Many chicken breeds are perfectly suited for backyard flocks. Choosing the right breed for your backyard flock solely depends on the poultry keeper’s needs. Chicken breeds can be divided into two basic categories: birds for meat and birds for eggs. Also certain chicken breeds can boast milder temperaments, which are typically better suited for families with small children who would interact with the birds.
For choosing a chicken breed for your backyard flock, the poultry experts at Smallholder Magazine advise the following:
“All breeds and types of hen produce nutritionally the same eggs, either smaller in the case of bantams or larger for certain breeds. Whether they are white, brown, khaki or blue, it makes no difference to the nutritional contents. Some pure breeds lay better than others and within the pure breed there are so called ‘laying strains’ that produce more eggs than other birds of that breed. For sheer reliability on laying eggs, choose hybrids. There are some delightful back yard hybrids now such as the attractive ‘Bluebell’ and the ‘Speckled’ that lays light brown eggs but I’ve kept both hybrids and purebreds for years and both types of bird have delightful personalities.” 
To find more information on breeds and to find information on breeders and hatcheries, refer to a Poultry Association in your area.
To find a breed, contact a hatchery within your country or region. As an alternative to buying eggs and adult birds from a hatchery, one can purchase eggs or birds directly from poultry keepers. Often smallholders trade and sell chickens after laying season. To find birds for trade or sale, refer to poultry classifieds websites.
In order for eggs to hatch, they must stay at a constant temperature. The optimal temperature for chicken eggs is 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Humidity is also essential for an egg to hatch. Chicken eggs are typically kept at 58-60% humidity for the first 18 days. During the last days of incubation, chicken eggs usually sit in 65% humidity.  That constant temperature can be provided by natural incubation via a brooding hen or artificial incubation via an incubator. The incubation of chicken eggs takes about 21 days. 
Brooding is the act of a hen sitting on eggs to incubate them. At a certain age, hens begin to exhibit brooding behavior. Certain chicken breeds exhibit broodier behavior than other breeds—these birds are often categorized as meat birds. Strong brooding behavior has been bred out of chicken breeds that are classified as egg-laying breeds.
On average, hens lay about ten eggs before beginning to brood.  Once the brooding behavior begins, all eggs begin to incubate at the same time and are able to complete the incubation period at the same. This is the reason why eggs, though laid at different times, hatch around the same time.
To facilitate brooding behavior, poultry keepers often separate the brooding hens from the rest of the hens. Brooding hens are often kept in brooders, which offer more comfort and peace.
When hens begin to brood they sit for long periods only taking breaks to eat and drink, they cluck when moved, they take others’ eggs and inanimate objects to sit on.
Humidity, constant heat, and turning are required to artificially incubate eggs. Before being put into an incubator, eggs can be kept up to seven days in a cool, humid environment. Before inserting eggs into an incubator, they should be warmed to room temperature gradually. “Abrupt warming from 55 degrees to 100 degrees [Fahrenheit] causes moisture condensation on the egg shell that leads to disease and reduced hatches,” says Dr. Tom W. Smith, Emeritus Professor of Poultry Science at Mississippi State University. 
Eggs can be incubated without an electric incubator. However manually maintaining the humidity and temperature can be difficult, while electric incubators accurately control humidity and temperature.
To produce healthy chicks, Dr. Tom W. Smith advises the following:
“Avoid excessively large or small eggs. Large eggs hatch poorly and small eggs produce small chicks. Avoid eggs with cracked or thin shells. These eggs have difficulty retaining moisture needed for proper chick development. Penetration of disease organisms increase in cracked eggs. […] Slightly soiled eggs can be used for hatching purposes without causing hatching problems, but dirty eggs should not be saved. Do not wash dirty eggs.” Washing dirty eggs or rubbing with a cloth allows the introduction of bacteria and diseases into the egg’s fine porous shell. 
Eggs should be turned about 3-5 times a day. Inadequate turning can lead to misshapen chicks as the embryo could stick to the side of an egg. To help keep track of turning, eggs can be pencil-marked with an X on one end, and an O on the other.
The bird’s age, breed, and molting period determines its ability to lay eggs. Certain chicken breeds were bred to reduce the demonstration of brooding behavior and increase laying. If a poultry keeper wants to keep chicken for eggs, it is important to choose a chicken breed that demonstrates high levels of egg production.
To increase egg production, brooding behavior must be reduced. When an egg-laying hen demonstrates brooding behavior, the hen can be separated from the rest of the flock and placed in hen house without a nest. In this way, sitting on a nest is discouraged.
