How To Raise Back Yard Chickens
Buckets Make Great Nest Boxes For Your Hens
All About Chicken Eggs
When fertilized eggs are incubated either naturally by having a hen set on them or by using an incubator a baby chick will develop in the egg and hatch in 21 days. Eggs that are refrigerated or washed will not hatch or only a few may hatch. So if you plan to hatch the eggs don't wash them and don't put them into the refrigerator. You can keep fresh eggs in the refrigerator for up to four to five weeks.
Keep any eggs you plan to hatch in a cool dry place out of the sun and again do not wash them. You can if you wish just leave the eggs you plan to hatch right there in the hens nest. I still often take a pencil daily and write the date of the day on each egg.
Benefits Of Chicken Eggs
Fresh chicken eggs are a rich source of protein and farm fresh eggs contain no hormones. Fresh eggs especially farm raised organic eggs are a rich source of nutrients and proteins. And you should know that contrary to what people believe the color of egg shells has nothing to do with what amount of protein or nutrients are in the egg. The color of the eggshell also has nothing to do with the quality of the egg. Egg shells are covered in pores and this is how the baby chick breathes while it develops in the egg. This is also why you should not use soap or detergent to wash eggs. Only use lukewarm water to wash your eggs.
How To Know If Eggs Are Fresh
If your not 100 percent sure if your eggs are fresh put them into a bowl of water. If the eggs float throw them away. They are not fresh. But if they sink under the water they are fresh.
Incubators For Your Eggs
Everyone who keeps and raises chickens should have an egg incubator. I like the ones that you can see into and you need an incubator that turns the eggs its self. You can use the incubators where you have to turn the eggs but you'll never be as successful as you will with one that turns the eggs its self. Be sure to do thorough research about any incubator you are thinking of buying. Be sure you know everything about it including how to use it and how to set it up. Most people who have problems with an incubator fail to do the research they should before they try to use their incubator. Be sure not to let this be you.
More Information On Keeping And Raising Chickens
Chickens are raised for both their meat and for eggs. Fifteen hens and a rooster can be kept in a small chicken coop or chicken tractor and fifteen hens will provide all the eggs a family of four needs and a large portion of their meat needs. You'll want to raise fryer size chickens until they are about 4-6 months of age before you slaughter them for meat. Surplus cleaned and processed chickens can be frozen for up to a year but I like to use them with in six months for best taste. Nothing tastes as good as a pot of chicken and dumplings made one cold December evening from a chicken you raised last summer. Click that link for a wonderful recipe.
Don't Create A Problem For Your Rooster
I usually keep my rooster for about five years before he goes in the stew pot. You should slaughter or move young roosters out of your hen house by the time they are four to six months old. This way the young rooster won't get any ideals that he is going to become the head rooster of the barnyard. If I have a lot of young roosters I usually move them to a chicken tractor at about three months of age and feed them heavily until they are between 4 - 6 months of age. At this age I slaughter all of the young roosters and put them in the freezer. Any pullets I'm not keeping go the same way. As soon as they are big enough and fat enough they go into the freezer.
Nest Boxes For Your Hens
I keep eight nest boxes in my chicken coop for my fifteen hens and I've never had a problem. The key thing to keep in mind is that your nest boxes need to be about twice as big as your hen. I build my nest boxes out of plywood and they are six inches high at the front and twelve inches high at the back. I usually put a good hand full of straw into the bottom of each nest box and like I said before I usually change the straw about every other week unless a hen is setting.
Clean Your Chicken Coop
You need to fix your chicken coop so you can lock the chickens in their yard to clean their chicken coop often. If you build your chicken coop put a recessed door in the center bottom of your chicken coop to make cleaning up a lot easier. I use a pressure washer to wash my chicken coop completely including nests, floor and roosts at least once a month. Watch for signs of mites on your chickens. If you need to dust your chickens with a mite dust to get rid of mites do it and once the mites are gone clean your chicken coop and chicken yard thoroughly. Be sure that you bring home only clean healthy chickens so you don't bring mites or other chicken diseases home to your chickens.
