Raising Chickens for Eggs

Do you like the thought of farm fresh eggs from your own laying hens? They can be difficult to get depending on where you live. You can raise chickens for eggs in your own backyard and enjoy the same fresh egg experience. This is a guide about raising chickens for eggs.
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9 found this helpful
September 11, 2014 Flag

Every week, people usually spend $3 on eggs. Now that may not sound like much but it adds up! So, my family and I have decided that we are going to get chickens. Chicken feed costs $15 for a fifty pound bag. That lasts two months. Also we are getting four chickens, which will give us 20 eggs a week! And all we'll have to pay is $15 every two months. I don't know about you, but we are sticking with fresh, organic, CHEAP eggs.

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July 4, 2013 Flag

This was our first experience raising chickens from chickens. I honestly felt like a new mom...completely in awe of all the changes they went through in such a short amount of time.

week 5 no 3

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September 4, 2014 Flag

After our chicken's last broody episode we thought that she had quit laying eggs. When my husband was moving things around in their coop, he made a funny discovery. She had been laying her eggs in a hidden place behind their hen house. :)

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May 28, 2013 Flag

Raising chicks is easier than you think and can be very rewarding. Besides being a fun family activity, your family will also benefit from healthier eggs than you will find at the grocery store.

Supplies:

  • brooder box - a large (at least 18 in. deep) plastic tub, carboard or wooden box
  • reflector heat lamp with guard
  • 250 watt infrared bulb (red reflector)
  • chick starter food (organic, medicated, or non-medicated)
  • chick feeder base w/ bottle (some can use a mason jar)
  • chick water base w/ bottle (some can use a mason jar)
  • GEM white pine shavings (DO NOT use cedar shavings)
  • chicken wire (you will eventually need to cover the box)
Related Content(article continues below)

Steps:

  1. Chicks require food, water, warmth, and protection. It is best to get everything set up before you bring home your chicks.
  2. Setting Up the Brooder Box:

    When selecting a box consider that average size chicks needs 6 sq. in. each. Also, keep in mind how easy it will be to clean the container that you select. I chose a plastic tub so it would be easy to clean.

    Place 1-2 inches of bedding into the bottom of the box. Pine shavings will help absorb moisture, dry out droppings, and help keep odors under control. Never use paper (including newspaper), cardboard, plastic, or any other slippery surface. Being on a slippery surface can harm the development of the chicks' legs. Also do not use cat litter, leaves, straw, cedar shavings, or hay.

    If you set your brooder box on the floor, you should place something (cardboard, throw rug, etc.) under it to insulate it from the cold floor. This is especially good if you have the brooder box in the garage on a cement floor.



    By two weeks of age, the chicks can potentially escape the brooder box. Trimming down a piece of chicken wire to cover the box will help keep them inside and safe. I recommend putting the cover on early to avoid any mishaps.
  3. Lighting and a Heat Lamp:

    It is important for the chicks to be able to move away from or towards the heat source as needed to keep them comfortable. Watching their behavior with the heat source is a good way to know whether the lamp it too low or too high. If the chicks are huddled under the lamp they are likely too cold. If they remaining along the perimeter a lot they are probably too hot. When they are comfortable, they will move around the brooder freely, in and out of the heat. Ideally, hang the heat lamp in the center so they have space on either end to move to.



    It is very important to secure the heat lamp from above with a chain to prevent it from falling into the brooder box and causing a fire. The clamp that it comes with is not enough to ensure safety. The chain will also make it easier to move the light up and down as needed.

    It might be easiest to start with the heat lamp suspended about 1 ft. from the bottom of the brooder box. If the chicks are content leave it there and move it up as needed. It may take a little trial and error to get it just right, so check on the chicks often.

    A good rule of thumb is:

    95 degrees F - week 1
    90 degrees F - week 2
    85 degrees F - week 3
    80 degrees F - week 4
    75 degrees F - week 5
    70 degrees F - week 6

    After the 6th week, a heat lamp is generally not required. If needed, use the heat lamp to keep them at about 60 degrees F, through 3 months of age, if the weather is colder.
  4. Feeding and Watering:

    When you purchase feed you will need to decide if you want to use medicated or non-medicated feed. Additionally, now is the time to consider if you want to use organic feed.

