When you’re getting started with chickens, one of the first things you need to do is ensure you have all the supplies your flock needs.
The good news is, the basics are pretty straightforward. We’re giving you the lowdown on the must-haves and a few optional extras.
Must-Have Supplies for Raising Chickens
The following items are absolutely necessary for raising a happy flock…so don’t skimp on these supplies for your new chooks.
1. A Chicken Coop (The Essential Supply for Raising Chickens)
A shelter for your chickens is definitely a no-brainer. But what you might need to hear is that it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, some of the safest, most functional, chicken coops are made from repurposed materials.
The only things you need to be sure of are:
- That no predators can get in and kill your chickens
- That your chickens are protected from the elements
- There is proper ventilation
Other than that, your coop can be made from anything you’d like. So feel free to go all out or get a little thrifty when planning your first chicken coop. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the hardware cloth!
2. Bedding for Your Chickens
Hand-in-hand with your chicken coop is the bedding you use inside the chicken coop. The purpose of having a layer of bedding on the bottom of the coop is so their droppings don’t sit on the floor of the coop. When they sit on top of bedding, they dry out faster and are easier to remove. We recommend using straw, pine shavings, sand or even dried leaves.
And as a word of caution, never use cedar shavings (the fumes can be toxic to chickens).
You may also wish to try a product that speeds up drying and reduces odors and ammonia in the coop. We recommend Sweet PDZ Coop Refresher, and have featured it in our monthly supply boxes for chicken keepers.
3. Chicken Specific Feeders
If you imagine completing your morning chores by tossing corn to your chickens in the yard, think again because chickens need containers for their feed.
You see, chickens pick up parasites, or coccidia, from eating food straight off the ground in their coop or yard. This is because they also poop in their yard, and that’s exactly how parasites get passed from one chicken to another…by inadvertently eating feces (among other things).
Feeders also keep chicken food clean and dry. Plus, they prevent your soon-to-be chooks from scratching their feed all over the coop, making it inedible, and just plain undesirable.
We use this Harris Farms plastic feeder in the Henny+Roo coop, and love that it can be hung from the rafters. This prevents the chickens from being able to use their claws to scratch food onto the floor, saving feed. It’s also very easy to fill from the top.
4. Waterers that Work for Chickens
Just like containers for chicken feed, waterers are simply non-negotiable when it comes to supplies for raising chickens.
Chickens need water available at all times, but especially in hot weather or when being fed dried insects, like mealworms.
Founts made specifically for chickens are our recommendation because they’re made to keep dirt, feed, and droppings out of the water (ensuring it’s fresh and clean for your chickens).
We have used this Harris Farms waterer for a while, and like it because you can fill it from the top. Many waterers require you to fill it upside down, attach the base, then flip it over and hope water doesn’t get everywhere, or the base doesn’t fall off completely. The nipple attachments reduce leaking and keep the water cleaner.
Consider a heated waterer if you live in cold climates so that your flock always has access to water when the temperatures are below freezing.
5. The Right Feed for Your Chicken Breeds
While it’s not a bad idea to mix your own chicken feed, as a beginner, it’s simply easier (and most likely cost-effective) to rely on the ready-made formulations.
You can rest easy knowing your chickens are getting the nutrition they need from feed created by the professionals.
So if you’re raising layer hens, make sure you grab the layer-specific feed because it has the right nutrients to help support strong, delicious, eggs.
On the other hand, if you’re raising meat chickens, look for feed labeled for raising meat birds.
Chicks have their own special feed as well. Be sure to read the labels to determine when to switch young chickens from chick feed to layer feed.
A feed that we are excited to try is Chicken Layer Love from EL CU Animal Nutrition. Chicken Layer Love is for egg-producing hens and is a complete, natural and sustainable feed containing all of the nutrients your flock needs, along with the mealworms and dried black fly larvae that they love. If you’d like to try this for your flock, click the link above and use code HENNYANDROO at checkout to save 5%!
6. Nesting Boxes
If you want to have clean eggs (and be able to find them) then you’ll need nesting boxes for your layer hens. Hens prefer dark, clean, well-protected spaces to lay their eggs. Each hen does not need their own nesting box, but you should have enough to reduce any drama. We’re not sure about your chickens, but ours have a favorite nesting box and usually bicker over it, even though it’s identical to the others! It’s recommended that you have one nesting box for every 4-5 chickens.
You can purchase ready-made nesting boxes or simply DIY them! Pinterest is a great place to look for nesting box and design ideas for inside the coop. We use these Miller Wall Mounted Nesting Boxes because they are easy to remove and clean.
7. Grit for Great Digestion
Grit is a finely ground, hard substance that chickens consume in order to digest their food properly. It sits in their crop and grinds food so that their bodies can more easily absorb nutrients. So while it might seem like an optional add-on, it’s a necessity for happy healthy chickens. Some chickens are able to get enough grit in the form of tiny rocks or coarse sand if they free range. If not, make grit available to the birds anytime in a separate container than their food. They will eat as much as they need, when they need it. Grit for chickens can be found at your local feed store or online. We like Poultry Grit from our friends at MannaPro.
8. Dust Baths
Dust baths are often overlooked when it comes to chicken-keeping supplies. But the truth is, dust baths aren’t just a luxury item for your chickens. They’re also a way for chickens to naturally prevent external parasites, control their body oils, and kick boredom to the curb during long winter months.
You can make your own dust bathing area by providing a corner in the run that has loose soil, fine sand, or even wood ash. The dust bath material does not necessarily have to be in a container, but if it does, you can build it out of wood, or provide an inexpensive shallow plastic bin. It should be large enough to allow your chicken to lie in, spread their wings and flick dust over their whole body.
There are commercial products you may wish to place in your dust bath area if dry soil is not available, such as Lixit Chicken Dust Bath.
Optional (But Good-to-Have Chicken Supplies)
The following items aren’t necessary, but they’re definitely helpful to have. With that being said, don’t worry about stocking up on these things until you’ve got the basics covered.
Oyster Shells – Great source of calcium (not a replacement for grit because it’s soluble)
Treats- To treat your chickens and add some extra protein try XXXXX
Swings – Who doesn’t love chicken swings?
Apple Cider Vinegar – Add to water biweekly for added immune support
Nesting Box Herbs – Henny+Roo’s Coop Complete Dried Herbs can be sprinkled on the coop floor, nesting boxes and dust bathing area to repel pests and calm chickens. All of the selected herbs are safe if ingested, are thought to have health benefits, and are GMO-free with no added chemicals or preservatives. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly and add weekly or whenever bedding is changed.
Spray for Lice and Mites – Keep on hand in case of an external parasite outbreak
Diatomaceous Earth – Great to dust coop with between cleanings to kill external parasites
The point is not to get overwhelmed when you start raising your chickens. Because, in truth, chickens are pretty content when their basic needs are met. Once you know you’ve got everything you need to raise happy healthy chickens, don’t be afraid to add-on some extras, just for fun.
Henny+Roo Monthly Supply Boxes for Chicken Keepers
Chicken keepers ourselves, we would never include an item in our monthly supply boxes that doesn’t get our flock’s cluck of approval. You’ll find that we put a great deal of thought, research and time into the selections for each box.
We will help you build your chicken emergency kit, try new treats that your chickens will love, learn more about how to care for your animals with books and magazines, and enjoy chicken-themed gifts, cooking items, and other goodies. It’s the only way we know to truly surprise yourself with a gift – one that supports your favorite hobby.
Henny+Roo boxes make the perfect gift for the chicken keeper in your life (even if that’s you!). Show your loved one that you love their chickens too by purchasing a subscription or something from our Shop.