How To Raise Backyard Chickens
So you're thinking of raising your own chickens for eggs, meat, or both. The very first thing you should do is to check and see if you can legally have and raise chickens where you live. Their may be a local city, county or zoning ordinance that prohibits you from having chickens where you live. If so then your out of luck. You should also think about that crowing rooster and your neighbors. Roosters crow at daybreak and this may annoy your family members or your neighbors. So think carefully about your plans before you proceed.
Did you know that our current chickens can be traced back to ancient red jungle fowl in South America and that currently the world population of chickens is somewhere around 24 billion give or take a few million.
Where Are You Going To Keep Your Chickens?
The first thing you need to consider about your chickens is where are you going to keep them. You can buy a ready built chicken coop for your chickens or you can build one yourself. The chicken coop needs to be up off the ground and facing the morning sun. You need to decide how many hens your going to keep and are you doing this for the eggs or meat or for both.
Your Chicken Coop.
Your chicken coop can be built out of outdoor treated plywood and wire with siding over the outside. You need a yard that is fenced for the chickens to come out in during the day time. The chickens need a chicken house that is insulated against the cold and can be shut up during the colder weather to keep the chickens warm. You can if you need to in colder climates install an electric space heater wired off from the chickens for those really cold nights. Just set it to come on if the inside temperature drops below 55 degrees. You should also have a light in your chicken house.
You need 3 - 4 nest boxes and a roost in the chicken house for your chickens. A roost can be as simple as a couple of heavy duty rods securely fastened from side to side so your chickens can set there on their roost at night. You need a access door for you to get into the chicken house and you need to be able to lock the chickens out in their yard so you can clean the chicken coop as needed. I installed a 12 inch by 12 inch door in the center floor of the chicken coop so I can pull out two pins and remove it. Then I take a high pressure hose and wash out the chicken coop with all the waste and water going down the open door. I have my door set down in the floor so it is lower than the rest of the floor. That way everything drains out and down. I have my chicken coop set up so I can hook the tractor to it and move it from year to year. In the future I plan to plant vegetables where the chicken coop used to be.
Choose Chickens Known For Producing Lots Of Eggs On A Regular Basis
You need to choose chickens known for producing lots of eggs on a regular basis. The best chickens for this are Rhode Island Reds, Black Star, Leghorns, and Plymouth Rocks. You can order baby chickens to raise over the internet or at your local farm and garden center. You want all hens but one in a small chicken operation. You need one rooster to keep with the hens if you want your eggs to be fertile and hatch. I keep fifteen hens and one rooster and I have plenty of eggs. Replace your hens with the young pullets your hens will raise about every three years and replace your rooster about every five years. I put all of the other chickens that are raised into the freezer and I usually have plenty. Don't be tempted to overcrowd the chicken house. Try to be consistent with how many hens you keep. Fifteen hens and a rooster will produce more eggs than a family of four will ever use. So go ahead now and start planning what your going to do with those extra eggs. I like to pickle them.
Feed Your Chickens Well For The Best Egg Production
When hens are laying they need to be fed a diet of laying mash which is a high protein food designed to increase and keep up egg laying. I usually give my hens a mixture of about 80 percent laying mash and 20 percent cracked corn. This seems to give me lots of eggs and it makes the chickens really happy. The laying mash you choose should also contain extra calcium to help with egg production. If in doubt ask at your local farm and garden center what laying mash they suggest.
Free Range Versus Caged Or Cooped Chickens
I keep my chickens in a coop but some people swear by free range produced eggs. The big problem with free range chickens is you will always be trying to find where they have lain their eggs. Some smart hens can lay them where you'll have a time finding them. This is the main reason I keep my chickens in a chicken coop. I have now also started using a chicken tractor for chickens and also for ducks. Chicken tractors give you the same type of eggs and chickens for meat as free range chickens. Just click that link and read all about chicken tractors. And I am now also using the same method to produce ducks for meat.
