All You Need to Know About Raising Backyard Chickens
If you are interested in raising backyard chickens for eggs, you've come to the right place. Today I will be going over everything you need to know about raising backyard chickens. I'll be going over the breeds of chickens, everything you need to know about chicken coops, what to feed your chickens, and how to raise chickens for eggs. If you find that this article does not answer all of your questions, there are many chicken websites that you can join. Backyardchickens.com is one of those websites. Backyard Chickens is a discussion group that will discuss and answer questions on chickens, ducks, and geese. These chicken websites are great to join, as you can learn a lot and even answer other people's questions. As for now, let's take a look at how to raise backyard chickens.
Different Breeds of Chickens
There are many different breeds of chickens. According to some sites, there are over 500 different breeds of chickens. In this section I'll just be listing the most common breeds. I'll separate them into categories of what color eggs they lay, as well as the different bantam breeds and crested breeds.
- Cream Legbar
- Easter Egger
- Olive Egger
- Whiting True Blue
- 55 Flowery Hen
- Cinnamon Queen
- Black Star and Red Star
- Jersey Giant
- Naked Neck
- Plymouth Rock
- Rhode Island Red
- Speckledy (also known as Speckled Ranger)
- Barbu d'Uccle
- Belgian Antwerp d‘Anvers
- Booted Bantam
- Dutch Bantam
- Pekin Bantam
- Rosecomb Bantam
- Scots Dumpies
Which Ones Do I Pick?
Out of over 500 breeds, I just went over 56 of the most common breeds of chickens. Although the list I made is small, you are probably wondering how you will choose between 500 breeds, let alone 56. Well, if you are raising chickens for eggs you will probably want to buy the best egg layers. Although they all will lay eggs, some lay more eggs than others. Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, and Buff Orpingtons are considered the best egg laying chickens. All four of these chickens will lay from 150 to 280 eggs per year. If you have neighbors close by, you may want to invest in some quiet chickens. Wyandottes, Australorps, Javas, Ameraucanas, and bantams are considered the most quiet breeds of chickens. And if you are looking for chickens to simply keep as pets, you can never go wrong with bantams. They don't take up much room, they'll give you adorably small eggs, and they can be very sweet to raise. If you are still wondering about which types to get, consider getting a mixture of breeds.
How to Build a Chicken Coop
Now that we've covered some of the most popular chicken breeds, it is time to get building a chicken coop. If you think you'd rather buy a pre-made chicken coop, that's completely fine. You can skip this section and move on to the next one. As for all the Do It Yourselfers out there, let's grab our tools and get building.
Before you begin building, you will want to decide how large you want the chicken coop to be. You will need 2 square feet of floor space per chicken, and one nest box for every three hens. If you are raising larger chickens, add on an extra foot to the floor space. Sketch on a piece of paper your chicken coop plan. If you're not sure how to make a chicken coop plan, google online for plans and a large number of plans will pop up. Don't forget to write down the measurements of your chicken coop on the piece of paper. After making your chicken coop plan, you may also want to mark the area where you will be building.
After making your plans, go to a local hardware store and begin purchasing some tools and lumber. If you already have enough tools, then great! You can skip this step. If not, continue reading. You'll want to take your plans along with you, since the workers there should know exactly the size lumber you'll need. Plan to frame the chicken coop with 2-by-4s and use sheets of plywood for the walls. The roof can be a sheet of plywood covered with roof shingles, or simply a piece of sheet metal.
A 5 x 20 foot coop will keep a small flock happy. Of course, if you have more space your chickens will love more room. To protect your chickens from predators, bury a layer of chicken wire 6 inches deep under the coop. After building the frame of your chicken coop with the plywood and 2 x 4s, cover up any small holes that predators could sneak through.
Add a dish of water to your chicken coop (waterers will work too), and add a dish for their food. Screw their nest boxes into place, and add some straw into them. Your chickens will want a place to roost, so you will want to screw a 2 x 4 from the one side of the chicken coop to the other. After checking to make sure your chicken coop is chicken proof and safe from predators, add your chickens. This chicken coop you just created is called an urban chicken coop.
Should You Buy a Chicken Coop?
Does building a chicken coop sound too hard for you? As easy as it is, some people don't desire to build a chicken coop. If you're one of those people, don't worry. There are chicken coops already made just for you (well, they're actually made for your chickens). The price of these pre-made chicken coops vary from $100 to a couple thousand dollars. Most chicken coops are in between those prices, at about $500. Common places to find chicken coops include Tractor Supply Co., Walmart, Chewy.com, Wayfair, and Hayneedle. You can search for them online, or look at local feed stores.
What to Feed Your Chickens
Chicken feed should be a main part of their diet. You can find chicken feed at local feed stores. For laying hens, you may want to buy layer pellets. Chickens also like to eat bugs, worms, seeds, weeds, and grasses. They can easily find these foods on their own if you let them out to forage. You can also feed them vegetables and fruits. You may not want to feed them beans, garlic, raw potatoes, onions, and citrus fruits, because their eggs may not taste as good. However, these vegetables won't hurt your chickens. Lastly, make sure to have some grit available for your chickens. Chickens will like to eat small stones/gravel. Oyster shells are good to feed your chickens too, because it is a good source of calcium.
Tips for Raising Chickens for Eggs
So, are there any tips for raising backyard chickens for eggs? Yes, there are. These tips will help keep your hens healthy, as well as give you more eggs. Let's take a look at some helpful tips.
Keep Their Water Dish Filled
All chickens need water, just like other pets and humans do. Water is what keeps chickens alive. But when their water dish is always filled with clear, fresh water, they will lay more eggs.
Keep Their Nest Boxes Clean
When their nest boxes are clean, they will want to use them more. Try cleaning it once a week. That means taking out the old straw, washing the nest box, and filling it with fresh straw. While you're at it, you may want to clean the rest of the chicken coop as well. It is recommended to clean the coop once a week.
Make Sure the Coop Is Secure and Safe
If you notice any holes in the coop, fix them right away. A predator will kill all your chickens, so keep the chicken coop secure.
High Quality Feed
High quality feed is recommended if you are wanting lots of eggs. Layer pellets works great, since it is made for laying hens. Try to avoid cheap, low quality feeds. The extra few dollars will be worth it when a large supply of eggs comes in.
Let Them Free Range
Free range chickens will be happier than caged up chickens or chickens kept in a small chicken coop (also called urban chicken farming). Free range chickens will eat worms, bugs, weeds, and grass, which means less pellets you have to feed them. Make sure at night you lock them in their chicken coop so that predators don't kill them. Just remember that free range chickens may hide their eggs somewhere. Be prepared to do an Easter egg hunt.
Are you interested in raising backyard chickens? If so, hopefully you found this article to be helpful and inspiring. As you can see, raising backyard chickens is fairly easy. You will need to build them a chicken coop, give them fresh water and food, and have a few nest boxes available. If building a chicken coop doesn't sound like your type of thing, don't worry. Many feed stores sell chicken coops, as well as sites online. Lastly, in this article I went over some tips that will keep your chickens healthy, happy, and giving more eggs. Like I said at the beginning of this article, you may like to join a chicken group. Such groups include My Backyard Chickens and Backyard Chickens. Backyard Chickens is the most popular chicken website, and it is a discussion group. Members of this group will answer any questions that you have. You may find that it is fun to join chicken groups, as you can learn a lot and can get connected with chicken keepers just like you. So happy chicken keeping! Hopefully you'll soon be receiving plenty of fresh eggs.