Raising Chickens in your Backyard: a sustainable food source

Practicing permaculture & homesteading for urbanites: farming chicks, building a chicken coop, collecting hen's eggs.
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  • Lectures 14
  • Length 1.5 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English, captions
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 7/2015 English Closed captions available

Course Description

Note: Now fully closed captioned.

Are you ready for chickens?  How do you know if you even want chickens?  What do you need to know, and what questions do you ask?  How do you make the decision?

How do you get set up for chickens?  How quickly do they grow up?  When will they lay eggs?  How do you take care of them?  How messy will they be?

In many parts of the world, people wouldn't think of not having chickens!  They've been our companion animals for thousands of years, and no longer resemble their wild cousins.  But as we moved into cities, we lost our way and forgot to bring our fowl friends with us.  Factory farms produce our eggs, ship them in bulk into stores where we buy dozens of sterilized uniform sized and colored eggs completely disconnected from the miraculous and amazing animals that created them.

Now many of us have moved back out of the cities and we're starting to pick up our ancestors wisdom and bring chickens back. Raising chickens is easy, and it makes sense for some families.  I raise chickens for their eggs, and some backyard farmers are even raising their own chickens for meat. As the world goes through a variety of changes, knowing our food suppliers has become an issue.  We can practice some small farming techniques by raising our own small flock of chickens.

Each hen provides 12 to 20 DOZEN eggs a year, for at least 3 years, depending on breed.

In this course, I take you on a behind-the-scenes look at real chickens and having a real life with chickens. I've decided to narrate while you watch my flock through most of the course, and I'm going to air all their dirty laundry.

What are some of the benefits of raising chickens?

  • They turn bugs (ticks, cutworms, mosquitoes) & weeds (grass, poison ivy, dandelion flowers) into eggs
  • Overnight composting machines -- their diet is very close to a human diet, they eat my un-popped popcorn kernels, leftovers that are a little too old, toaster crumbs, etc.
  • You get an Easter egg hunt every day!  My 13 hens are routinely giving me 7-9 eggs every day in the spring.
  • Plenty of opportunities for good exercise: walking around, lifting 50# bags of chicken feed and 40# bags of scratch feeds
  • You can save on TV: Watching chickens is much more fun that watching the news
  • And they help with relaxation - watching animals, especially baby animals, raises your endorphins & oxytocin levels. They're also a good focus for mindfulness meditations.

Come join the party!

About me & my chickens: I free-range my 17 chickens on the outskirts of an upstate NY city on a 1.3 acre rented home plot. I'm a single mom, with 2 college-age kids living at home, and I handle the vast majority of the chicken duties by myself.

Note: This course includes a small number of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects, which are entirely optional and only comprise a small portion of the course materials. They are rough guidelines and ideas for things you can do with upcycled or inexpensive materials that will save you money, time, or enhance your chicken experience. The projects may require tools, supplies, and some experience in handling them, or a friend or neighbor who is willing to help you out. But they are all entirely optional, and you are responsible for your own safety.

What are the requirements?

  • Bring your curiosity and a sense of humor to the course.
  • Understand that there are different ways to farm, and this course is not about judging what's right or wrong for anyone else, just figuring out what is right for you.
  • An initial investment in a backyard flock can be anywhere from making do with what you have and buying some feed and making your own feeders and waterers from recycled materials for a rescued flock, through to purchasing a spacious and luxurious barn for show-worthy purebreeds.
  • If you want to do the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects, which are entirely optional and only a small portion of the course materials, you may need tools, supplies, and some experience in handling them, or a friend or neighbor who is willing to help you out. Most projects use supplies that are inexpensive or upcycle used items. Raising chickens shouldn't be expensive.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • You will learn general information on ease of care, and creating your chicken lifestyle.
  • You will be able to decide how many chickens you need for your family's needs, and whether or not to have a rooster.
  • You will understand the life cycles of chickens, their habits, normal behaviors, and have your expectations set for raising chickens.
  • You will learn to recognize normal healthy chicken behavior, and some of the problems that you may face.
  • You will learn the key chicken coop factors to look for to house and protect your new flock.
  • You will have assistance in balancing the decisions you need to make to start raising chickens while still maintaining an acceptable lifestyle.

Who is the target audience?

  • You have been considering starting your own flock of chickens, but you want more information.
  • You think you may have the space needed to raise chickens.
  • You are ready to have more control over your food supply.
  • You want real information from someone who is raising a small flock in their backyard.
  • You are fed-up with trying to filter through excessive online information on raising chickens.
  • You have someone to take care of the chickens if you are out of town, late coming home from work, or you have an emergency.
  • Your local regulations allow you to raise chickens.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Before you get (more) Chickens

Why should you be interested in this course? Who is the right student?

