Raising backyard poultry requires commitment

Because you asked
Lisa Stewart, Extension
County Director
Webster County

I am interested in starting a home flock. What do I need to do?

Maintaining a small flock of poultry can be a rewarding experience
and is an excellent venture for a small or part-time farmer. People
keep backyard flocks for many reasons – for meat or eggs, as a hobby
for adults or children, or perhaps for show and exhibition.

Backyard poultry can supplement family food supplies, and small
producers may choose to sell their products to niche markets. These
can include brown eggs, free-range meat and eggs, live birds for the
increasing number of ethnic markets, and organic meat and eggs.
Whatever the reason, if you are considering managing a backyard
flock, you must be aware that raising poultry requires time, labor
and money.

Birds need care seven days a week, including weekends and holidays.
Before you buy any birds, be sure you are willing and able to give
that care. Also, do your homework, starting with research and planning.

Choosing a breed or breeds is an important next step. You must decide
if you want meat chickens, egg chickens, or a combination. A fast-
growing strain of Cornish-type broiler is recommended for meat
production. If your goal is egg production, then small egg-type
strains, such as White Leghorn strains, are recommended for white
eggs. However, these birds are lightweight, weighing 3.5 to 4 pounds
at maturity, and are not a good choice for meat. The greatest expense
of raising chickens is the cost of feed. However, incomplete or
unbalanced rations reduce performance and may result in nutritional
disease. Therefore, it is not economical to feed an unbalanced diet.
Always provide high-quality, commercially prepared feeds to your
birds. The type of feed recommended varies with the specific age and
use of the bird. The multipurpose birds discussed in this publication
require a starter ration from day one to six weeks of age. Expect to
feed at least 4 pounds of starter feed per bird during this six-week
period.

Raising backyard poultry can be a rewarding experience. As a family
project, it offers the opportunity for parents and children to spend
quality time together and teaches about other living creatures. It
can also provide your family with a source of high-quality food and
possibly some added income.

However, it carries with it a great deal of responsibility – not only
for daily care and safe-keeping of your flock, but also doing your
part to keep all other flocks in the area safe as well. Do your
homework before you start and understand the commitment you are
making. But most of all have fun and enjoy the experience.

For more information call the Extension office at 662-258-3871 and
ask for Publication 2768 Managing the Backyard Flock.

This column is made up of questions presented to the Webster County
Extension Service. Please get in touch in person or by phone
(258.3971) or e-mail (lisas@ext.msstate.edu) if you have questions
you would like to see discussed here.