Raising Backyard Chickens
Pioneering A Journey Towards Self-Sufficiency
Written By Victor Alfieri, editor woodlotfarms.com
The following data, info, links, and research is from my own personal experiences in raising chicken hens. My thought process is from a logical and practical stand point.
Some towns do not allow residents to raise hens. Please check your town laws and understand them before moving ahead. If raising chicken hens is not permitted in your town, you can, must, and need to change the law. We can help you do it.
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A Few Points On Raising Hens To Get You Excited
Chickens are and always will be the most efficient, cost effective, and practical protein food source for the small urban homestead. Raising chicken hens pays for itself, you will save money by raising backyard hens.
The fact is eggs from backyard chickens have
25 percent more vitamin E, 35 percent more vitamin A and 75 percent more
beta-carotene. They also have significantly more omega-3 fatty acids
and lower levels of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, than factory farmed eggs.
Raising backyard chickens is now
synonymous with sustainability.
Nothing goes to waste with hens. Hens produce fresh organic healthy eggs, the egg shells are high in calcium and perfect for enriching soil, and the rich high nitrogen waste is excellent for adding to flower and garden soils. No waste because everything is used.
Another fact is the minute you start raising chicken hens, your family's carbon footprint goes down. Raising backyard hens has a positive effect on the environment.
This should do it. Most importantly, owning and raising hens creates a tremendous sense of
food security. Regardless of what happens around you. Your family has the
ability to produce ounce for ounce and pound for pound the highest
packed protein food source on the planet.
Know where your food comes from!!!
OK Let's Get Started
First you have to get prepared mentally. You need to forget about and
remove all the preconceived notions that you have been told about raising backyard chicken hens.
Do not ever let any negative energy into the process of planning,
building, and maintaining your backyard flock. Chicken hens feed off your energy, good or bad.
Tending to and sitting with hens is a wonderful form of meditation. Raising hens should never be stressful,
we have too much of that in our everyday life, our yards should be
tranquil calm and relaxing.
Raising chicken hens is about living healthy, having fun, learning, sustainability, gaining back some control, and becoming less dependent on outside resources.
Must Watch - Lets Raise Hens
Why Do You Want To Raise Chicken Hens?
First you need to decide why you want to raise chickens. Do you want fresh eggs, meat, or both? There are chicken hens for laying fresh eggs. Hens that grow big and fast for meat, or there are combination of laying
hens and birds for meat. Also many people raise chickens as show birds.
How Many Are You Going To Raise?
How many chicken hens are you going to raise? This is important to know before you get started on your coop design.
Keep in mind 3 hens will produce 900 eggs
per year, 5 hens 1,500 per year. When raising hens for fresh eggs, 3 to
5 hens is perfect number for a homestead with 4 to 6 family members.
I recommend raising at least 3 hens or more. Any less than 3 hens will put your small flock in danger. In the winter hens huddle together to use each other's body heat to keep warm. With more eyes looking out for predators chickens feel more comfortable in minimum pack of 3.
Finding The Perfect Spot In The Yard If you want happy and healthy hens they need the sun. Everything the chicken does revolves around the sun. The amount of eggs they lay per year is based on how much light they receive. The sun feeds hens vitamins like D3 that keeps them healthy.
Hens also need shade to cool off in the hot summers.
Find a spot that is convenient for you and your family. Going to care for the hens should be fun and not feel like a chore. I think being able to see the chicken run from the house is very important. Watching and sitting by the hens is very relaxing.
The Hen House
Never purchase chickens with-out having your coop set up first. There are many possibilities for chicken coops. Coops are now designed for all
types of applications. Coop designs can be totally charming, upscale and
even whimsical. You can convert an existing shed for under $50.00 or
spend up to $5,000 for a beautiful dollhouse replica.
They can be small and
simple, made from salvaged material, massive and complex, or beautiful
enough to exist in a city backyard. They can be purchased pre-made or
built yourself. The important features are: adequate size, protection
roosting poles, adequate ventilation, and nest boxes.
Hens need 3
square feet per hen in the coop and 10 square feet per hen outside for a
chicken run. 10 hens 100 square feet run.
