Raising Chickens for Eggs

Caring for Animals During Winter

Tis the season for chicken lovers everywhere to resist the urge to purchaseย just a few more chicks. I am telling you, once you start raisingย chickens for eggs, it becomes an obsession. You won’t be able to stop! They have quickly become one of my favorite animals on our hobby farm. Along with this season of chicks and chickens comes a lot of questions! So in today’s post, I’m going to try and answer the most common questions you may have.ย 

Raising Chickens for Eggs: What Breed?

The breed you get will determine how often an egg will be laid, the color of the egg, and the size of the egg. If you want friendly hens, breed can play a role in that as well, although I think regular handling is more important in that regard. There is nothing wrong with having a fun mix of breeds either – it’s all up to you!

feeding egshells to chickens

Here are some common breeds and a few qualities about them:

Rhode Island Red

  • Most common of backyard chickens.
  • Good layers.
  • Large brown eggs.
  • Cold hardy.

Plymouth Rock Breeds

  • Good layers.
  • Friendly.
  • Large brown eggs.
  • Cold hardy.

Wyandotte Breeds

  • Good layers.
  • Come in beautiful laced varieties.
  • Large brown eggs.
  • Cold hardy.

Americana or Easter Egger

  • Decent layers.
  • Blue, green and shades in between.
  • Cold hardy.
  • Note: these are not the same as a true Ameraucana chicken, but have many of the same qualities. If you are wanting purebred or show quality hens, be sure you’re getting a true Ameraucana.

Sex-linked

  • Color of chicken guarantees it’s a female – gold or black.
  • Prolific egg layers.
  • Very friendly.
  • Large brown eggs.

Raising Chickens for Eggs: The Coop

When I first got chickens, I kept them in a chicken tractor. A chicken tractor is basically just a moveable coop with an open bottom. It allows chickens to graze and eat bugs while still keeping them safe and contained. You move the tractor regularly to supply them with an area that is clean and ready to be grazed. Mine was a pretty simple design, you can read the tutorial I wrote about how we built it by clicking here!

While I liked the chicken tractor because I didn’t have to clean a coop and it let my chickens graze, there was one major drawback. It just wasn’t going to work for winter where I live! And I also got 7 chickens instead of 3 as originally planned so it became a tight fit…oops.

To remedy this issue, we turned two old stalls in a barn we were tearing down into a chicken coop and run. It worked out really well, and this year I added a fenced area around the coop so they have more space to wander and graze.

One of my favorite features we built into our coop is the poop catch under the roosting bars. Now, you may be laughing at that sentence, but hear me out! They chickens will roost at night when they sleep, and that is where the majority of their droppings will be. It can make for a pretty nasty area under the roost. By building something to catch it all, you really limit how much you have to clean up AND you can use it wherever you want for fertilizer. Win-win. Oh, and did I mention that my coop really doesn’t stink? Yep, you read that right. It seriously doesn’t smell bad. And it’s mostly due to this awesome design. You can get all the details on my coop here!

Whichever housing system you choose for your chickens should have a few basics: It should be safe, secure from predators, easy to clean, and well ventilated. All of this will help you maintain healthy and happy chickens.

Raising Chickens for Eggs: Chicks or Grown Chickens?

If you’re interested in keeping chickens, you’ve probably wondered if you should buy already grown chickens or raise them from chicks. The answer is….It depends. ๐Ÿ™‚

It depends on what you are set up for, what you are interested in accomplishing with your hens, and what kind of chickens you are looking for. Let’s talk through it.

Laced wyandotte chicks

Raising chicks is really easy, you will need a brooder to raise them in until they are feathered out and making one out of a rubbermaid container is so simple, I wrote a tutorial on how to do it. Click here to read through it! The drawback to raising chicks is that you are going to have to wait about 6 months before they start laying eggs. That means if you purchase chicks in March, you won’t start getting eggs from them until about August.

If you’d like eggs right away, you can buy older chickens. There are a few options here. You can buy pullets {young hens} that will start laying soon, within a few weeks or a month. This is a good option because you are still getting young chickens but you won’t have to wait quite as long for eggs. These are usually sold by breeders or local hatcheries or you can find them on your local classifieds.

If you’d like chickens that are currently laying, you can usually purchase older hens through your local classifieds. Depending on what breeds and ages you’re looking for, you may have to wait a little while to find the right fit. A drawback to older hens is they are usually around 2 years old, which means they aren’t going to be highly productive layers for much longer. If this doesn’t bother you, it can be really nice because they already know where to lay, they are friendly, and they don’t need much maintenance.

Interested in raising chickens for eggs? Learn about different chicken breeds, what age to buy, coop design, health care, chicken nutrition and more!

Do whatever is a good fit for you, it’s always ok to try something different in the future! When I started out I got an older hen and some chicks. She taught them {and me!} a lot and it worked out great.

The biggestย caution with buying older chickens or mixing chickens from different places is the potential for disease to spread. Be sure you and the seller are following proper biosecurity measures to keep all the chickens as healthy as possible.

Raising Chickens for Eggs: Predators, Health Care, and Nutrition

First, chickens are actually pretty tough and resourceful, but they aren’t very good at protecting themselves. You’re going to need to be aware of the predators in your area and how you need to keep your chickens safe from them. The biggest predator you’ll need to worry about is dogs.

While we all love our canine companions, a wandering dog can wipe out an entire flock of chickens free-ranging in your backyard pretty quickly. From personal experience, about half an hour. Yikes! Taking precautions to prevent issues like this is one of the first things you should do when you get chickens. You’ll need a safe and secure coop for sure, and if you’re interested in letting the graze and wander, a safe area for them to do that as well.

Second, you’ll need to know a bit about chicken health care. Chickens are pretty low maintenance but understanding a little bit about how their bodies work and what diseases and pests they are susceptible too will save you a lot of time and heartache in the future. As a caretaker, it’s your responsibility to prevent disease in your flock and also treat it appropriately if it happens. Knowing if vaccinations are necessary, how to deworm your flock, and how to treat them if they become ill is crucial to their wellbeing.

Third, you need to understand the basics of chicken nutrition. If you are expecting your chickens to lay eggs for you, you need to provide them with all the nutrients they will need to do so. Laying hens need a feed that is about 18% protein and it needs to be balanced for all the other essential nutrients they need, like amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Raising Chickens for Eggs: The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Keeping

Feeling like there is a lot more you need to know? Well, you’re right, there is. But it’s easy to learn if you have the right resources. I was frustrated when I started keeping chickens that I couldn’t find this information in one easy to access book or website. Plus half of the information out there just wasn’t helpful or accurate. This year, I decided I was going to fix that problem! I wrote an eBook, The Ultimate Guide to Chicken Keeping and I think it is pretty comprehensive.ย It coversย in depth:

  • Raising chicks
  • Keeping a productive laying flock
  • Raising meat chickens
  • Chicken health and disease

Raising Chickens for Eggs

You can read more about it and download the table of contents and introduction by clicking here!

I hope you check it out, I really think it is beneficial for anyone getting started with chickens!

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