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5 Common Mistakes Made by First-Time Chicken Keepers

Learn the most common mistakes first time chicken keepers make and how to avoid them.

The journey from picking up your day-old chicks at the feed store or post office until you collect your first egg can be filled with joy and wonderment ... or fraught with anguish.

Even though I raised chickens as a kid, when we got my first batch as an adult (and realized that I was holding a baby chick for the first time in at least 20 years), I'll admit that there was a bit of a learning curve.

I read a lot.  Did my research. And talked with my grandmother who raised chickens for nearly all of her life. I made mistakes. We all make mistakes. It's part of life. And even now, years into raising my backyard flock, I'm still learning. 

So take some advice from me and save yourself the hassle of having to learn by trial and error. Keep reading to find out the most common mistakes first-time chicken keepers make.

Five Most Common Mistakes Made by First-Time Chicken Keepers 

Over the years running my social media, I've noticed that there seems to be a pattern to the common mistakes that first-time chicken keepers make. So I wanted to share them with you to help you avoid some most often made missteps - and help you prevent heartache of your own.

I have gotten literally hundreds of email from readers letting me revel in their joy by sharing photos and relating stories of how much their family is enjoying their new-found passion.

But I also get those messages I dread, the pleas for help or cries of heartache after readers have lost baby chicks or laying hens to predators or even a massacre by the family dog.

So here we go.

1. Underestimating Predators

Hands down, the hardest thing about raising chickens is keeping them safe from all the things out there that want to eat them. 

Hawks, eagles, raccoons, foxes and everything in between, including your neighbor's dog and maybe even your own family dog, is going to try and kill your chickens ...and will succeed in doing so unless you lock them up securely in a coop at night and figure out a way to keep them safe by day also.

During the day you'll need to either keep them in a covered, enclosed pen or do some serious research into LGDs (livestock guard dogs) or other methods of safely free ranging them.

Trust me on this. This is one lesson you don't want to have to learn the hard way.

2. Not Assembling a First Aid Kit in Advance

When something bad does happen, whether its an illness or injury, too many times a chicken keeper doesn't have any medical supplies on hand.

And since we all know that accidents always happen on the Sunday of a holiday weekend or during a blizzard when everything is closed, it's a really good idea to assemble a first aid kit NOW...before you need it. Hopefully you will never need it, but at least you're ready.

And even better, the one I recommend is all natural.

3. Introducing New Flock Members Too Quickly

Often, new chicken keepers underestimate the importance of the flock pecking order and don't realize that adding new flock members must be done very slowly and carefully. Nothing is more heartbreaking than finding that your flock has turned on the new pullets you couldn't resist adding to your flock and killed or injured them.

For quarantine, as well as safety reasons, new flock members need to be segregated and then introduced slowly. Very slowly. Chickens take their pecking order very seriously and when you mess with it abruptly, things generally end badly.

4. Starting with Too Small a Coop 

No one has ever said, "I wish I didn't have so many chickens" or "I wish I had a smaller coop".  As you will find out once you start raising chickens, they are like potato chips and you can't just have one... or two....or even six.  

It's far easier to buy more chickens to fill a too-big coop than to build a larger coop your flock has outgrown, so build your coop from the start for the number of chickens you eventually think you'll have. Again, trust me on this one.

5. Not Checking Zoning Laws 

Before you step into that feed store or start browsing hatchery catalogs, find out what your town or municipality zoning laws are regarding chickens - and then follow them.

I hear time and time again of readers having to give up their chickens because they didn't check the regulations and a neighbor filed a complaint. 

Sometimes they are successful in getting the laws changed, sometimes they aren't, but either way they end up losing the chickens their entire family has become so attached to.

Even if they are allowed to start over again, they are having to start over. Save yourself the heartache and check first.

Just because WE believe everyone has the Constitutional right to raise chickens (that whole 'pursuit of happiness thing'), doesn't mean that everyone does. So check first. And while you're at it, check the Egg Laws in your state in case you decide to start selling your extra eggs.

Raising a backyard flock should be a joyous experience, and by keeping these five common mistakes in mind, hopefully you can avoid the most common pitfalls from chick to collecting your first eggs...and beyond!

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