    Medicated feed contains antibiotics and medications that will help prevent disease and can help control parasites. While a good option for some, other people may choose to avoid the use of this feed so that they do not consume any remnants of these antibiotics in eggs or meat. One step further is to feed them organic feed, which is also non-medicated.

    It is important to keep food available to them at all times and to make sure it remains dry and free of fecal matter. Change the feed often and keep the container clean. If you find that the chicks are frequently pooping in it or kicking shavings into it, you can place something under the feeder to keep it up off the bottom a little bit. A small piece of wood or a brick are good options for this.



    The chicks also need continued access to clean, cool water. It is best to not place the waterer underneath the heat lamp, this will help prevent algae and bacteria from developing. Again, if the water is getting really dirty, you can raise it up a bit to help keep it clean. For chicks, it is important to use a proper water base (that is shallow), as chicks can drown in just a few inches of water.

  5. Once all of these items has been taken care of it is time to get your chicks. Once you purchase them it is essential to get them into the brooder box as soon as possible. They will quickly get cold without a heat source.
  6. Following these simple instructions will help you enjoy your chicks while keeping them and yourself safe and healthy.

    Handling the Chicks:

    Chicks are delicate and need to be handled with care. With children, it is important to help them handle the chicks. They can easily suffocate if held too tightly. They can also be injured if they are accidentally dropped or handled too roughly.



    Getting to know the chicks is important, especially for chickens that you intend to keep as pets. They don't need to be picked up every time you see them (as this can be stressful), but gently petting them and just being nearby watching them are great ways for them to become familiar with you. As adults, they will be less likely to see you as a predator. Chickens can be as friendly as dogs if raised closely with their human family. :)

    For Your Health:

    While avian flu is a risk with birds, Salmonella is a much more likely hazard. It is very important to wash your hands with hot water and soap after handling the chicks. This is also true after handling the waterer, feeder, brooder box, soiled bedding, or anything else that may have become contaminated. Be sure to strictly enforce this with children as they are more likely to put their hands in their mouths or eat without washing their hands.

    Additionally, do not allow children to hold the chicks to their face or put their mouths on the edges of the brooder box. These are other easy ways for children to get very sick.
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July 2, 2013 Flag

Starting around week 5 we noticed that our girls were trying to roost on anything and everything that was available.

chick on perch

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1 found this helpful
August 5, 2014 Flag

The summer heat seems to affect everything, even our eggs! A while back it got over 103 degrees F and I had one chicken go into heat stroke because she had decided to start going broody that day. I got an emergency crash course in reviving and stabilizing a chicken in severe heat stroke.

white and green egg

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September 21, 2013 Flag

There are numerous predators in our neighborhood that could easily dig under the edges of our coop. This is how we addressed that issue.

finished coop

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

0 found this helpful
November 5, 2011 Flag

My hen hasn't laid any egg for a few days now. She is so lethargic that she often spends most of the day squatting either in the laying box or in a shady spot in the garden. It seems she suffers from diarrhea; her stomach is soiled. I've already bathed her with warm water.

By malylo8 from London

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November 8, 20110 found this helpful

Have you considered asking the only person qualfied to answer this question your Veterinarian?

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November 9, 20110 found this helpful

Hello, Please call your local avian Veterinarian. This little girl does not feel well and needs some medical attention.

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November 9, 20110 found this helpful

Do check with your veterinarian but it is not because you can buy eggs all year round in the supermarkets that hens are not birds and birds don't lay eggs at fall.

Hens do stop laying eggs as the amount of sunlight per day decreases that is why in the industry they are kept all year round under artificial light and that is why the egg is the symbol of the Easter feast, Easter is the time when hens will begin to lay eggs again, this is if they are let to live a natural life.

You should also check that your hen has enough dry food (wheat ...) and that it is not eating too much wet vegetables. Check also that she has enough sand or tiny little gravel to eat as hens need them to digest. Your hen also needs a not too cold but most of all completely dry place to live. You could also give your hen a cuttlefish bone which provides extra calcium.

