Get Started with Backyard Chickens

lisa steele welcome to my farm bio manna pro

Egg-spert Tips from Lisa Steele

Interested in raising backyard poultry like chickens, ducks or geese, but don't know where to start? Lisa Steele, Queen of the Coop, founder of poultry-raising blog Fresh Eggs Daily, and one of Manna Pro's favorite "chicken-fluencers," sat down with Manna Pro and shared her best tips for first time chicken owners.

What is your favorite part of raising backyard chickens, ducks or geese?

Honestly, raising a backyard flock comes down to more than just the eggs, although especially these days with egg prices as high as they are, there’s definitely a benefit there to raising your own chickens.

But more than saving money (and yes, after your initial investment, you can definitely save money by collecting eggs from your backyard!), it’s the knowledge that we’re not relying on our grocery store having eggs. If you raise chickens and grow vegetables, you can pretty much rest assured that your family won’t go hungry. You’re not relying on anyone else to provide you with food.

chickens grazing

Chickens also provide more than eggs though. We use their manure and the soiled chicken coop bedding to fertilize and mulch our gardens and shrubs, and the chickens themselves do a great job keeping our lawn and gardens virtually pest-free. They’ll eat all kinds of insects and pests.

Chickens also provide hours of entertainment, just watching them frolic in the yard, scratch in the dirt for worms, take dust baths and chase each other instantly reduces my stress. But truthfully, if you are looking for backyard entertainment, then ducks are your best bet. They are hilarious, active, curious creatures who also lay delicious eggs.

ducks foraging

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned while raising chickens?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about raising chickens is that fresh hard-boiled eggs don’t peel well at all! Then I discovered the secret: steaming them instead of boiling them. Even eggs laid that morning peel perfectly every time.

But no seriously, and not to dwell on the negative, but we had a devastating fox attack early on in our chicken keeping adventure, before I actually realized the immense threat from predators. Since then, our coop and run are more heavily protected than Fort Knox, and knock on wood, we haven’t lost a single animal to a predator in more than a decade. My chickens get locked up each night at dusk so I know they’re safe until morning.

I’ve learned that there are predators everywhere (we moved our flock from Virginia to Maine and got to learn all about new and different predators like coyotes and fisher cats!), and it pays to put up trail cams and check for prints in the mud or snow to learn what you might be dealing with.

I have also learned that its not necessary to just wait until your chickens get sick and then give them medications or antibiotics. I work really hard to build their immune systems naturally with supplements and herbs and I can say that in more than 14 years, I have never had a single instance of illness in my flock. No mites, no lice.

splash maran

I fully believe in the power of natural preventives and giving the chickens the tools they need to keep themselves healthy. My chickens have their own herb garden next to the coop in which I plant rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano, marigolds, mint, cilantro, dill, basil… you name it. And when they get free range time, the chickens can hop in and nibble to their hearts content!

I also hang bunches of fresh herbs in the coop to help with bug-control and add dried herbs to their feed especially in the winter when they can’t be out munching on the fresh herbs, grass and weeds.

What is your best tip for someone wanting to get into raising backyard chickens?

I think my biggest tip would be to read a few books, do some real research into what it really takes to start a flock. You only see the “Disney” version sometimes on social media, you don’t see the frozen water buckets, how mean chickens are to new flock members or all the poop!

Maybe you don’t even realize that hens don’t lay year round for the most part, and almost anything can throw them off laying including shorter days, molting, new flock members, a new coop or even a rainy day!

And make a list* of everything you will need - price it all out - to be sure you know what kind of financial commitment you might be looking at to get started. Costs range widely for supplies for chickens, coops, coop doors, runs and even baby chicks, so do some homework there as well.

You can convert an old garden shed or playhouse into a coop, or spend thousands of dollars on a custom coop, so there’s no “average” cost to get started. Basic breeds of baby chickens can be picked up at your local feed store for a few dollars each, while the more rare, fancy breeds of chicks can set you back $20 or more from an online hatchery.

But once you have your set-up figured out and your routine down, it’s not a huge commitment, time- or money-wise, but it IS a daily commitment.

Lisa’s favorite Manna Pro Product

I’ve been using Manna Pro products for years, so it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I took a poll and overwhelmingly our ducks outvoted everyone. So I have to say that the new Duck Discs treats are our flock’s favorite. Our geese even love them!

The Duck Discs float in the water tubs, which the ducks enjoy very much, and the chickens will bob for them as well. They’re packed with goodies like kelp, alfalfa and black soldier fly larvae - which are not only delicious (if you’re a duck!) but also nutritious.

Resources – Lisa’s Blog, Cookbook, Recipes & More!


TV Show

Cookbook Link

Chicken Keeping Books

The Secret to Peeling Fresh Eggs

Favorite Sweet Egg Recipe: Creme Brulee

Favorite Savory Egg Recipe: Eggs Benedict



Lisa Steele is a fifth-generation chicken keeper and the well-known founder of Fresh Eggs Daily. She lives in Maine with her husband, their corgi and a mixed flock of more than two dozen chickens, ducks and geese. Lisa’s blog, books, and television show Welcome to my Farm cover everything you need to know about raising backyard poultry and cooking with eggs from coop to kitchen!

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