From the Urban Backyard Farmer Guidebook
Chances are if you are reading this article you are already sold on the idea of adding some egg-laying hens into your flock. However, before you haphazardly run out and buy some cute little chicks, you’ll want to read this article all the way through so that you can equip yourself with the proper knowledge on how to raise chickens in your backyard.
Is it Legal?
Depending on where you live, it might be illegal to raise backyard chickens. Check your local city or county website to learn more information on the regulations in your area.
Research Chicken Coop Plans – Or Just Buy One
As much as my male ego would allow me to admit it; building a chicken coop is NOT as easy as it looks. I recently built a raised garden bed for my wife and I suddenly felt like I had a black belt in carpentry.
So when my wife asked me if I wanted to buy a chicken coop, I scoffed at the notion and went to my local hardware store to gather what I thought would be sufficient supplies.
6 hours and a few curse words later, I consented to purchasing a chicken coop after my unfinished Frankenstein-like chicken coop lay mockingly next to my beautiful raised garden bed.
Lesson learned! Aosom.com creates beautiful chicken coops at affordable prices AND has free shipping. So you don’t have to be local or have to borrow your friend’s truck to get a great high-quality chicken coop delivered to your home.
Don’t Forget the Eggs!
Seriously, you will be highly upset with yourself if one of the main reasons that you got a chicken was for the delicious supply of eggs and you DIDN’T install a nesting box. A nesting box, which is a standard in most pre-assembled coops, are little boxed spaces (usually 12”x 12” x 12”) for hens to lay their eggs and are typically located in the elevated roosting area of the coop. Don’t forget that a nesting box is pivotal in your quest to learning how to raise chickens and getting your eggs!
On the other hand, if you are starting out with a baby chick and not an older hen, it’s understandably going to be about 15 – 18 weeks until it’s ready to start laying eggs. However, if you are starting with a pullet (a young chicken) they may begin to lay eggs on the floor at first. This can either be because they simply are confused, as they are new to the egg laying business. Or, if you don’t currently have a nesting box built into your coop, then they probably have yet to develop proper egg-laying habits Eggs that are laid on the coop floor are often cracked open or are dirty, as a result, they are not safe for consumption. That’s why it’s key to build a nesting box for your chickens before they’re ready to start laying eggs.
Predator-Proof your Run
It’s impossible to keep your eyes on your chickens at all times, which is a huge problem considering that predatory critters like possums, foxes, snakes and raccoons would love an easy meal. It’s a fact, that our feathered friends are most vulnerable at night. Because of this, you’ll want to keep them locked up securely in their coop in the evenings. This is especially important if you don’t have a fenced in backyard. You may want to consider installing some protective chicken wire fencing to allow your chickens to roam safely.
Here are some additional tips that will help you maximize the security for your chickens throughout the day:
- If you are building a coop with a chicken coop plan, make sure to test each of the corners with your hand. If your hand can fit, so can a hungry critter.
- Consider investing in some chicken wire to help build a safe perimeter for your chickens.
- When purchasing a pre-assembled chicken coop make sure that both the coop doors and chicken wire are included.
Thankfully, chickens have a pretty versatile diet. Personally, our chickens are just fine eating corn, chicken feed and selected table scraps when they are not free ranging. Yes, chickens absolutely love leftovers such as: crackers, bacon, bread, meat scraps, egg shells, potato peels, grapes, apple cores, tomatoes, watermelon rinds, etc.
Inspect your Eggs
Unfortunately, not all of the eggs that your will chickens lay are going to be safe for you to eat. The bad eggs will be easy enough to spot, as there will be obvious issues with things such as the shell texture, smell or shell color. Conversely, if you see an egg shell that has a glassy or chalky appearance to it, it may just be an odd egg and nothing else. These eggs are safe to eat. The reason that these eggs may look a little off is because the egg shell itself had low porosity and, as a result, it would never be able to hatch.
Enjoy your Eggs
Once your chicken begins laying eggs you can expect for them to produce between 250 – 380 eggs per year, depending on the breed. This should give you some insight on how many eggs your family might be able to handle. If you need more eggs, simply get another hen. In order to maximize the amount of usable eggs that you can gather from your hens be sure to keep their nests clean and feed them regularly. Nests should be lined with straw, shavings or shredded paper. It acts as a wonderful cushion for them and keeps their eggs from cracking.