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April 3, 2008 Flag

Just read the newsletter on chickens. Very interesting I might add but my question is: did these ladies let their chickens roam the yard or did they have them penned up? I live in the country and thought I may get a few for eggs. Plus you could eat the chickens too. Thanks in advance.

Alice

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April 4, 20080 found this helpful

I have had Chickens all my life, Every kind you can imagine.

I Grew up in the country, and have lived in the country my entire life, I have always let my Chickens Run from Sunup to Sundown. Yes hawks can be a problem, But thats mostly for smaller birds like bantums or young chickens, When i was 16 I lost count of my hens, last count had been over 1000, They roamed free everyday, I only recall ever loosing 2 to hawks and a mother with a newly hatched litter, all were Bantums,{small} Most varmints hunt chicken in the night, or evenings, So that is the most crucial time to have them closed in and secured.

In the Early spring and late fall is the time to be more careful as the hawks are more hungry and thus more apt to swoop down and steal a chicken, One thing Must be noted, Even if you are right beside your hen it will not always stop a hawk from doing what it does best, HUNT! My last casualty was last fall, A small chicken only a few months old, scratching in my garden, Wide open air, seen nothing, yet right in arms length this hawk swooped in a stole the chicken.

It was really amazing how quickly and efficiently they hunt, in a matter of seconds the chicken was grabbed, killed and gone. There is no thing as time to respond, It's over before it started. If you have larger hens, Such as the Red egg layers, (Rhode island reds) and they are fully grown as most of mine are, then it's pretty safe to let them out every day. No more likely of them getting carried off during the day then it is for you to get hit by a car, anything can happen. My red hens are even let out on nice days in the winter when their is some bare grown. If you have neighbours You may want to check with them, Because hens do roam within certain short distances. My neighbours are all animal folks, so its never a problem for me. If you have flower beds or a garden then you will have a problem.

I don't usually have flower beds, but when I do they have to be contained with wire to keep the hens out, They will destroy a bed rather quickly if they set their minds to it,

Hens love soil, They must dust in its, It is there means of Itching themselves, If you are going to plant a garden, and can't contain it, Then keep your hens contained in pens until the garden is grow enough, you may still loose some of your garden, but I've always had good luck this way. If there is a problem letting them run all day, then you can always let them out an hour or two before dark, this way they have less time to do damage, run off to a neigbours before heading back to the roost at night, Hens are totally blind in the dark, they are not like us, they don't see at all!,

For this reason they are extremely valuable at nighttime, if something got in with them they won't even make a fuss, you'll just go out in the morning and all will be dead. For this reason I keep night lights in all my hen pens. If a hen can see she will put on quite a racket trying to stay alive, Thus you may hear it and be able to respond and save them.. If you have stray dogs or your neighbours has a dog, If they get loose, most big dogs, if not familiar with hens, can & will kill your hens, There is more chickens killed by neighbouring dogs then any other creature out there!

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April 5, 20080 found this helpful

My aunt kept hers up in airy cages that were always kept tidy as chickens on the loose eat the poop they make. They scratch the ground. Another aunt kept the running loose and they had quite a lot of space.

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October 26, 20100 found this helpful

We have a smallish back garden (70' x 35') and our four girls have a shed, a covered area and a fenced in area across the width at the bottom of it. I like them free in the garden, but they do leave a lot of poop - particularly near the back door, where they like to congregate for treats!

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August 12, 2005 Flag

Mother Earth News has done testing on free range chicken eggs vs. the normal store bought eggs and the differences are remarkable. Their new chicken and egg page has test results and information on raising chickens. Basically free range chickens are chickens that are allowed to walk around, peck, eat grass, weeds and insects plus chicken feed as opposed to those that spend their lives in a tiny pen. How many of you out there have your own chickens?

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August 13, 20050 found this helpful

It makes sense and very interesting. I don't have chickens, merely eat them, but this is very fascinating.