Choose Your Chickens Carefully
I've tried several different varieties of laying chickens and I prefer the leghorns but you really should do your own research and decide your own favorite. I like a hen that lays on a regular basis and is a good mother. I like hens that raise their babies well and its for that reason that I really like the leghorns. But you can do your own research and decide for yourself. Use Google to find several poultry breeders and order their catalogs. And you can use the internet to do your own research and pick out the chickens your going to be putting in your chicken coop. Keep in mind you want eggs and you want to pick a chicken known for their egg production.
Remove Your Eggs Daily From The Nest
Your hens are smarter than you think. Keep a close eye on your chicken nests and keep the eggs collected daily. If you leave the eggs in a nest eventually the hen will begin to set on the eggs to keep them warm and incubate them. About 21 days later the baby chicks will hatch and if you have the nests up on the wall you will need to give the baby chicks a helping hand down to the floor of the chicken coop. You will find that there is food sold especially for baby chickens. Most mother hens will take very good care of their baby chicks and may even attack you if you approach them. Now is when you need to worry about predators like rats, cats, and opossums. Be sure the chicken fence and chicken coop are secure so that no predator can get in.
Water For Your Chickens
I use automatic watering devices for my chickens so that I don't have to worry about the water for my chickens. However you provide it your chickens will need plenty of fresh clean water at all times.
When Will My Pullets Lay Their First Eggs
Depending on what particular breed of chicken you have your pullets will start to lay when they are between four and five months of age. In case you don't know a hen that has not yet laid is known as a pullet. When your pullets get ready to lay you'll notice them checking out the nest boxes.One key thing that should let you know they are about to start laying is you will notice their combs and wattles getting a much deeper red color than normal. And before you know it your pullets will start laying. Be sure you collect the eggs on a daily basis and give them plenty of laying mash, cracked corn and clean fresh water. You'll be rewarded with lots of fresh eggs on a daily basis.
Your Eggs And What You Should Do With Eggs You Plan To Hatch
If you plan to set your eggs in a nest to hatch you can write the date the egg was collected on the egg with a pencil but do not wash them. I repeat write the date on them but do not wash the eggs. Keep the eggs in a basket of straw in the hen house or an outdoor storage room so you can put them into a nest when your ready to let a hen set on them.
If Your Going To Use Your Eggs Wash Them
Do not use soap or detergent to wash your eggs in. Egg shells are porous and the detergent or soap can enter the egg and give your eggs a bad taste. Most eggs can be wiped clean with a damp cloth. With especially dirty eggs soak them in lukewarm water for a couple of hours and then wipe them clean and store in the refrigerator. Make sure the water you soak or wash your fresh eggs in is only lukewarm and never hot or you can start the cooking process. Keeping your chicken coop really clean will help you to have really clean eggs to start with. Ideally you should use straw in your hens nests and you should change it every other week unless you have a hen setting on a nest of eggs. For the best flavor eggs need to be stored at 55 degrees.
3-5 Gallon Bucket Used For Chicken Nest
All About Chickens
Chicken Coop Check List, Things You Need To Know About Your Chicken Coop
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Free Range Chickens For Meat And Eggs
Some people swear by free range chickens for meat and eggs. There are several problems though that you can face if you decide to allow your chickens to go anywhere on your property that they want to. Below we discuss some of those problems and what you can do about them.
Chickens Eat Bugs But Can Destroy Flower Beds
For the most part your chickens will be beneficial in eating insects and bugs out of your garden but chickens like to sun and wallow and your flower beds can quickly be destroyed by free ranging chickens.
Most free range chickens will usually use the roosts you provide for them but not always. I have had a few that insisted on roosting right above my vehicles in the garage. It was not long before these chickens found their way into the freezer and later into the pot.
So its important to think ahead and think about the what ifs. Don't wait for a problem to arrive. Try to think about the problems ahead of time and what you can do about those problems before they occur.
