Homeowners in Florida take pride in raising their chickens. If you want to become one of those backyard chicken enthusiasts, you’re going to need to do some preparation.
The good news: The conditions in Florida make it ideal for backyard chickens.
The fact that most cities in Florida allow an unlimited number of chickens in your backyard is a huge help, too.
If you are planning to raise chickens in Florida, you’re in the right place. Check out the comprehensive guide below.
Why Should You Raise Chickens?
There is a lot to enjoy about raising chickens in your Florida backyard.
Eggs are a household staple for many families — and eggs from your backyard are fresher and tastier than those bought in stores. They’re also great for baking.
You can toss chicken poop and eggshells into a compost pile to make manure.
And you don’t have to do too much once your coop and run are established — the birds entertain themselves most of the day. They pick at worms, grass, and beetles.
Oh, and here’s a big bonus for raising chickens in the critter-filled Sunshine State:
They can help you eliminate pests that can be a nuisance to gardening.
Getting Started: Raising Chickens in Florida
As mentioned earlier, most cities in the state of Florida have lenient laws that allow homeowners to raise chickens in their backyards.
To raise chickens in Florida, all you need is to comply with the city laws and know how to do it.
Here are steps to follow to get started:
Choose Your Preferred Breed
Chickens come in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors.
To make your choice simpler, you can narrow the search by whether you want egg-laying chickens or meat-producing chickens.
Also, remember that Florida is hot and humid. Choose breeds that do well in those conditions.
For egg-laying chickens, consider these breeds:
- Rhode Island Reds (brown eggs)
- Plymouth Barred Rocks (brown eggs)
- White Leghorn hybrids (white eggs)
- Blue Andalusians (white eggs)
You can find these breeds at any number of Florida poultry farms. You can also order chicks from home farming magazines and various online retailers.
If you are rearing chickens for meat production, go for Cornish Cross chickens. They grow quickly and thrive well in Florida, which tends to have warm conditions.
If you want to produce meat and eggs, consider dual-purpose breeds like Sussex, Plymouth Barred Rock or Buff Orpingtons.
You can also go for exotic breeds if you want to keep chickens as pets.
What matters is that you identify a breed that meets your end goals for your flock.
Determine the Number of Chickens
After identifying the breed of chickens you want to raise, determine the number you want.
Some Florida cities limit the number of chickens you can have in your yard. But many don’t set any kind of limit.
Check out our Florida resource page or your city government website to learn the maximum number of chickens you are allowed to have.
If you live in a city that allows an unlimited number of chickens, your backyard space will determine how many chickens you can keep.
While your city might not have any restrictions on the number of chickens to keep, the local homeowners association might have something to say about it. However, if you are not under any HOA, you don’t have to worry about this.
Some Florida cities also require that all chickens be penned at all times. That means your enclosed run (the outdoor area for your chickens) might have to be fairly large to accommodate more than a few chickens.
When determining the number of chickens you want to raise, remember that chicks will quickly grow into full-grown birds. So keep a number that you will be able to feed and maintain even after they have matured.
Also: Make a plan for collecting and using eggs and what you will do with older birds that have stopped laying eggs.
If you’re an average Florida homeowner, you’re likely to find that a flock of 4 to 6 chickens is the ideal start.
This is only a suggestion, of course. You’re free to start with a larger number, depending on your preferences, space and local laws.
Prepare Your Brooder
The next step is preparing your brooder. All your baby chicks must be kept in a warm, cozy shelter called a brooder.
A brooder should meet several requirements:
- Have a heating lamp
- Be completely closed
- Have a soft surface covered with bedding
The brooder shouldn’t have square corners because they can trap chicks should they huddle in one area.
Space is vital in the first few weeks. The standard requirement is 2 to 3 square feet for each chick during the first six weeks.
For the first week, set the brooder temperature to 90°F and gradually reduce the heat by 5°F every week until it drops to 55°F. Well-regulated temperatures are vital for the survival of chicks, especially in the first few weeks.
Given Florida’s weather, be careful not to create too much heat in the coop when the chickens mature. If the temperature exceeds 80°F, it’s time to cool the coop.
You must also provide fresh and clean drinking water through all stages.
Sanitation Is Key
Your chickens’ environment must be kept clean at all times.
In their very early stages, chicks are highly vulnerable to health risks. So disinfect all equipment, including the brooder and feeders, before using them on your birds.
Disinfect the brooder regularly to keep health risks at bay. You can use your household disinfectants on the brooder. However, you follow all the brooder safety guidelines to avoid endangering your chicks.
Also, make sure the disinfectant doesn’t leave a residual film that can be toxic to the young birds. Remember to keep the chicks away from the brooder when you’re cleaning it.
Have a Long-Term Nutrition Plan
Nutrition is crucial to the long-term success of your flock. When you have strong chicks, you get healthy hens.
There are several feeding programs you can follow to keep your chicks healthy.
You can go for one starter-grower feed for the early days and then one complete layer feed when they start laying eggs.
Supplement with kitchen scraps to cut down on waste and give the chickens’ nutrition a boost.
Chicks require a unique diet of about 38 different nutrients from the first day. Implementing a complete starter-grower feed is the best way to provide these nutrients.
If you have chicks that will lay eggs later, go for a nutritious feed with 18 percent protein. For mixed flocks and meat birds, go for a complete feed with 20 percent protein.
When layer chicks start growing, gradually transition them to a higher-calcium complete feed. This should be at the age of around 20 weeks, when they start laying eggs.
How Much Space Do Chickens Need?
As mentioned earlier, space is crucial, especially in the first stages of raising chickens. The amount of space your flock needs ultimately depends on the breed of chicken you raise.
The University of Missouri Extension says that a mid-sized chicken needs 8 to 10 square feet of space outdoors and at least 3 square feet of floor space in the coop.
Keep in mind:
The more space, the healthier and happier your chickens will be.
Keeping too many chickens in small spaces can contribute to feather picking and high chances of disease. You need to provide sufficient space for the birds to spread their wings and have a run — a whole backyard is ideal for their outdoor activities.
They should also have spaces to enjoy the sun and have a dust bath. Whether indoors or outdoors, the spaces must be fenced to keep predators at bay.
You can use chicken wire to keep them confined to a particular area. (And not on the driveway or roaming on your neighbor’s lawn.)
But many Floridians love the concept of free-range chickens. Just be sure to check your local laws to make sure that’s allowed.
Cost of Raising Chickens in Florida
Chickens cost money. The materials you will require to build a coop and a fence will be the bulk of the initial expense (not to mention the time you will spend building it).
If you don’t have the experience to do this task by yourself, you can always consider buying a pre-built pen or coop at your local farm supply store or from a trusted online dealer.
Here is a rough estimate of what it will cost you to raise chickens in Florida;
- Chicken coop: $300
- Chickens: $30 per hen
- Food: $15 per month
- Vet bills/supplies: $50 per month (Depending on age and season)
- Other: $10 per month (Feeder and waterer replacements, wood chips/hay and pen/coop repairs)
Remember that what you’ll have to spend depends largely on the coop you choose, the type and size of your flock and the outdoor space you create.
Yes, raising chickens takes some money, time and effort. But the payoff is incredible:
- Fresh eggs
- Healthy, antibiotic-free meat
- Time spent outdoors
- Wonderful pets
- Great activities for children
Heck, you might even be able to sell some of the eggs and make your money back.
The possibilities are endless. And that’s the joy of raising chickens.
You have the information you need to raise chickens in Florida. So, what are you waiting for?