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August 13, 20050 found this helpful

I use to raise a lot of poultry,chickens ,ducks,pheasants,once a few geese.My chickens had the run of the farm.Raised both laying hens and broilers.

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July 5, 20100 found this helpful

Had a coop when I was a child living on some land. Now a suburbanite and have a handful of pullets. Lots of cheap fun.

Two RIRs and two EEs.

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0 found this helpful
June 17, 2010 Flag

I am looking for ideas on how to raise chickens in your backyard. We have raised lambs, and they are very tasty. Now we are trying our hand at raising chickens for 3 reasons:

  1. to eat all the hoards of grasshoppers
  2. fresh eggs
  3. fresh meat

We started this endeavor with 21 chicks from the feedstore. We are in the process of building the coop. I am looking for ideas to get the most for our money.

By Lindsay from Parowan, UT

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June 18, 20100 found this helpful

Although I live in the suburbs I enjoy Mother Earth News. Their website often has articles on raising chickens.

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June 17, 2010 Flag

Raising Chickens

Do you break-even raising chickens for eggs? What are the important things I need to know? My partner wants to also eat them for meat, but I know I will fall in love with them. Does anyone have any experience in this? I am thinking of getting 4 or 5 "Silkies" a small ornamental chicken (see photo below). Would 4 small chickens be too many eggs for 2 adults?

By Cyinda from the Seattle-Tacoma area

Answers:

Raising Chickens

There is a wonderful website dedicated to chicken raising. The posters there are friendly and knowledgeable. The address is backyardchickens.com. Hope to see you there! (05/19/2010)

By purpleswiper

Raising Chickens

I raised chickens in Portland, after visiting my ex's family in Seattle area, and seeing their 3 hens. I got 3 one day old chicks (store said they liked company and there is always chance of one or two not making it). All made it and in their 21st week, began laying. I averaged 2-3 eggs per day and usually had plenty for our family of 5 at the time. If you have friends you can always give away. I didn't find their feed expensive, and as near as I could figure, cost was equal to store cost, around $1/1.25 a dozen.

But the quality and the beauty of the eggs! I'd never had a fresh egg and I couldn't believe it. The yolks were gorgeous (probably because I let them out in yard with plenty of grass to peck at as well as all the dandelions they could eat). The taste is great. I made
home made egg noodles and dried and froze them, depending on the whim of the day. I made souffles (one was a macaroni and cheese and corn souffle, kids loved it). I made angel food cake and it was as good as you might think. Of course omelets. It was great. I always had eggs. But I did sometimes have to wait for the production of the day.

You are going to have to have 2 birds at a minimum, 3 is better, and four is fine I think. They are wonderful pets. Mine bonded very well with me, and would perch on my arm, and nestle under my "wings" when I sat on the garden bench. They loved the compost pile, which was well established with earthworms and I would put them in it when there was fresh produce
scraps for them to eat, and when I got around to it, I'd dig in it for them and they'd scratch at the worms and make this chicken purring sound of absolute happiness. They were one of the best animal experiences I ever had.

I kept mine in the garden shed at night in an old rabbit cage I had partially disassembled and reconfigured into a perch and nest area with apple crates, extra wire fencing, etc. I locked the door against the neighborhood raccoons, cats, etc. (This was in the city). The first days I had them it was hot, so I brought a smaller cage outside and let them enjoy the air. I told our cat they were ours, and they belonged, just as he did (world's greatest cat) and the dog as well. They protected the birds against cats, and any other pests, the cat ran off a raccoon the first night we had them, as I was preparing the shed for the night. Of course you have to keep them warm by some means for weeks; they will die in a heartbeat if you are lax in that respect.

You will probably have a surplus of eggs, but that's what friends are for, or maybe sell at a Saturday market. (05/19/2010)

By PIKKA

Raising Chickens

I am 23 years old and grew up on a farm. I remember being 4 or 5 years old the first time I hatched my own chicks in an incubator. My dad had grown up raising them and I grew up on organic chicken eggs. It totally pays off. They are not only healthier, but if you are like me and live out in the middle of nowhere, it beats using gas to go to the store, too.