Music "Midsummer Sky" Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech-dot-com. Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


More information to set the tone for the course, give the scope of the course and some of my background.


The early life of a chicken. Some of the developmental milestones and behaviors you can expect from chicks until they're "weaned".


Behaviors of "pre-teen" chicks. From weaning (around 8 weeks) to laying eggs (18 weeks).


Covered in this lecture:

  • The egg-laying cycles of the pullet & hen.
  • Broody behaviors.
  • Setting nests from the hen's perspective.
  • Growing old.

An overview of the significant benefits roosters bring to your flock to balance out the loud crowing. Also covers rooster behaviors.

2 questions

Just testing the most important points in the lectures.

Section 2: Housing Issues

Overview of this section. Honorable mentions: Should you buy or build a coop? Whether to keep birds "cooped up" or let them out.


What do you need when you first get your chickens? Do you need to have a coop before you hatch or get chicks? How many coops do you need? Different types of shelters for different purposes.


A run-down of different features that a coop needs, such as roosts, food, water, nest boxes, ventilation, security features, etc.

Section 3: Chicken Care & Feeding

Henrietta, my cover image model and favorite 3 year old hen, basically ignores me while I use her as an anatomy model for our next lesson.

Section 4: DIY With Chickens

Many flockmasters swear by dangling shiny objects around the property to deter hawks. Apparently they also can deter other wild birds and critters. I take you through making your own -- it's a quick and easy project if you happen to have old AOL CDs or old software CDs you no longer need.


  • Many pairs of useless CDs
  • drill
  • A 3/16" drill bit (preferably an auger bit, it has a self-piloting tip to avoid cracking the CD) or a bit that will allow your CD to swing freely on the cable ties
  • a package of cable ties, any color or length
  • twine or acrylic yarn
  • scissors or yarn snips
  • Someplace sturdy & safe to drill into (a piece of scrap wood, for example)
  • safety goggles
  • broom or shop-vac to clean up - this project leaves long nasty strings of CD plastic around -- you don't want your chickens to eat it.

If you're not familiar with handling tools, please take extra caution. In any case, I'm not responsible for your safety. You can try this project with someone who has experience in safely handling a drill, etc. This lecture is only to convey ideas for how you can create something similar, feel free to use your discretion, knowledge and skill.


Depending on the size of the buckets and the size of your chickens, these food-safe containers can be modified into inexpensive portable nest boxes that accommodate laying and even setting hens. Recommended for small and medium breeds.


  • Icing container from supermarket or grocery store's bakery department, washed and dried
  • a lid with gasket that securely fits the icing container, washed and thoroughly dried
  • scrap wood (2x2, 2x4, plywood or shelving)
  • 6-8 screws deep enough to secure wood scraps to the shelving or plywood
  • a pilot drill bit
  • a razor knife, or linoleum knife, sharp enough to easily cut the container lid
  • measuring tape
  • drill
  • saw (circular saw or table saw preferred)
  • straight-edge, t-square, square, or some other way to draw straight guide lines

If you're not familiar with handling tools, please take extra caution. In any case, I'm not responsible for your safety. You can try this project with someone who has experience in safely handling a drill, saw, etc. This lecture is only to convey ideas for how you can create something similar, feel free to use your discretion, knowledge and skill.

Section 5: Decisions

A general reminder of the choices you can make about how you deal with chickens, how you set up your flock, and so on -- so that you can minimize your chicken habit's impact on your lifestyle.


This lecture is optional!

Chickens are a livestock animal, and while we can treat them as pets and some are quite friendly, there's a certain responsibility I feel a need to explain regarding the life and death of chickens. Culling is the act of selecting & removing birds from your flock for any reason, and by any method. Rehoming and slaughter are discussed.

Warning: I'm discussing death in this lecture. I'm trying to keep it matter-of-fact, with only the essential details.

Transcript is available as a lecture resource.

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Instructor Biography

Criss Ittermann, Owner, Coach & Adventurer - The Eclectic Tech

Writer Criss Ittermann is a revolutionary brainstormer and some people call her a "Renaissance Woman." In addition to an uncanny ability to come up with novel ideas, Criss has skills from computer repair and programming through graphic design, holistic healing, American Sign Language, writing and sculpting, and a wide range of experience in the small business world.

With keen perception and thorough processing, Criss can quickly take in and evaluate disparate information and come to unconventional conclusions. Whether she asks uncanny questions that provoke new ways of thinking, or she produces an unorthodox solution from her mental machinery, you can be certain that the ideas Criss produces will create subtle but important change.

When you want someone with an adventurous attitude to encourage you to solve your problem puzzles, ground-breaking ideas to bring a big difference to make you stand out in a crowd, or fresh solutions to age-old headaches, talk to Criss.

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