Raising Chickens 1. IS IT LEGAL
An important factor when you start to raise chickens for eggs is to make sure that you are allowed to keep chickens in your backyard. You will need to check with your local authorities to make sure that you are able to keep chickens and see what restrictions they may have. i.e. some councils will not allow you to have roosters but will allow hens. The reason why this is important is because you don’t want to go to all the trouble of setting up your chickens only to find that you are breaking the laws in your area. If you don’t check with your local authority then you may run the risk of prosecution.
Roosters are not allowed in some cities.
2. CHICKS OR CHICKENS
Another important consideration when raising chickens for eggs is whether you raise your chickens from eggs i.e hatch them yourself or whether you buy them as baby chicks and raise them. You can also buy chickens that are ready to lay. For those who are new to raising chickens I would recommend buying chickens that are ready to lay. One, you don’t have to wait long for your chickens to start laying and two, the older chickens are not as vulnerable as the young chicks and are much more likely to survive. It’s critical that you buy from a reputable supplier; because the health of the laying hens is important for their egg production and also makes it easier for you to care for them.
3. CHICKEN COOPS
You don’t have to have an expensive chicken coop for your chickens. There are many ready made chicken coops for sale out there but it is really not too hard to build your own. If one of your motivations for raising chickens for eggs is saving money then buying an expensive chicken coop will defeat that purpose. There are many books on building your own chicken coop with easy to follow plans using cheap easily available materials. All you need to do is decide how many chickens you want, (I would recommend 2 to 4 chickens for a city backyard.) and make sure that you find a chicken coop design that will suit that amount of chickens. The less space you have available means the less chickens you should have.
4. HOW MANY CHICKENS
Instead of complicating raising chickens for eggs by having a huge flock, concentrate your efforts on a small number of chickens. Most chickens in full production will lay an egg each day. If you have too many chickens you may find it difficult to use all the eggs that they will produce. I have found that having 2 to 4 chickens will give you plenty of eggs for your family and friends and you will not be overwhelmed with eggs that you cannot use. Concentrate your efforts by only having a few hens and you will find that raising chickens for eggs is not as hard as you may think.
5. FEEDING CHICKENS
Chickens need to have a place to roost at night which is protected by the weather and they need to be fed and their water checked every day. They also need a nesting box to lay their eggs in which you put in your chicken coop. If you have children, you will find that they love collecting eggs as it is a lot of fun and you can also get them to help with feeding and checking the water as well. Chickens need a variety of foods to produce great tasting eggs and the best way to achieve this is to feed them all your kitchen food scraps. Chickens will eat just about anything and what they are doing is transforming your food scraps into fantastic garden fertilizer. Chickens will also benefit from eating layer pellets or grain to maintain their egg production and will quickly turn any weeds and garden waste you have into fertilizer as well.
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To check if your chicken eggs are fertile or not, you can put them through a procedure called Candling. Candling is the process of shining a light through the egg to see if there is any sign of an embryo inside.
The fertility of eggs cannot be determined before you incubate them, so after 2 to 3 days in the incubator, you can candle white-shelled eggs to see if embryos have developed.
Eggs that are damaged do not hatch and often develop odors and they should be removed when found.
White-shelled eggs may be candled by placing a light bulb under a box. Make a hole slightly smaller in diameter than the egg through which light will pass. Place the egg over the hole, if a cloudy spot is observed, this can be assumed to be a growing embryo. If the contents of the egg allows light to pass uniformly through it you can assume that the egg is infertile. If an egg is candled at 7 days or older and is absolutely clear it is dead or was never fertile.
If you prefer you can buy a Candler, which is a sophisticated product specifically designed to show you if the eggs are fertile or not.
Here is an example of a Candler below:
Chickens have different nutritional needs at different stages of their lives. There are a few basic types of chicken feed. Mash which is grain based and ground into powder, pellets which are compressed mash made into pellets so that there is less waste, and crumbles which are pellets broken into pieces. There is also a whole grain feed called scratch which is a bit like a treat for the birds. If they have too much of this though they can get quite fat. Many people mix their own feed for their chickens but you do need to have a fair bit of knowledge to get this right. I would recommend that people just starting out with raising chickens should buy their chicken feed premixed.
