Did you know that Arizona is one of the best places for keeping chickens?
The Grand Canyon State enjoys ideal temperatures ideal for hatching and raising these feathered companions.
If you’re like many beginners, that news makes you want to jump right in. Not so fast.
You need to design or buy your coop. Plan your outdoor space. Plan your flock.
There’s a lot to think about.
The good news? This guide will help. Here’s a detailed guide to how to raise chickens in Arizona.
How Much Space Do You Need to Raise Chickens in AZ?
Chickens require enough space to be happy, healthy and comfortable. Insufficient space will subject your flock to a lot of problems like stress, pecking, parasitic infection and even cannibalism.
The amount of space you need for your chickens includes two areas:
- An indoor space (the coop’s interior)
- An outdoor space where the flock can roam and walk around (called a run).
The indoor space is your chickens’ house. This is where they go in the evening and for shelter from the rain or hot sun. (They’ll get a lot of the latter in Arizona.)
On average, your chickens’ indoor space should be over three square feet per bird. However, this depends on the chicken breeds you’re raising.
Large chicken breeds like Buff Orpington or Lavender Orpington require a minimum size of four square feet per chicken, for example.
If you have opted to raise medium chicken breeds like Sapphire Gem Chicken, you will also need to provide them with a minimum space of four square feet per bird. The same applies to the ISA Brown chicken breed.
On the other hand, small chickens like bantam breeds require just two square feet per chicken. That means if you’re raising 10 chickens, you will need at least 20 square feet for the indoor space.
If you’re early in the process of learning how to raise chickens in Arizona, you should know that the chicken-keeping hobby requires you to apply the concept of chicken math.
Chicken math implies that when raising chickens, you should do it under the assumption that you might add one or two chickens in the future.
So, when setting up your chickens’ coop, you will need to create extra space for them. Applying chicken math when planning your chicken space gives you room for growth.
However, you shouldn’t go “too big” when setting up a coop for your flock. Don’t build something that offers too much space for your birds.
While it’s OK to give some extra square feet to roam, leaving too much space will make it too hard for the coop to stay warm.
(Night temperatures in some parts of Arizona drop slightly below freezing point during winter. So, you will want to consider this when setting up your coop.)
The only time when keeping a big coop becomes a good idea is when you’re planning to expand your flock sooner than later. Otherwise, it’s good to plan for a coop that fits your flock well in the moment.
The Run (Outdoor Space)
Your chickens will spend most of their time in the run. This is the outdoor space where the chickens roam during the day.
Ideally, each of your chickens needs a minimum of 15 square feet of outdoor space. If you have enough space in your backyard, consider giving them more room by not enclosing the run.
(But check your local chicken ordinance to make sure that’s allowed.)
Chicken enthusiasts with large backyard spaces often give each of their chickens at least 25 square feet of outdoor space.
Free-Range or Enclosed Run? How to Decide
You have learned how large the outdoor spaces for your chicken should be. Now, you need to consider the type of run to provide your chicken.
You may choose to give your chickens free-range runs of the field or garden. This might be a good idea because your chickens will be coming home to their roost in the evening once they know where it is.
However, you will need to make them locate the roost first by chasing them down. Besides, beware that allowing them to roam free will expose them to predators like dogs, hawks, foxes and weasels. These animals are active during daylight when chickens are roaming in the garden.
What Are the Best Chicken Breeds to Raise in Arizona?
Arizona is a fairly hot state. While most chicken breeds do well in cold weather, fewer are heat-hardy in extreme heat. Consider this before you start the journey of raising backyard chickens in Arizona.
In short: You need to choose a breed that does well in hot weather.
Some suitable chicken breeds include Easter Eggers, Rhode Island Reds, Australorps and Sussex chickens.
Read on and find more details about the best chicken breeds that do well in Arizona’s climate.
1. Sussex Chickens
Sussex chickens are an excellent dual-purpose breed that is easy to raise, even if you’re a beginner chicken keeper.
The breed is a worthy addition to any chicken coop or backyard.
They are kind and curious, making them an excellent breed for beginner chicken keepers.
These chickens are also suitable for anyone looking for a beautiful breed to expand their flock. If you’re a beginner keeper, these birds will make worthwhile companions due to their pleasant personalities.
Besides, Sussex chickens are prolific layers. They lay between 200 and 350 eggs annually.
Besides efficient laying, Sussex hens produce a decent amount of high-quality white meat.
2. Rhode Island Reds
This breed is perhaps one of the most popular in the world. If you’re a novice keeper learning how to raise chickens in Arizona, you can start with this breed.
Rhode Island Reds are good for beginners for two good reasons:
- They’re prolific meat producers.
- They’re excellent egg layers.
This breed is the easiest to raise because it has minimal care requirements. If you’re a first-time chicken keeper, all you need to keep these hens is a balanced diet and a good coop.
Rhode Island Reds are a relatively hardy breed. They top the list of the best dual-purpose chicken breeds.