Poultry scientist Dan L. Cunningham at the University of Georgia says that “Removing the hens from visual and physical stimulations provided by nest and nesting material will help discourage this behavior. In addition, it will help prevent producing hens from observing and adopting the broody behavior of their flock mates. The hens should be held in this isolation pen for seven to 10 days before moving them back to the laying pen.” 
Longer days, or extended periods of light, encouraging egg laying. Hens naturally lay more eggs during seasons with longer days. As the days shorten, hens begin to demonstrate broodier behavior. During these shorter days, after the natural breeding season, chickens begin to molt their feathers. Since molting requires a lot of energy, chickens decrease their egg production. To maintain normal egg production, chickens require around 12-14 hours of light, which can be provided artificially when days naturally become shorter. 
A pullet (a female chicken less than one years old) which is choosen to become an egg-laying hen should have a diet that consists of 12-16% protein. Adult egg-laying hens should have a diet high in calcium and minerals.  Nutritional diseases can occur in egg-laying hens if they aren’t provided with an adequate diet. Poultry scientist Claudia Dunkley at the University of Georgia says that “rickets, CLF [cage layer fatigue], and FLS [fatty liver syndrome] are nutritional diseases that affect laying hens and can account for a high percentage of the flock mortality. The laying hens’ diet is specifically formulated to be nutritionally complete, however, the occurrences of these diseases are prevalent especially in hens in high production and the mortality rate in flocks can be high.” 
The size of backyard housing for chickens depends on the method in which they are kept. If chickens are allowed to roam large garden spaces or open land and are only kept in the housing at night for protection, during egg-laying and brooding, and during poor weather, then smaller hen houses are suitable. However, if chickens are kept within the hen houses for most of the time, the housing must be significantly larger to allow for nesting, wing flapping, running, scratching and other natural chicken behavior.
Poultry expert and author Jeremy Hobson says, “If you intend to keep your chickens intensively, a house measuring 1.5 m x 2 m (5 ft x 7 ft) should be sufficient for six hens; if a run is attached it will accommodate 12 birds. For these sorts of numbers, a combined house and run area of 5 sq m (6 sq yd) per bird is adequate, although much will depend on whether you are keeping bantams, light large fowl or any of the extremely heavy breeds as Croad Langshans or Brahmas.” 
For various situations, extra space that’s separated from the main hen house is essential for maintaining a backyard flock. Common situations which require extra hen houses include separating brooding hens from egg-laying hens to discourage brooding behavior, separating brooding hens from the flock to encourage brooding behavior, separating cockerels and roosters from female chickens, quarantining sick birds, training show birds for the exhibitor’s booth, separating new birds in order to gradually introduce them to the flock and pecking order, and so forth.
Various types of chicken houses are offered by retailers, including hen houses, chicken coops, chicken arcs, and chicken runs. These types of chicken housing can be permanent or moveable.
Housing should include nesting boxes or other types of nest material for hens to encourage egg-laying and brooding and to offer comfort and warmth. Sand or wood chips can be used for underground material. Ventilation and heat retention are important characteristics of chicken housing.
There are various ways and various products to feed your backyard chickens.
Chickens are omnivores. They can enjoy a diet of seeds, grains, leaves, and insects. Chickens also eat small animals like lizards and mice. They naturally scratch or forage for food. Chickens raised in backyards are often fed commercially produced feeds, which are sold in pellets, mash, or crumbs. This feed usually consists of corn, grains, oat, soybeans, grit (which is ground oyster shell or limestone), and poultry vitamin supplements. Young chickens, both male and female, require more protein for sufficient growth and development.
Chickens can be hand-fed, in order to control quantities. Alternatively feeding can be conducted with a feeder, a container which holds the feed for the birds. The feed can be distributed in limited quantities for a certain number of feeding times throughout the day, or the feed can be available in unlimited quantities which would be available at all times. When poultry keepers hand-feed or fill feeders with limited quantities, feeding is always conducted during daylight.
Age, breed, size, and purpose (egg source, meat source, fancy or show birds) determines the type and amount of feed needed. To obtain accurate tips on feeding your breed, get in contact with the hatchery or farmer which provided the chicken, or get in contact with a poultry association or poultry breed club in your region.
Chickens are often hailed by urban dwellers, families, and smallholders because of the benefits they offer.
The benefits of poultry keeping which are typically cited include: offers enjoyment and relaxation; acts as source of fresh, healthy meat and eggs; provides entertainment and education for children. As pets, chickens are relatively inexpensive to maintain compared to other popular pets. And as a hobby, poultry keeping can create an extra source of income, by way of eggs, meat and bird sales or prize money from show birds.
