I asked Colin to give me brief instructions on how to raise chickens. Well, lets just say they were a little too brief. I'll try to give some more information here, trying to cover questions that I had before.
First of all, of course is to decide on what breed you want. Whether you want regular 'run of the mill' layers that are available every spring from your local feed mill. Or do you want fancy, heirloom, rare chickens. Or chickens some where in between.
We did a bit of research and after losing our Banty hen to the cold last winter, we decided to go with Chantecler chickens. I was very interested to get an actual Canadian chicken, especially since they have very small wattles and combs and are quite tolerant of the cold. We weren't planning on keeping the chickens outside all the time, but I wanted to them to be fairly worry free. It was hard finding a breeder, especially since last year seemed to be a very bad breeding year - Colin said it was because it was so cold and dim, nothing wanted to grow not even baby chicks. We finally found some just outside of Fergus so we girls headed off on a road-trip.
A few weeks later they got moved out to the barn. Colin had to put up some smaller fencing in the old chicken coop or they would have escaped. They were very happy to get to the bigger coop, they are growing very quickly. Although the pigs give off quite a bit of heat, we still had a heat-lamp in the coop for the little ones.
The barn has lights, and we leave a light on for the chickens so we have eggs all year round -don't want to buy year old stuff from the store. This summer (after cropping) I hope to get Colin to build a door in the wall and an outdoor run for the chickens. I'm not turning them loose because I don't want to feed the raccoons, coyotes, skunks, and all the other predators!
Oh yeah, just in case you don't know: you don't have to have roosters in order to have eggs. If you don't have a rooster you really don't have to be concerned with little blood spots, I just scoop that spot out and use the egg. But, if you have roosters and it's getting towards spring and the hens are going broody, you must must must be sure to gather the eggs every day (not a worry in winter). Colin was busy for a couple days and I got a rather unpleasant surprise when I went to use those eggs. I threw out nearly a dozen! Now I candle the eggs before using. But that is just a spring time problem.
Hope this answers any questions you might have. If I left anything out, just ask and I'll find the answers.