Starter Feed for Chicks
From the time your chicks hatch until 6 weeks of age you will need to feed them chick starter mash with a protein level of 20 percent. It is important that you feed your baby chicks different food to your laying hens as the extra calcium that the older birds need for laying eggs is actually detrimental to baby chicks. So you will need to separate your chicks from the laying hens until they get old enough. Commercial suppliers provide starter feeds especially made for young chicks. These feeds will provide the chicks with all the minerals and vitamins that they require. Most people use a medicated feed for the first few weeks of a chicken’s life. This is to prevent Coccidiosis which is a parasite that chicks are particularly vulnerable to up until 18 weeks of age. A chick that is from an egg laying breed will eat about 2 pounds of starter feed in its first 6 weeks.
Chick Starter Feed
Once they turn six weeks of age you can start them on pullet grower feed which has only 14 to 17 percent protein. You feed them this until they reach twenty weeks old. You can then start supplementing the grower feed with grain. This will reduce the overall cost of rearing your chickens. Pullets may begin to receive grain as soon as they start eating growing feed. Corn, wheat, barley, oats, millet, grain sorghum, or combinations of these may be used. Begin with 10 pounds of grain for each 100 pounds of growing food. Increase the grain until they are getting equal parts of growing food and grain. It is at this point that you can also start introducing your pullets to vegetable scraps, garden weeds, grasses and any plant material. This also helps to reduce your costs and it is also a very important part of your hen’s diet. Vegetable peelings, stale bread, and leafy vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, turnips,broccolli etc are excellent sources. Avoid strong smelling vegetables such as onions or garlic unless you want onion or garlic flavored eggs. Don’t feed them food that is rotten as they can get food poisoning which can kill them very quickly. It is best to feed your scraps to your chickens daily.
Chickens eating Scraps
Chicken Food for Layers
When pullets are 18 to 20 weeks old, gradually withdraw the growing feed and replace with laying feed over those last two weeks. Layers need a quality balanced ration to maintain their egg production. If you are new to raising chickens then it is advisable to use a mixed feed purchased at a poultry feed store. This feed will ensure that your chickens are getting the nutrition that they need to produce eggs. Laying hens need a mixture with a 15 percent protein level with the vitamins and minerals blended into the commercial feed to complete their diet. This food can be supplemented with grain as before. Just make sure you do not feed too much grain as this can make your layers fat if you are feeding them both types of food.
There is growing evidence that supplementing your chicken’s food with grasses and other vegetable matter, will produce eggs with a higher ratio of omega three’s than those hens fed just on commercial food. We all know that the taste of eggs from chickens allowed access to weeds and grasses, insects and vegetable matter, is far superior to commercially grown eggs. Now we are starting to see evidence that eggs produced from chickens (who are allowed to eat the food that they would in the wild) are more nutritious and actually benefit your health.
If you can achieve it, give your chickens access to your yard for about 30 mins every day. If you let them out about half an hour before their roosting time at sunset you will not have to chase them back into their coop as they will go in by themselves. All you will have to do is shut the door. By limiting the time they have access to your garden, gives them less time to actually damage your plants. They are more likely to feed on grasses and insects in the time given to them. If you have plants that you don’t want damaged, put a bit of wire mesh around them to protect them.
Another way to ensure that your chickens get enough greens is to have a portable chicken coop that you can move around on your lawn. You have to move it quite a lot so you need to be prepared to do this but they will mow your lawn and keep the bugs out as they go. If none of this is practical, pulled up weeds and garden refuse plus scraps from your kitchen will still do the trick and give them that extra nutrition they need.
Layer Feed for Chickens
The design of your Chicken Coop is very important. There are so many styles and designs of chicken coops, it can all get very confusing. Do you buy one, and if you do what is a good design? If you make your own, how do you know you have everything you need to keep your chickens healthy. A good way to start is to make sure your chicken coop fits the basic principles outlined below. Whether it is the most luxurious or the most basic chicken coop you won’t go wrong if you follow these tips.
A chicken coop can be very simple as this mobile coop above.
