Raising backyard chickens has become quite popular in the last few years, but the effort can be an expensive endeavor if you are not sure what to do. The following resources will help you with establishing a flock and keeping it healthy.
Do Your Research
Learn everything you can about chickens. Talk with other chicken owners, veterinarians, feed stores, and farmers. If you've never owned an animal before, determine what you need to know and whether your lifestyle is right for making this commitment. The following are resources that will guide you through the decision-making process:
Should I Raise a Small Poultry Flock? (UW-Madison Division of Extension)
Before investing in a flock and the necessary equipment, find out if you are legally able to own chickens in your neighborhood. Also, if you are part of a homeowner's association, you will need to check with them. You may also want to meet with your adjacent neighbors to ensure they will not be opposed to your new endeavor.
Establishing your Flock
Determine what type of flock you want to raise. Do you want eggs? Or do you want to raise broiler or roaster birds? Take a look at these resources to help you decide:
Once you've determined the type of flock you want, you need to know what breeds are best for your needs. You can use online tools, but some of your best information will come from hatcheries.
You will also need to find or build appropriate housing and purchase equipment and supplies. The UW-Madison Division of Extension has extensive information and plans for coops of varying sizes and shapes.
You will also need appropriate bedding, feeders and waterers which can be purchased or made depending on your needs.
Identify feed requirements for the stages of your flock's development.
Know how to properly protect your flock's from disease through proper biosecurity.
Establish a relationship with a veterinarian that specializes in caring for poultry birds. DATCP maintains a list of small flock poultry veterinarians to help you find one near you.
Familiarize yourself with common poultry diseases and their symptoms so that you know when to call your veterinarian.
Legal, Regulatory, and Public Health
Anyone who owns and houses livestock in Wisconsin is legally required to register their premises. This applies whether you own one or one hundred birds. Doing so is free and enables DATCP to alert you to disease issues that affect poultry.
Registration is also required for egg producers who are exempt from food processing requirements because they collect, package and store nest-run eggs from a flock of laying birds owned by the producer.
Keeping live poultry also has some inherent health risks. Live poultry, such as chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys, often carry harmful germs that can post a risk of illness, especially to children, from handling live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Learn more about the public health risks of keeping backyard poultry.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Food Processing Rules and Food Safety Principles
If you are thinking of selling your eggs or poultry meat, there are processing rules that you must follow. Or, if you simply plan to consume the eggs and meat yourself, you should read through these poultry processing recommendations.