My daddy made a grinder out of some old wheels and we would make our own feed for the chickens. We would just let them roam around and when they were ready for laying, we had a nice chicken coop that they stayed in. It is an enjoyable experience and yes you do fall in love with them. (05/19/2010)

By hcannon

Raising Chickens

The most important thing to remember is that salmonella poisoning occurs from contaminates from the shell of the egg. Clean them immediately after gathering. Also, chicken poo can be hazardous as well if not cleaned up once in a while. (05/20/2010)

By Dedeswrkshop

Raising Chickens

Four chickens should be about right for two adults. Keep in mind most hens will lay about one every other day for several months. Then they take a break, usually during the winter they won't lay at all. Unless they are in a controlled environment. As for the meat, you probably want a different type of chicken for meat. Go to your local hatchery and get broilers, they grow faster and are meatier than a fancy silkie hen. As for getting attached to them, once you eat the chicken you forget all about it. (05/22/2010)

By booklvr

Raising Chickens

You will definitely fall in love with silkies. They are very docile and sweet. They are not good meat producers anyway. Country eggs are best for you and if you are a big egg eater you will love them. They aren't always best cost, but the taste is incomparable. Do research on the net for best egg layers and best meat breeds. But you probably will fall in love with any of them. That is a choice you will have to make. Good luck! (05/22/2010)

By kflawson

Raising Chickens

Silkies lay small eggs, so it really takes two of them to equal the size of an extra-large egg. As for breaking even, it depends on what you feed them. The easy way is to buy pre-mixed mash for them, but it costs the most. It also leaves out a lot of things that chicken do well on. We feed ours whole wheat grains, lawn clippings, kitchen scraps, and oyster shell. Since we live in a grain producing area, we are able to get the wheat (or sometimes corn or oats) free. If all else fails, we watch for grain spills on the highway and sweep it up. It might have a little dirt in it, but that's good for chickens, too. But we draw the line at grain that's gotten dirty from vehicle exhaust. Also, grain that's some bright pastel color, especially hot pink, has been treated for planting and will kill the chickens. (05/22/2010)

By coreen

Raising Chickens

Well 4 chickens should be enough. If it is too much you can always sell the eggs. My self and a lot of other people I know buy eggs like this. We normally pay between 2.00 and 3.00 a dozen. People that do this will find that they have a hard time keeping up with demand. I would suggest at sometime getting a rooster if you want to continue eating the eggs you will need more chickens as they only live so long. You will have to check the eggs, but it is not that hard. If you have too many chickens you can also sell them too. Many people are raising their own chickens for eggs and meat now. (06/03/2010)

By cutepachef

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May 18, 2010 Flag

Can I raise two Black Bottom hens together in a cage rather than letting them free-range roam? Or should I modify a large wooden refrigerator shipping crate with wire and screening, etc. with wheels to move the crate/coop around, in the crowded, grassy, filtered sun yard.

I don't want to make too much of a fuss over them, but they are so beautiful, young hens, and lay great eggs, according to owner. Does the cost to raise them for your own family's organic egg needs justify the time and expense of food and maintenance and/or protection, etc.?

My grandson is excited and I have already "ordered" two from a local farm, being ready to pickup on Tuesday. Do hens make as much noise as roosters that crow? I don't remember a thing about the two white "Easter" chickens I raised as a teen, and need to know what I'm getting into. Do they get diseases, illnesses easily? Are they really hard to clean up after? Any shortcuts?

I have a newsletter coming about them started, but it says less than I hoped about them as "pets" and for beginners. Any basic help ASAP is appreciated.

Thanks a bunch. God bless you.