If you don’t have much space then you need to restrict your flock to two or three chickens. Chickens need between one and two square foot each in their chicken coop and between two to four feet each in their chicken run.
Bantams need less space and the larger breeds need more, so the size of your hens does matter. If you don’t take this into consideration you risk your chickens getting diseases and fighting each other. If you can let your chickens roam during the day in a large enclosed area then all the better. Just make sure that they are locked up in their coop at night.
This is so important as chickens are extremely vulnerable to all types of predators. From dogs and cats to wild and feral animals that may live in your area, they will all love to get a hold of your chickens. Foxes especially love chickens and because they can climb fences, the coop must be completely enclosed and be secure along the bottom, so that predators cannot dig their way in.
Here is an example of a very secure chicken coop and run, totally enclosed with bird aviary wire.
3. Protection from heat and cold
If you live in a cold climate having insulation or a light may be required in your coop to keep your chickens warm. Recent studies have proven that chickens will lay much more consistently if they are kept warm than those who are not This may sound a bit too expensive for some people so a cheaper way to get around this is to buy a heap of straw bales amd when winter comes place these around the outside of your coop. This will prevent drafts and also insulate your coop really well. If you live in a hot climate your coop will benefit from being either shaded by a tree or by a building.
Fresh air is vital so along the top of your coop have a thin strip of bird wire that allows the coop to receive fresh air but not cause a direct draught onto your chickens. Do not have your vents down the bottom of your coop as they will create a draught directly onto your chickens. Toxic fumes can build up inside an unventilated chicken coop from the chicken manure so this is very important and is something that can often be overlooked.
This Chicken Coop has excellent ventilation at the top of the coop with bird wire making it secure.
If you are only going to have a few chickens and you have decided on a mobile chicken coop then the floor can be just the ground the coop is placed on. As you will be moving the coop around the chickens will be quite happy with the new grass they get every time they are moved. A dirt floor covered in straw or hay is also acceptable in a fixed coop but it has the disadvantage of allowing rats and mice in and can be difficult to keep clean. A concrete floor is the best and will keep out rodents and is easy to clean. Straw or hay is still a good idea to put on the floor as it soaks up the manure and apart from providing warmth the combination of straw and manure produces fantastic compost.
This fantastic chicken coop has a concrete floor, bricks around the bottom so no predators can dig their way in, great looking nesting boxes and a roost.
6. Nesting Boxes
Nesting Boxes for your Chicken Coop need to be at least a foot long by a foot deep. Wooden boxes are the best but they could also be made out of plastic if necessary. Place them at least a foot off the ground and if necessary have a wooden ramp so the chickens can get into them. To make it easy to collect the eggs you may want to make a box with a hinged lid that you can open from the outside of the coop. This means that you don’t have to go inside the coop to collect the eggs. This can save you a lot of time and means that your children can collect the eggs without letting the chickens out. Put some straw, hay, woodshavings or even shredded paper in the boxes so that the chickens are comfortable and the eggs don’t crack.
These nesting boxes have a hinged lid on the outside of the coop so that you can collect the eggs without going into the chicken coop.
Chickens roost at night so you need to provide them with a roost to sleep on. Roosts are best made of wood and can be made from small tree branches, wooden poles, dowel, or even an old wooden ladder. Just make sure that the chickens are able to hang on with their feet and that they can sit there comfortably. Metal roosts are not suitable as they can get freezing cold in winter and very hot in summer.
Automatic feeders are very handy, or you may choose to scatter the hens food daily in their run when you collect their eggs. This has its advantages as there is little waste. If you are going to buy an automatic feeder you may want to place it in the chicken coop to minimise rodents who will love to share your chickens food and also the local bird population who won’t be able to resist a free feed. For this reason I also like to use bird avairy wire rather than chicken wire as the aviary wire has much smaller holes and other birds won’t be able to get into your chicken coop. It is also good to hang your feeder from the ceiling about six inches from the ground. This also will reduce waste, discourage rodents and stop the chickens from scattering the food far and wide.
If you need a chicken feeder click on the link below.
The Automatic Feeder hangs from the ceiling.
