A few years ago we decided to join the growing backyard chicken movement. We knew zero about chicken raising. We were interested in keeping a handful of hens for eggs, so we didn’t want info on raising flocks of them (how many eggs can you eat a day?). I read every book for backyard beginners I could find, and after studying ten of them, the one that was most helpful to us was Raising Chickens for Dummies. It did the best job of anticipating our questions for a low-rent minimal approach. For instance, we had no desire to be cleaning chicken-shit every week, and we opted for deep bedding in the coop, a tip suggested by the book.
Our first egg!
We’ve had chickens for two years now, and the book is still answering questions. The author runs a website, Back Yard Chickens, that has very active forums where you can ask other backyarders questions not found in his book. The site’s albums of photos of homemade coops proudly posted by members is very helpful and inspirational.
If you decide to graduate to larger flocks I would point you to the previously recommended book Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, which is extremely comprehensive, but often more than a beginner needs.
Keeping our days-old chicks warm under a heat lamp.
BTW, I was initially skeptical I would be able to tell a difference with backyard eggs, but it’s true. Backyard eggs do taste better; they are more…well…eggy. However, they won’t be cheaper, even if you don’t count your time. We kept our initial costs down by constructing a coop from scraps from a building site in the neighborhood (after asking permission). We had to buy the screening, which is double layered at the bottom (another book tip) because we have pretty serious predators around. We installed the previously reviewed automatic watering dish from the mail-order hatchery McMurray, which means that overall, the five chickens are very low maintainance.