With good healthcare, good nutrition, a life with less stress and more fun, and good sanitation practices, chickens can live beyond a decade, so choose your chickens wisely. Plenty of backyard chicken forums, books, and websites are out there so you'll be able to do thorough research.
Where to get chickens
Your local feed store or farm will know where the best place to get your particular chickens will be. You can also do a web search, ask chicken owners around you where they got their chickens, join a chicken-keeping forum and post a question, or search for a local chicken-keeping blog or website. You may even be able to adopt an adult, laying hen that someone decided he or she could no longer keep.
Now for the Nitty-Gritty!
Housing is of utmost importance. And a secure coop where chickens go at night is essential. A good coop will have plenty of room, including:
An inside, private area for roosting and laying
A secure outside, shaded area for when they are not free ranging in your yard
A door that latches securely
Room for a nesting box
Easy access to removing eggs
You'll want a coop that's ventilated, stays cool, and is easy to clean, since chickens can get respiratory illnesses easily.
Most of our coops are easy to set up, but there may be a service in your area that helps set up coops and answers your first-time chicken questions.
Supplies you'll need before your flock arrives include:
Water is the most important nutrient of all. It helps all chicken body systems and is especially important for laying eggs. Ensure your chickens have all the water they need by providing a waterer and checking it frequently for cleanliness and water level.
Nutritious, delicious, and life stage-appropriate food helps chickens stay healthy and ensure they get all the nutrients they may not get when foraging.
Don't forget a feeder that is safe from spilling, keeps food clean, and lets your chickens feed at will.
Although your free-range chickens may forage and get some materials that act like grit. This essential nutrient is necessary to help chickens digest their food. To ensure they get the grit, they need, provide it separately.
Bedding is needed for sanitation and to keep chickens comfortable, not to mention to line nest boxes. Get bedding and litter made for chickens. It will ensure that your maintenance is easier.
You love your pets, including your fowls. Why not give them treats they love? Kitchen scraps are fine (except those from the onion family - they will impart an unpleasant flavor to eggs), but why not give chickens the nutrients they need in a treat that helps you bond with your flock?
Chickens love to dig up dust and roll in it. This is one way they keep themselves clean and reasonably free of external parasites. If you don't want to dig a hole in your yard (or have your chickens do it for you!), provide ready-to-use dust for their bathing pleasure.
To prevent boredom (all birds can exhibit behavior problems if they're bored), you may want to consider giving healthy treats like lettuce, cabbage, or other vegetables in toys made especially for chickens.
To make egg gathering easier, we suggest an egg gathering basket and reusable egg cartons to store eggs.
A final word - predators
Chickens are a delicacy for mammals or large carnivorous birds that may roam your neighborhood, so keep chickens locked up in the coop at night. For daylight hours or even for extra protection, consider predator control.
Also, make sure you know where your closest avian or livestock veterinarian is. Search the internet for such a service and keep it handy for emergencies.
Enjoy your chicken keeping!