Fresh water is vital for keeping your chickens healthy. They need their water checked daily especially in hot weather. You will need a bowl that is deep enough for the water not to heat up too quickly but shallow enough so that the chickens are able to reach it easily. It also has to be in something large enough so that they can’t tip it over. Having an automatic waterer is a good idea but you still need to regularly check that it is working properly and that your water source is reliable. Another hint if you are raising baby chicks. Their water bowl needs to be very shallow as they can drown if their bowl is too deep.
This automatic waterer has two nipples that release water when the chicken presses on it.
Your Chicken Coop should have a place for the birds to roost, good drainage, nesting boxes, a feeder, a waterer and enough space for the number of birds you are raising. You can have a permanent chicken coop. a mobile chicken coop, a premade chicken coop, a homemade chicken coop and they come in all shapes and sizes.
We got our first eggs from hens we raised from chicks. The yolks of the eggs, (shells are light brown or tan), are a very orange-y color. We were expecting to see bright yellow yolks as opposed to the light yellow of store-bought eggs, but not the reddish orange of our hens’ eggs. Will that change after they have begun to lay regularly?
Light Brown eggs will usually have slightly more orange colored yolks than the white shelled eggs. However in my experience the more orange your yoke the better the egg. We are so used to pale yellow watery yokes that you get from bought eggs. Caged chickens live such an unhealthy life the eggs they produce are not exactly healthy either Commercial egg producers will dispute this of course. Enjoy your orange yolks and enjoy the superior taste of the healthy nutritious eggs that you are now producing. What you are seeing are eggs that are healthy and full of nutrition.
What is the safest way to clean manure and dirt off of the shell of fresh eggs? I am just using warm water and a clean rag.
You can wash your eggs in water only if you plan to use them right away. By putting the eggs in water, you wash away the bloom from the egg, a protective layering that prevents bacteria from entering the egg. Therefore, if you want to store your eggs for use later, you should not put them in water. If you must wash the eggs, use HOT running water. A good idea is to get a soft brush and brush the dirt and manure from the shell.
At what age & or size should the new chicks be before adding them to the coop and the other full grown 2 year old chickens? (The chicks were purchased) What about the outdoor temp these little ones can handle?
Never introduce baby chicks to a flock of older chickens. Chickens should be introduced once they are fully feathered and half grown. Once your chickens have reached the age of 12 weeks or so you can start the process of introducing your pullets to your flock. I usually put the chicks in their own small pen inside the coop at night so that the older chicks can see them and get used to them but can’t hurt them. If you don’t have enough room in your coop to do this then try putting them inside a cardboard box or a small dog kennel in the coop at night so the older hens don’t feel like they are being invaded.
The more room you have the easier it will be so make sure that there are enough nesting boxes and room to roost for your new hens when you first let them into the main coop. It is important for the older hens to see the young ones over a period of time, without them being able to get at them. You also can, if you have the room, construct a small pen next to the main run with a box or shelter of some description. You need to leave them there for a couple of weeks then when you do introduce them you may need to do it gradually for a few hours per day so it is the least traumatic as possible for all concerned. A pecking order will be formed and this is the most peaceful way of doing it. You can also construct an area where the younger smaller hens can escape to and where the larger hens can’t access. Take it slowly and you will be fine.
I have six young red production hens. My husband is building a hen house and it should be operating by the end of this month. Where can I find egg lights to check for blood spots? When (at what age) can I start feeding the chicks apple cores and other vegetable clippings from my food preparations? I appreciate any information you may have to help me succeed at this new adventure.
I would recommend that you start feeding your chickens kitchen scraps when they are about 8 weeks old. Continue feeding them their normal commercial chicken food and start giving them small amounts of green vegetable scraps. Try to avoid bread at this stage as this might clog them up when they are small. Gradually increase the amount and variety of scraps as they grow older and larger.
As for Candlers, (egg lights) you can go to my website under the Incubator Category and you will find a Candler for sale there. Here is the link http://www.raisingchickensforeggs.com/incubators/incubators Scroll down till you see the heading Candling and you will see an example of a Candler. Click on the link and you can find more information on the product.
