Raising Backyard Chickens for EggsInterested in raising backyard chickens? Many families, from those in rural areas with acres of land to urban city-dwellers with limited space, are rediscovering the benefits – and work – of egg laying chickens and meat birds.
Most backyard chicken enthusiasts start just with egg layers, as they can be the simplest to raise and there’s obviously no butchering involved. Some branch out to pasture raised poultry for meat purposes, realizing the superior nutrition of pastured poultry and home-raised chickens.
There are certain essentials to raising backyard chickens. The first is a shelter that both contains the hens and protects them from chicken predators. Even if you intend to have free range chickens during the day, allowing the birds to forage for insects in your yard or scratch through the compost pile for worms, nighttime will eventually bring trouble if the birds are not protected after coming back to the coop to roost.
My backyard chicken flock free ranges for about half the day, as we have had only very occasional daytime predators (such as stray dogs, hawks, and tom cats) in the area, and are able to keep the birds safe. They come back into their pen and roost in the coop at night, and we latch shut the coop door after everyone is safely inside. Hens, once in the habit, will come into the coop willingly to lay their eggs, even when they are out free ranging.
Discovering the right chicken breeds for your purposes is one of the first steps. Those with limited space should consider a few in the small chicken breeds category, while those with more land and who want as many eggs as possible can choose from the best egg laying chicken breeds.
Chickens should be fed according to their age and purpose. Chick Starter is for birds under three months, who are then transitioned to laying mash or laying mash pellets for pullets (the name for hens before the are fully mature) or a broiler feed blend for chickens destined for the oven. Chicken feed can be supplemented by grass, either given as clippings after mowing or by allowing chickens access to pasture. They will also gladly peck through kitchen scraps, enjoying apple cores and bread crusts and the like. Supplementing with grass and compost scraps has the side benefit of cutting the cost of feeding your hens.
A plentiful supply of clean, fresh water is paramount to chicken health and keeping them alive, especially throughout the hot summer months. In the winter, a heated chicken waterer may be necessary if you experience freezing temperatures.
Collect eggs daily to keep your hens from pecking them or sitting on the eggs (unless, of course, you want your hens to go broody and hatch chicks for you).
Raising backyard chickens is an adventure – enjoy it!
Go back to Raising Chickens, home to Egg Laying Chickens, or check out other chicken-related resources online:
Best Coop Plans:
How to Build a Chicken Coop - detailed plans and construction guide for making backyard coops.
These chicken coop plans and building guide are the best I've found, and purchased them myself to build our first coops. There are five different chicken coops included, beginning with the most basic double-story ark and culminating with the largest design, the Chicken Barn with attached screened-in chicken yard. I want to use their plans again for their largest chicken coop, the chicken barn, when we are ready to upsize our chicken flock's habitat. The coop pictured here is a medium-sized all-in-one design.
Recommended Chicken Books:
- Homemade Living - Keeping Chickens: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock by Ashley English
- Storey's Guide - Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow
- Barnyard in Your Backyard - A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cattle
Favorite Chicken Quotes
“ A chicken you eat only once — eggs a hundred times." ~ Tajikistani Proverb
“ You cannot cook one half of the chicken and leave the other to lay eggs." ~ Sanskrit Proverb
“ You don’t have to kill the chicken to get eggs." ~ French Proverb