Supplies You Need for Keeping Chickens

Everything You Need to Know to Get Started Keeping Chickens

Group of hens (Gallus gallus domesticus) crowded around feeder in farmyard, Ross-shire, Scotland
Iain Sarjeant/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Chickens don't need many supplies to keep them happy and healthy. Chickens and other poultry are often one of the first farm animals for beginning farmers. They're easy to care for and don't require a lot of specialized attention. With these supplies, you'll have happy, healthy laying hens or meat birds. Find them at your local feed store or online.

Waterer and Feeder

Check out hanging waterers and feeders; these prevent the birds from roosting on them and keep the contents free of shavings and poop.

You'll need 4 hanging feeders or 300" of trough space per 100 birds. For waterers, aim for 96" of trough per 100 birds. For large numbers of birds, look into an automatic waterer system.

Feed

Feed stores sell different feeds for the various stages in chickens' lives. There will be a "chick starter," fed for varying amounts of time depending on the feed manufacturer. There is a higher-protein layer feed for laying hens. For birds raised solely for meat consumption, a "grower/broiler" and sometimes "finisher" feed is used. Organic and conventional feeds are available. You can also make your own chicken feed.

Scratch

Scratch is a combination of grains such as corn, oats, wheat and rye. There's also plain cracked corn, which chickens love. Scratch is a nice "treat" for your flock -- just scatter some on the ground and they'll scratch through it with their feet and eat it.

Grit

Some feeds have grit included, but if you feed your hens your kitchen scraps (and you should!), or even scratch grains, they'll need grit.

Grit is simply small stones that the birds store in their crop to help them break down food. If your birds have access to a gravel driveway or other source of small stones or sand, you don't need to supplement with grit.

Bedding

Pine shavings, straw, and hay are all potential bedding choices for your chickens.

It's really a matter of personal preference, cost, and availability. Some folks feel that straw or hay can encourage insects and lice to breed more than pine shavings.