I bought some chicks when they were 2 days old at my country store. I was told they are all female. Do you think they know that for sure? I will not be too popular in my neighborhood with a rooster. The hens will only deliver unfertilized eggs right? Do I need the light if I already know they are infertile? Maybe blood spots in the egg could be found before I open one up would be helpful to find with the light. We have built a brood box for the little chix and my hubby is finishing up a portable run that should be ready in the next day or so. Is that ok to let them be under that protection now as they are nearing a month old. Will it be ok to let them be under that protection on the lawn? Thank you so much for helping us be successful egg producers.
If your local store says they are all female I would believe them as the chicks can be sexed as it is called, when they are just born. When your hens get all their feathers you will be able to tell if you have a rooster in your flock and you can then give him away as unless you are going to breed chickens, having a rooster can get very noisy and your neighbors’ will not like it. If you don’t have a rooster then you will not get fertilized eggs and you will not get bloodspots in them. You therefore will not need to buy a light.
If you are going to put your chicks out on the lawn you must make sure that no predators can get to them . At their age they are vulnerable to hawks and other large birds taking them so make sure that your portable run has a wire roof so that nothing can get in there. They will love being on your lawn and will love to eat the tips of grasses. They make very good lawn mowers if you move their run around. As long as they have somewhere warm and protected to go to at night they should be fine.
Found your site and thought you might be able to help me. I have been raising chickens for 10 years and just this past year my eggs taste funny. Not all of them, but maybe one out of 6 or so eggs will taste bad, even if they are just laid. The yoke, not the white, has an awful taste and smell. I have not changed anything I have been doing. Any suggestions?
It sounds like your chickens have access to food that is making them lay bad tasting eggs. Have you been feeding them onions, garlic, fish meal or fish oil in the scraps that you feed them. It sounds like they are randomly eating something like this and that is why not all your eggs have this taste. Some fruit peelings can also have an effect on egg taste. Try eliminating the above and have a close look at what they are actually eating. It could also be what foods you are storing them next to in the refrigerator as the eggs will absorb odors from other foods they are stored with.
I really hate to sound really really stupid, but don’t you have to have a rooster for hens to lay eggs? Please stop laughing!
No you don’t need a rooster for your hens to produce eggs. You do need a rooster to fertilize the eggs if you want to breed baby chicks but hens will lay eggs quite happily without a rooster present.
I am have trouble with my hen having impacted eggs. Lost two and now seem to have another sick one. Looked close and do not see shell but she is sick. HELP
If your hen is egg bound-try the following A hen is said to be egg bound when she doesn’t lay her egg This is a common condition, and may result from inflammation of the oviduct,malformed or double yolker egg, or a too large an egg in a young pullet She will tend to stand all hunched up She will be restless Her vent will look quite red and protrude She will drink & eat very little. Her oviduct may end up protruding due to excessive pushing by her to eject the egg; internal haemorrhage or exhaustion may occur and she may die.
She may smell badly. She may have faecal matter that has built up behind the egg, if you see white liquid that will be her urates trying to pass (urine in chickens) Sit her in a tub of warm soapy water Make sure the vent is submerged for about 30 minutes. This may seem like a long time, but you have to relax the vent area and make is easier for the egg to pass through, it really does help the hen, 85% of the time this will be all that you will need to do for her and the egg will pass out with a little push. You can rub some lubricant around the vent area if you think that may help too. KY jelly, petroleum jelly, Vaseline or Olive Oil all work fine .
Make sure you isolate her from the other hens, or they will peck at her vent causing more damage Put her into an isolation cage, put plenty of news paper down first and then put heated towels down. They will act like a heat pad for her, no drafts when she is wet or she will catch a chill. You can heat up towels in your microwave, it works well or a wheat heat pack is good too. Just put towels over it. Leave her for a little while to see if she passes the egg, if not, repeat the warm water and soap again Some people just use the heating pads, this sometimes seems to relax the muscles and allow the egg to slip out
If this doesn’t work, you may have to resort to removing the egg manually, which is not a pleasant task. You will need two people to do this. Using KY jelly, Petroleum jelly or Vaseline, insert your finger in the vent. With your other hand you can press gently on her abdomen moving the egg down the oviduct towards the cloaca. Once you can see the egg, if it won’t pass, then rupture the egg and gently remove all the shell Some people suggest using a sharp instrument. I would not recommend this at all as it could result in causing the hen internal injuries.