Garden BenefitsBackyard flocks offer more benefits beyond those listed above. Poultry keepers often note that chickens are great for gardens. Chickens, which scratch for insects and occasionally eat lizards and mice, offer insect and small pest control. Chickens often eat leaves and can therefore offer weed control in flower beds or grassy lawns. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen and can serve as a nutritious independent fertilizer or a balanced addition to compost mix. Chickens’ natural scratching behavior is also helpful for turning and aerating the soil.
Poultry keepers must first determine if they are legally able to keep poultry.
Laws regarding poultry keeping are determined by state and territory. In some cases, local councils have create bylaws that amend the state laws. City councils should be able to offer the most accurate and up-to-date regulations on poultry keeping.
Laws regarding poultry keeping are determined by bylaws issued by city.
Within the UK, keeping more than 50 chickens are considered a commercial venture however. In this case, the flock must be registered with the GB Poultry Register. For a flock with less than 50 chickens, there are no nationwide restrictions. However individual properties may have covenants which provide an obstacle to poultry keeping, and local councils may have by-laws which prevent keeping poultry on a specific property. 
For information on city ordinances on poultry keeping within the United States, refer to Backyard Chicken’s LORE Database.
First determine if you are legally able to keep poultry.
Then determine your purpose for keeping poultry in order to select a breed. For egg-laying hens, select breeds that are productive egg layers. For meat birds, select breeds that have been cultivated for game. For show birds, select a standard, game or exotic breeds that are recognized in local, regional, and national competitions. Acquire the show bird from a breeder who will be able to provide a bird that is bred to closely match poultry standards. For children’s education, select breeds with calm temperaments, and possibly choose to buy eggs that can be incubated. For lesson on incubation and hatching, it’s advisable to use an incubator as opposed to a brooding hen, since disturbing a brooding hen for lessons cause the animal stress.
After determining the breed and quantities of chickens you want to have, find out if there are any local ordinances or laws which prevent certain quantities and types of poultry or certain types of chicken housing. Keep in mind that the size of your breed and the quantity of chickens you intend to keep will determine the size of your chicken housing.
If you plan to buy eggs from a hatchery be sure to invest in a incubator. Or if you plan on incubating without a machine, be sure to purchase materials that will provide adequate humidity and warmth. Also be sure to check out resources on incubating.
Purchase or create the type of hen housing that is suitable for your new flock and is in line with local ordinances.
Once you’ve prepared for the hatching and housing of your new chicks (or simply housing if you plan acquire adult chickens), get in contact with local associations and clubs for advice on how to raise and feed your specific breed of chicken. After receiving advice, gather all the materials needed to provide and administer a balanced diet for your chicks or chicken. Such materials include, but are not limited to the following: feed, drinkers, and waterers.
Finally locate a hatchery or poultry keeper who is interested in selling or trading eggs or chickens, and get your chickens.
Once you’ve gone set up a home for your backyard flock and you’ve arranged to get your first chickens, it’s important to learn about healthcare, grooming, and maintaining the general wellbeing of your animals throughout their lives.
In order to prevent sicknesses and diseases, domesticated chickens require housing that is warm, hygienic, and well-ventilated, as well as a diet that is balanced.
An imbalanced diet can lead to poultry diseases like rickets, cage layer fatigue, and fatty liver syndrome. 
External pests can affect the health of chickens. Lice and mites are common pests that can afflict a backyard flock. Chickens can naturally inhibit developing a pest problem by bathing in dry, loose dirt or dust. For birds that have been afflicted by external parasites, chemical insecticides can be used for treatment. 
Other common poultry diseases include avian influenza, breast blister, bumblefoot, coccidiosis, crazy chick disease, crop impaction, Marek’s disease, mycotoxicosis, and internal parasites.
Chicken Coop Basics Chicken coops must provide shelter and protection for the animals. Coops must be big enough for the chickens to live comfortably by allowing them room to flap... read more
Poultry supplies are essential to breeders, hobbyists, smallholders, and complete beginners to poultry keeping. Poultry supplies including incubators, hen houses, drinkers, feeders, cages, and pens are important to all levels of... read more
South Australian Poultry Association http://www.sapoultryassoc.org.au/ The South Australian Poultry Association consists of a number of clubs committed to the promotion of pure breeds of poultry as a vibrant, exciting and... read more
The following tips on aspects of small scale or backyard poultry should only be used as a guide. Poultry Hub accepts no responsibility for persons who use this information to grow or... read more
This unique presentation shows the fundamental structure and anatomy of the chicken
Now released in the App Store. Developed by the Poultry CRC. Have fun while learning about what makes a good egg.
Download for free in Australia
These lists contain organisations and individuals associated with the Australian poultry industry