Predators Even House Cats Can Eat And Destroy Your Chickens
With free range chickens predators have a much better chance at your chickens especially new baby chickens and you'll have to control the predators or your chicken population can suffer huge loses. House cats and some dogs will kill your young chickens or baby chickens. If you have free ranging chickens and a free ranging cat you may have a combination that will never work. You may have to rid your area of feral cats. And if you have a large outdoor cat that enjoys hunting you may have to secure that cat. Don't wait for a hunting cat to start destroying your baby chickens before you act. If your outdoor cat hunts birds it will likely hunt your baby or young chickens also.
If you want free range chickens but want some control over your free ranging chickens why not consider using chicken tractors for your chickens.
Free Range Chickens Lay Their Eggs Where They Want To
Chickens can and do pick some of the strangest most unusual places to lay their eggs that you would never think of. Why some free ranging chickens lay where they do can have you talking to yourself. With some free range chickens you'll never find their nest until they bring the baby chicks off the nest and out into the yard. You can provide nest boxes but free ranging chickens will lay where they want to. Often in a barn roof or under a house. Sometimes you'll wonder why in the world would a chicken make a nest there.
My Bantam Chickens Are Free Range Chickens
I have a huge population of various types of bantams that are free ranging chickens and the eggs and meat are wonderful. But I've had beautiful flower beds destroyed by free range chickens and I had to slaughter the three bantams that would not stop roosting in my garage over my vehicles.
Free Range Eggs And Chicken Meat
I really think their is nothing like free range bantam eggs. They have a flavor that you're never going to get out of a store. Never. Not unless they sell free range bantam eggs. And the flavor of free range bantams fried double breaded are delicious and the flavor is oh so delicious. Free range chicken meat is the best in the world. Yes the best in the world and you'll never find anything in a store as delicious.
Great Recipes For Your Chicken
Thanks For Reading My Hub Page On How To Raise Backyard Chickens Easily
I appreciate you reading my Hub Page on How To Raise Barnyard Chickens Easily. If you have comments, tips, suggestions, or questions please post them below and thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this Hub Page and the information on it please share it with your friends. Again thanks for reading.
In this photo are free range chickens.
© 2013 Thomas Byers
Please post your comments, questions, suggestions, and tips below. And thanks for reading.
Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on April 03, 2013:
Guineas are a great option if you can find the eggs. Put a mirror in the yard and watch them. Their meat is very tasty.
Joshua Rueff from Kansas City on April 03, 2013:
This was really interesting - I've been wanting to add chickens to my "homestead" (Rabbits, Great Pyrenees, and worm farm lol) and this is very helpful - One thing I've also been considering is raising Guineas instead of chickens -heard they're less maintenance (smaller eggs though).
For someone who doesn't have much extra time, would you say Guineas are a good option?
David from Idaho on February 10, 2013:
We have had our chickens for years now and we enjoy what they bring to our yard. Our first batch of chickens is almost 8 years old, they don't produce much anymore but they are still part of the flock and enjoy scratching around for bugs just like the younger birds do.
Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on January 21, 2013:
Thanks Shyron. I can raise them where I'm at right now but they are trying to change it. I hope they don't.
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on January 21, 2013:
My grandparents had chickens on the farm, but there is an ordinance against raising them on our property. I really enjoyed reading your hub, it brings back memories.
Thomas Byers (author) from East Coast , United States on January 20, 2013:
I never thought I would have chickens either ans I really enjoy them. Thanks for your comment.
Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on January 20, 2013:
I really enjoyed this hub! I never thought I would have chickens, but when we bought our place in the country, we inherited 12 chickens. That was about 11 years ago and we have replaced out chickens several times. I really enjoy the fresh eggs! We don't have a rooster anymore and we don't kill the chickens when they get too old to lay. My hubby has a friend who always take our older chickens off our hands. I learned a few things I didn't know from your hub. Thank you for sharing your information! Voted up and useful! :)