The shell of the egg will be very sharp when broken and could also damage the chicken internally Once you have broken the shell, you must make sure you remove every particle carefully. The cloaca should then be washed with a weak warm water/salt solution. This is to make sure all the egg contents and shell has been removed from inside the hen. If it isn’t it could cause bacteria to start growing inside her and then you’ve got an even bigger problem to solve Once the egg has ejected you will want to keep an eye on her for a while There may be another egg backed up in her oviduct system, especially if she lays an egg every day or every other day. If it has ruptured inside her, you should look for small pieces of shell, or evidence of any cuts around the vent area Be careful you don’t cut yourself or her If you do find any cuts around her cloaca, rinse with hydrogen peroxide and watch her for listlessness, dull eyes, and signs of fever. Infection can come on pretty quickly. Keep a close eye on her, this could happen again to her and she will need immediate action to fix the problem
My chickens have begun eating the eggs before I can collect them each day. Is there a reason they have started this? Can I do something to stop them?
Chickens that eat their own eggs are a problem as it can be a hard habit to break. Try the following. Collect eggs promptly. Hens usually lay in the early morning, so make sure you have the eggs gathered by noon. Darken your nesting boxes. Hang old towels or pieces of sheet in front of the nesting boxes to block the light. The hens will still get in the boxes to lay.
You can leave some golf balls in the nests which they will try to peck and will find too hard. Trim hens beaks. Hens with fully sharp beaks are more likely to cannibalize their eggs. Provide a low stress environment. Hens that are overcrowded or bored are more likely to eat eggs. Allow the hens free-range time in a safely enclosed chicken yard, and maintain a small flock. Make sure your hens are getting adequate calcium and Vitamin D in their diet. Deficiencies of these nutrients make egg-eating attractive and make it easier by producing weak-shelled eggs that are easily cracked open.
Feeding Oyster shells to your chickens will harden up the eggshells.Identify the hen or hens that are eating the eggs. Eliminate egg-eaters from the flock before they spread the habit or start on the others’ eggs.
If nothing else works you can take out all the bedding in their nests and put your nests on an angle with a collection tray that the birds can’t get to. When they lay an egg it will roll into the collection tray and they won’t be able to eat their eggs. I hope you have some success with these tips. Egg eating is a problem. You might also want to make sure that other pets such as cats are not getting into the coop and eating the eggs.
Hi, wondering if we need to give chicks any meds to keep them healthy? Our water has some chlorine in it does that cause a problem? Some animals are given antibiotics, is that necessary in a backyard environment?
You can buy feed that has medicine in it to prevemt diseases such as coccidiosis. This disease can wipe out your flock. However you don’t have to give your chicks feed with medicine in it and some people choose not to. It depends on how large your flock is and if your chicks have been exposed to the disease. I would ask the store you are buying your chick feed from and see if it is a problem in your area and ask them in they think you need it. It may be in the food you are already giving them. As I said many people prefer not use any medicines until it is necessary (they get sick). If you keep them in a clean environment with plenty of food and water and room to scratch around in you will generally be ok. If your water is fit for human consumption then it will be fine for your chickens. Chlorine in levels found in normal drinking water should not be a problem.
How long can we keep the fresh eggs before they need to be refrigerated and eaten before they go bad?
I would put your fresh eggs straight in the refrigerator. They will last a lot longer. Some chefs say that it is better to use eggs that are at room temperature but you can take out the eggs that you are going to use for cooking and let them warm to room temperature before you use them. The USDA recommends a maximum of 5 weeks in your refrigerator before you discard your eggs. Eggs can remain edible for even longer than a month but the freshness of the egg with an egg yolk that sits firm and high, and a thick viscous egg white will be noticeably less after two weeks. Here is a how to test for freshness: Get a bowl of cold water. Put the whole egg in the water. If it sinks to the bottom and lays on its side its fresh; if it floats to the top, it is old. You can see the age of it by how much it floats.