By lyndagayle62 from North Texas

Answers:

Raising Chickens

Hens are quiet, only roosters crow. A portable chicken house/run is preferable so they can get fresh grass, bugs, etc. Yes, it is worth the effort. We started raising chickens two years ago and now that I've enjoyed fresh farm eggs daily, even through the Indiana winter, I wouldn't go back to store eggs ever. Once the coop/run is made, the maintenance is very low. Just give them lots of sunshine, feed, fresh greens, water, room to run, and love. They'll be happy. (05/15/2009)

By Selahgal

Raising Chickens

Check out backyardchickens.com We just recently got 8 chickens and my mother found this site for us to look at. Seems to have a lot of info. Good luck. (05/19/2009)

By minnabird

Raising Chickens

We have about 25+ chickens.They are "free range" up to a point as they share their "yard" with our goats. The only time they are "noisy" is when they cackle laying an egg. It would be much better for them to have a roving cage with nest boxes. Chickens need the greens from grass (or leftover greens from the house) and will keep your bug population down. We feed ours grain (laying mash) mixed with leftovers from the house. The only ones we keep in cages are those "setting" (hatching out chicks) and those destined for the freezer. I don't know if it's a proven fact, but uncaged chicken eggs are "supposed" to be lower in cholesterol. I do know we prefer our eggs to store bought. (05/19/2009)

By gramhome

Raising Chickens

Your comments are so encouraging and helpful, as well as the websites you suggested. Thank you so very much. These are not the breed I was told, but are "Barred Plymouth Rock" hens and I have found a photo I hope gets forwarded for you to see. They are so sweet that they are now "cooing" occasionally when I come near, as if a "dove" or something, so I just did my best interpretation response and they stopped cold, turned their heads like a Jack Russell terrier does when trying to understand something. Then as I "trilled" a sound they immediately sat
down and got very still. What in the world have I discovered accidentally? It's unbelievable that I lucked into two with such sweet personalities. What a blessing.

Today, a week after getting them, I began to run low on regular starter food, with maybe 10 microscopic tiny pieces of corn in the whole 4 lbs. of food I bought last week, I went on line to several "chicken feed recipes for DIY" and discovered that I had an unopened Pringles size can of corn flake powder, so I put my thinking cap on, used ideas I'd found/heard, and made the following recipe for my young pullets, not yet adults or ready to lay.

To one cup of crushed raisin bran (minus large raisins), I sprayed butter all over the crushed Raisin Bran then sprinkled with the following foods I have here:

  • 1/2 cup corn flake powder
  • 1 tsp. left over crushed cat food cereal/ dried tuna
  • 1/4 C. cutup clover leaves/stems, tiny dandelion
    leaves
  • two freshly killed chinch-bugs
  • the finely crushed shell of one small store bought egg
  • 1 tsp. groats.

I figured that they are getting some vitamins and minerals from the Raisin Bran cereal as well as the remains of what starter feed I had. As I finished a bowl of sweetened rice for breakfast, I realized the cooked rice might work as well, so I added 1 tsp of it.

I'll get them some regular starter food and keep using my kitchen scraps, etc., as long as there are no outwards signs of difficulties or refusal to eat. It certainly looked healthy, was all approved by online folks, and now I move closer to their getting tiny combs to go with their full feathers and great big feet.

Tomorrow I hope to begin working on that coop I've thought so much about and gathered advice/ideas about. I may have an old patio screen door, spare screen wire roll, and I know I have plenty of scrap wood to make something that should work, as long as it's safe for them and humans. Yet, thoughts of winter protection are in the back of my mind as I begin to plan. I know God will help me design from there since no one can see it or offer further instructions. He has always provided for our needs and a few of our desires. How lucky that we have each others' minds as well as, Him to rely upon, right?

(05/19/2009)

By lyndagayle62

Raising Chickens

I think a few chickens for fresh eggs is a great idea. They eat bugs and vegetable peels and are no real trouble. But, I recently learned they only lay eggs for a few years and live much longer than that. Then what do you do? I wouldn't be able to kill and clean them to eat. (05/20/2009)

By ginnee

Raising Chickens

Chickens need space and plenty of grit to digest their food. Egg shells are brilliant to get them to lay better. My grandmother raised bantams and she swore by egg shells. Crumble them and throw them out for the chickens to eat.
You might let them roam. They love bugs and if confined too long, will begin to eat each other.

(07/12/2009)

By jollyscamaro

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May 11, 2009 Flag

We raise our chickens and are getting 8 eggs a day now. It is nothing short of wonderful to know there are plenty of eggs on hand and we are raising some new chicks.

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