorial and if you provide too many they will likely start roosting and sleeping in them (You will get broken eggs if this happens. Been there done that!) A nesting box could be as a simple as a cardboard box, can be store-bought, or as cheap as a plastic crate turned on its side. Seriously, it need not be complicated.

I found a wire basket in the old barn here and used it in our coop. Just make sure you put some nesting material (pine shavings, straw, etc.) in your nesting boxes for some cushion to keep your precious eggs safe. And some kind of support across the front at the bottom will keep your eggs from rolling out and SPLAT!

A quick Google search can give you lots of ideas!
  1. A Roost

Your birds need somewhere to roost at night. This is an easy one. We put a 2”x 2” wood bar across the short end of our coop to allow room for our birds to roost. We will be adding a sand tray underneath to make cleaning up even easier (there will be lost of poop under the roost so make sure not to place their food or water directly underneath!). If you wanted you could use a stick off a tree for this purpose, truthfully the possibilities are endless here.

  1. Supplements

If your bids are eating anything other than commercial layer feed they need to have grit supplemented in their diet to help them grind up the oddities like grass stems, etc. We keep ours in a little dish and they grab it as they need it. It’s crucial for their health, especially with our free ranging so often!

Your layers will also need a calcium supplement. We use oyster shells (bought at a local co-op) in a dish free fed. Some people feed their girls their own eggshells crushed up. We do not because we fear them “getting the taste” for their eggs and cannibalizing them. Not cool man.

  1. Bedding

You will want some sort of bedding in your coop most likely to help keep things clean and tidy. No one likes stepping fresh chicken poop. Nobody. We use a combination of straw and pine shavings over our dirt floor.

Some people swear by the “Deep Litter Method”, we prefer to put in bedding and clean it regularly with scheduled deep coop cleans every 3 months. I am not comfortable with the air quality of a coop that has bedding composting itself inside. To each his own though!

  1. A Sense of Humor, Patience & Love

You can laugh at this one if you want, but anyone who has been around chickens knows that they can have serious personalities and sometimes you’ll just have to go with the flow. Not all days will go great, sometimes your eggs will get squished before you can gather them… or your dog might eat them (ask me how I know!). It happens to us all! I am a firm believer that happy chickens lay the best eggs.

Here’s a {FREE} Printable Checklist just for YOU!

Chicken Supplies Checklist Printable