The Chicken Run
Chickens can fly so the run should always be enclosed
with chicken wire or some kind of netting.
Most importantly the
enclosed run helps to protect the hens from flying and ground predators.
Runs should contain a rock or 2 so the hens
can clean and smooth their
There also should be a roost about 8" off
the ground, so the hens
can get off the cold
and wet ground in the rain and snow.
Chicken Trackers - Portable Houses
This is the most efficient way to raise backyard chicken hens.
Chicken coops on wheels so you
can move the coop around the yard to feed your lawn with rich nitrogen
and stop using harsh lawn chemicals.
Also known as
"chicken tractors" portable
makes it possible to keep your
chickens on grass or in your garden for
Chickens also eat weeds and do a great job
tilling and mixing garden soil.
that have access to greens will produce higher quality eggs with an
Yellow yolks indicate that the hen is not
daylight, and is not on
pasture or grass.
Each hen does not need a laying box.
1 laying box for every 5 hens is perfect.
Size: 14" wide, 14" front to back and 18" high so the hens can stand and spin.
Put in about 2" of pine shavings on the bottom on the box for a soft egg laying surface. Clean and replace shavings as needed.
At night chickens roost. The roost needs to be at least
24" off the coop floor and large enough to hold all your
hens. The roost helps them feel secure and relaxes
them for a good night sleep. Roost Pictures
Hens need to be able to walk up a ladder to get to the roost. Hens use roosts for grooming and sleeping.
Some of the coop designs I have
seen are just remarkable and very innovative. As long as the hens have a dry box for egg
laying, a roost for sleeping and grooming, and are kept out of the wind
in the winter, really anything goes.
Choosing The Right Breed
There are over 400 varieties of chickens available today! Amazing,
isn't it? When choosing a breed or breeds for your flock, consider
climate, breed temperaments, egg production levels, and whether you want
a "dual-purpose" bird that is good for eggs and meat, or purely an egg
Combining multiple breeds in one flock is fine. They'll all get
along, and whether you have one breed or seven, they will establish
their pecking order.
Starting My Small Backyard Flock
There are a few ways to start your backyard flock. One way would be to buy chicken hatching eggs. That's right eggs with chicks inside and about a week from hatching shipped to your front door. Staring this way I would have to say is the hardest method. Click For Example Murray McMurray Hatchery
Another way is to buy one day old baby chicks. Caring for baby chicks in the first few weeks is a time-intensive but
fun process. You'll need to keep them under a heat lamp, monitor their
temperature and make sure they have food and water. Each week you lower
the temperature until they are comfortable at outside temperature, and
then you can remove the heat lamp and move them to the main coop. One day old chicks can be ordered online and shipped to your door.
Click For Example Efowl.com
Keep in mind new born chicks cost from $.50 to $3.00 each but will not start laying eggs for about 16 to 20 weeks old. Hatching eggs and new born chicks need a constant temperature of 95 degrees for the first month or so. You will need to care form them with no reward. Consider the care and cost of raising baby chicks.
The most practical, cost effective, and easiest way to start raising hens is to purchase 16 to 18 week old
"pullets". Pullets are sold right before they start laying eggs. Pullets are more expansive because of the cost to raise them to the point of egg laying.
If you are just getting started this is the best way to go. There is a lot to learn, take your time, and start from the most practical place. 16 weeks old pullets should cost between $6.00-$15.00.
Local Chicken Hen Delivery Service Is Offering Rhode Island Red & White Rock Mix.
In and Around Wayne NJ For The Week Of April 16th delivery. Click For Details
Do I Need A Rooster?
The short answer is NO. You can get fresh healthy eggs from hens without
ever having a rooster present. Roosters do not lay eggs. The only
reason you would need a rooster is if you intend on hatching your own
rooster will have to fertilize the eggs.
Where To Buy
very best places to buy your chicks is from small local farms and private
breeders concentrating on the breed of your choice, especially if that
breeder is raising them organically. Place your orders by
early spring to get the breed or breeds you wish to raise.
The Right Supplies - Things You Will Need
There are a few things you'll need to raise happy healthy hens, waterer, feeder, bedding, feed, scratch, grit, and ground up oyster shells. The chicken hen industry is just like the cat and dog business. There are thousands of gadgets you can buy for raising chicken hens.