Australorps are huge, heavy and beautiful. These feathered hens and roosters are remarkably postured with round breasts and bodies.
A large-sized Black Australorp rooster weighs between 8.5 and 10 pounds. Black Australorps hens weigh between 6.5 and 8 pounds.
Black Australorps are dual-purpose chickens suitable for first-time chicken keepers looking for reliable egg and meat producers.
If you master the art of raising healthy chickens you’ll be able to collect around 200 eggs from this breed annually.
Novice chicken keepers fall in love with Australorps because they are gentle and relatively friendly.
Black Australorps can thrive in both enclosed-run and free-range environments.
4. Naked Neck Chickens
As the name suggests, this breed of chicken lacks feathers on the neck.
They are a good choice for beginner chicken keepers looking for chickens that can withstand the hot weather of Arizona.
These chickens are dependable layers. They can lay between 120 and 150 eggs annually.
Naked Neck chickens offer a great starting point for prospective chicken keepers due to their high growth rate and fast maturity.
And it only takes about three months for these chickens to mature.
First-time chicken keepers like this breed due to the birds’ unmatched instinct for survival that enables them to detect and keep away from predators.
Besides, these birds are docile and social with humans. And they’re hardy when it comes to disease resistance. They can easily live for more than a decade with good care.
5. Buff Orpingtons
Buff Orpingtons are a great starting point for any beginner chicken keeper.
These birds are heavy and fabulous for meat production. They’re also great layers. They lay between 200 and 280 light-brown eggs annually.
Docile and friendly, Buff Orpingtons are a favorite among families with young children.
Buff Orpingtons tolerate cold temperatures due to their heavy feathering. That means they’ll do just fine in those desert winters and nights. But make sure to keep them cool on particularly hot days.
How to Feed Your Chickens
Chickens require different feed formulations at different stages of development. Chicken feed stores in Arizona sell feeds with all nutrients your chickens require.
While you may be tempted to assemble your own homemade feeds, it’s not generally a good idea. Imprecise calculations and the wrong ingredients can affect the growth of young chickens.
And that can affect egg and meat production.
Here is a general guideline on how to feed your chickens:
Starter Feed (Day 1 to 18 Weeks)
Chicks aged between 1 day and 18 weeks need starter crumbles (starter feed). These feeds contain 20% protein. This is the highest percentage of protein a layering hen will ever consume.
Layer Feed (18 Weeks and Above)
You should transition your chicks to layer feed at 18 weeks. Don’t feed layer feeds to chickens younger than 18 weeks unless your vet says otherwise.
(Layer feed contains calcium that can permanently damage the kidneys of young chicks. Besides, it can reduce lifetime egg production.)
Layer feed is available in most co-ops and farm supply stores in Arizona. It’s commonly available in pellets, crumbles and mash forms. Pellets are the largest, while the mash is the smallest.
Generally, layer feed contains around 17% protein. Also, it has added calcium necessary for creating strong eggshells and bones.
Factors to Consider Before Raising Chickens in Arizona
If you’re thinking about raising chickens to produce meat and eggs in your own backyard, here are four factors you need to consider before you start.
1. Is Raising Chickens Allowed in Your Area?
In areas like Phoenix, chicken keepers have faced nuisance and zoning problems after neighbors complained about odor and noise.
They say that crowing roosters and clucking hens are too noisy and should not be allowed near homes.
In some areas, there are limits to the number of chickens you can keep. For instance, in Tucson, you can’t keep more than 24 chickens in your backyard.
Before rearing chickens, check on whether your city, county or subdivision allows poultry farming.
2. Do You Have Enough Space?
If you’re just learning how to raise chickens in Arizona, know that you can’t raise chicks in a condo or apartment. Chickens need a sizable yard to live in.
They need a space where they can find bugs and worms to eat and roam around outdoors.
3. Proper Housing
You can’t raise chickens without proper housing. You need to enclose them in a coop at night and let them run outside during the day.
You should set up a well-structured coop to keep out predators like raccoons, coyotes and bobcats.
Some rodents like squirrels will find their way into your backyard if it’s not properly fenced. Once they do, they’ll eat your chickens’ feeds and eggs and even hurt your chicks.
4. Where Do You Buy Them?
You can buy chickens either from local feed stores or online. However, it’s better to visit local feed stores because they know so much about chickens.
Besides, they can advise you on what to buy and when.
If you’re raising chickens for the first time, consider buying just three chickens to start. You can mix the breeds if you like.
You may spend a lot of time, effort and money raising your chickens. But this is a hobby that comes with many benefits:
- A steady supply of fresh, healthy eggs
- Great fertilizer for gardening
- Healthy white meat
- A lovely (but maybe surprising to some) pet
The benefits of raising chickens in your backyard are endless. Just ask anyone who already raises them.
Now you know how to raise chickens in Arizona. All that’s left is to get started. Have fun!