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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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.
This was our first experience raising chickens from chicks. I honestly felt like a new mom...completely in awe of all the changes they went through in such a short amount of time. I took photos of them each week and thought I would share them for anyone who is also raising chickens for the first time.
The chicks are so unbelievably adorable at this point! Tiny little puff balls that peep all of the time.
Wow...they sure change a lot in one week! More "big girl" feathers are appearing.
They continue to grow at a fast pace and more feathers are visible. They are not very fluffy anymore!
Week 4: The girls definitely hit the awkward "teenager stage" this week! A few tufts of fluff remain, tucked inbetween their feathers.
Their new favorite thing is to perch on everything in sight! My husband looked like a pirate with too many parrots. Every time he opened the brooder box they would leap out and perch on his arms. :)
The weather is nice here so it was moving day this week! It didn't take them long to leap out of the brooder box and explore the grassy backyard. The transition into their new coop went really well and they are enjoying the weather, bugs, and extra space. I think their first night outside was harder on me than them though!
With the snow as deep as it is now and with more to come, heading over and breaking frozen water bowls in the chicken coop in the morning is a cold proposition!
Since chickens sleep all night and do not eat or drink in the dark, I have come up with an idea that allows me a second cup of coffee without guilt. They always have pellets available to eat. I read that 100 grams of Iceberg lettuce is 95.5 grams of water. Now, when I hear the morning weather will be extra cold or nasty, I roll in a head or two when I lock up the coop after dark. They can hit the lettuce in the morning when they wake up, getting the water they need and finding entertainment as well poking it around. We both get what we need until I get the courage to trudge on out there!
By Susan from Long Island, NY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
There are numerous predators in our neighborhood that could easily dig under the edges of our coop. This is how we addressed that issue.
Starting around week 5 we noticed that our girls were trying to roost on anything and everything that was available. We wanted to give them the opportunity to practice their roosting skills prior to moving them into their coop, so here is what we came up with using scrap lumber.
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. What I hadn't expected is two days later another one suffered heat stroke too. I caught her signs much earlier as I happened to be home when the second one started to collapse!
What I hadn't thought possible was the effects the heat has on the chickens' eggs. My Phoenix hen, the second one to heat stroke, stopped laying for almost a month, or so I thought. The heat had caused her to stop laying her usual blue green eggs and she was laying white ones! We have another hen that lays white eggs and I had thought that she was laying more often, but nope. The hen had only the tiniest hue of blue on white.
I doubled the amount of electrolytes and probiotics in their water along with my old standby unfiltered apple cider vinegar. She went from laying a white egg to laying blue green eggs. Don't believe it? The photo below shows an egg she laid last week compared to her egg today! She is not the only one showing changes however. Our top hen, the boss, usually lays dark mocha colored eggs with reddish spots. Her eggs have been light brown with white spots since the summer heat started (see photo at top)! Keep an eye on those eggs. The slightest color changes can tell you that your hens are lacking in electrolytes or are feeling ill even before they physically show it!
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Here are questions related to Raising Chickens for Eggs.
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
By looneylulu 11/10/2011
Maybe she has an egg she can't pass but if she has diarraha you need to take action quickly or you'll lose her. Do you give them antibiotics? Fowl catch everything coming around the block. Maintenance is very important. You should pull her from flock because the rest will definately know she's not up to par and will pick on her.
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:
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
By Leslie Textor 06/18/2010
Although I live in the suburbs I enjoy Mother Earth News. Their website often has articles on raising chickens.
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.
By Carolyn Ballew07/12/2011
I have chickens that have a covered pen that they go into at nite. Skunks are our problem. Daytime our older chickens get to roam another part of the enclosed fenced in yard but not covered. Then another section is for our garden that is enclosed also separately. If you keep their wings clipped they can't fly into the garden. I grow more then what we eat so the chickens can have it. Plus when we're finished with the garden then they can have at it. They love it, and so do we. No more weeds to pull, besides that they fertilizer it also for next summer.
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?
By Frater Mus07/05/2010
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.
Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.
By Beth from Ft. Blackmore, VA
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
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:
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)