It comes down to how much money you want to spend. But, please keep in mind, that many of these items can be made from things you
may already have in your home and most of the time work better than anything you can buy in the store.
Non Food Must Haves For The Coop
1. Clean fresh water is the most important thing chicken hens need. The waterer has to be heavy in weight and off the ground because chickens will walk on and tip over the water. Being a little off the ground discourages them from standing on the sides and tipping. Very important. The water container needs to be scrubbed and cleaned before refill. Do not let algae build up on bottom of container.
2. Feeder same thing, use something sturdy. Chickens will try to scratch the food and flip feeders over. Wall mount gravity feeders made of PVC are the best. Feed container needs to be scrubbed and cleaned before refill. Use your eyes, if it looks dirty clean it.
3. Pine shavings are used for the bottom of the egg laying boxes for bedding and is also sprinkled around the coop to help dry out waste. About $8.00 for 3 cubic feet and it goes a long way. Click For Example
Chicken Feed It's important to understand that chicken feed (livestock feed) is a commodity and trades on the open market every day. The price is determined as a function of its market as a whole.
This means feed prices will always change. Chicken feed is mostly made up of whole grains. If there is bad weather, flooding, droughts, and it effects the crops, chicken feed price will go up or maybe down depending on the factors.
Chicken feed comes in 3 ways. Crumbles, Pellets, and Scratch. Crumbles and Pellets are the same thing. Crumbles is just ground smaller for smaller birds. Pellets are for more mature larger birds. Chicken feed is sold in 50 lbs. bags for about $18.00. They do offer smaller bags, but it will be more expensive.
Crumbles Pellets Scratch
Chicken feed is going to have everything
your chicken needs to stay happy and healthy. Chickens not fed properly
will result in unhealthy less productive hens. Know whats in your
chicken feed, always read the ingredients. Try different brands and
types and find what fits for you and your budget.
also chicken feed but is lacks all the essential nutrients your chickens will need to live a have healthy life. Scratch is made up of small
Buying and using scratch grains is not necessary but,
thrown on the ground in the chicken run, it keeps the hens busy all day
scratching and pecking for healthy treats. Scratch feed is sold in 50 lb. bags for about $18.00.
There are also All Natural and Organic feeds available. The organic chicken feeds are the best, but it is also the most expensive. About $35.00 for a 50 lb. bag.
Throw Some Grid & Oyster Shells
Chickens do not have teeth and therefore do not chew their food.
Chickens swallow their food whole. Chicken grit is simply small rocks to be used as a supplement to your
flock’s diet. These rocks are rough in texture which is much more
effective in grinding and helps hens with digestion. Sprinkle a small hand full around the chicken run from time to time. Grit bags come in a 5 lb. bag for under $8.00. With 10 hens or under this size bag should last you one year.Click For Example Why Grit For Chickens?
For strong eggs, Oyster Shell is a must have. Laying hens need a source of calcium to keep their eggshells strong.
Hens that get too little calcium will lay thin-shelled eggs that will be
prone to breakage. Eggshells are made of calcium carbonate, the same
as found in oyster shells. Ground up shells come in a 5 lb. bag for under $8.00. With 10 hens or under this size bag should last you one year. Click For Example
Should you wash eggs?
No. It's not necessary or recommended for consumers to wash
eggs and may actually increase the risk of contamination
because the wash water can be "sucked" into the egg through the
pores in the shell When the chicken lays
the egg, a protective coating is put on the outside by the hen.
Maintain Your Flock
Ongoing chicken care is fairly easy. Feeding, watering, gathering eggs
and periodically cleaning bedding are the main tasks. The key is to be
sure you keep your schedule regular - hens can't go very long without
More to come.
Age Of Chicken
Rhode Island Red
Backyard Poultry Magazine
is published bi-monthly in
north-central Wisconsin by Countryside Publications, Ltd. Departments: In addition to feature articles, each issue contains informative articles in the following departments: Breed Selection Housing Management Health and Nutrition Rare and Historic Breeds News and Views Other topics of interest to promote more and better raising of small-scale poultry. WEBSITE...
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