University of Maryland Extension

Raising Your Home Chicken Flock

 

A successful backyard flock requires sound animal care and management. Good animal care and management includes proper planning, careful management, a biosecurity (disease prevention) plan to control diseases, and a complete and balanced adequate feeding program. The United States Department of Agriculture reported that 7% of all U.S. households own a small flock, with an average size of approximately 49 birds. There are more than 138,000 small backyard flocks in the United States.


Why Have a Small Flock?


A small flock offers the convenience of having layers for fresh eggs or broilers for poultry meat right at home. Often, backyard flocks are a hobby or a learning experience for 4-H or FFA projects. Poultry can be exhibited at county and state fairs and poultry shows. There is also the pleasure of observing different shapes and colors in a backyard flock. Poultry may include chickens (large or small), bantams, geese, ducks, turkeys, game birds and guineas.


Before You Plan a Flock


Always begin with the end in mind. What is your goal? Have fresh eggs, pets, or meat? Teach your child the responsibility of caring for animals? Show birds? Or just enjoy watching and caring for poultry? Check with local, county, state and even federal zoning and environmental regulations as some may prohibit poultry flocks in the area. Zoning regulations are usually specific about animals and environmental considerations, such as flies, odor and noise. Check with your county Extension office or representatives of government agencies for information before planning a flock. Also consider the proximity of your neighbors and their opinions. Good neighbor relations are very important. Home flocks, no matter what the size, require water, food and daily care including weekends, vacations and holidays. The time and effort required for this care should be considered in weighing your desire for a home flock against other possible uses of your time and labor. Caring for a flock is a 24 hour, seven days a week commitment that begins with your first bird.



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