How To: Raising Chickens For Eggs
Raising chickens is not only fun but also a rewarding experience! The eggs are the real seal of the deal because you get a steady supply of fresh eggs when your chickens start laying. You can also mix the shells with the compost pile for garden soil, and the chickens can be your extra garden helpers because they love eating insect pests. Your kids would love them as pets, and it will teach them responsibility and caring for animals. What more could you want from the humble chook?
Before we all get too excited about raising chickens for eggs, check your homeowner’s or local town’s ordinances and restrictions first. Find out if you are allowed to raise chickens in your neighborhood, and determine if there’s a limit on the number of chickens you can keep and raise at once.
Housing Options For Your Egg-Laying Chickens
Make sure that your space is enough for a henhouse or chicken coop. A quality coop is essential for your chickens’ good egg production. Here are some specifications to consider:
- The ideal chicken coop should be spacious enough for all chickens. Each chicken should have 3-4 square feet of space inside the coop and 10 square feet of space outside the coop.
- The chicken coop should hold a feeder and drinker.
- It should have a roosting area since chickens like to be up high.
- It should have a space for the chicken layers’ nest boxes.
- It should be spacious enough for you to gather eggs and remove manure comfortably.
- It should be sturdy enough to keep predators out.
- The coop should be well-insulated with a light bulb and a heat lamp during the winter months.
Best Chicken Breeds For Egg Production
- Mellow chicken breeds are good at laying eggs. The popular mellow breeds are the Rhode Island red, Wyandotte, Americana chickens (Easter eggers), Cochin chickens, and Barred Rocks.
- Winter layers are the choice in cold-weather areas. Breeds like Australorps, Orpingtons, and Faverolles are heavier and are therefore ideal for cold weather.
The Ideal, Best Diet For Chickens To Lay Eggs
Laying chickens should be fed with a feed that has a healthy balance of vitamins, minerals, and protein content. Providing them varied food will make the egg yolks they produce deeper in color. Chickens would eat store-bought chicken crumbles, insects from the lawn, grass, and corn. A healthy laying hen diet should also consist of crushed oyster shells or oyster shell grit for egg production and insoluble grit or flint grit to aid their digestion.
Harvesting Your Chicken Eggs
Hens begin laying eggs from six months of age and can continue for 5-10 years with a peak egg production in the first two years. If you expose your chickens to 12-14 hours of daylight every day, you can expect to harvest eggs daily from spring, summer, and even fall! Egg production drops when the chicken starts to molt (replace their feathers). Here are some of our recommendations when harvesting eggs:
- Young hens need to know where to lay their eggs, so start by placing a fake egg in their nesting boxes. Do not place real eggs, or they might get into the habit of eating their eggs when they start laying. If you have been at backyard chicken-raising for long, replace ¼ to 1/3 of your chicken flock each year so that new hens know how to behave from the example of older chickens in your flock.
- Gather eggs daily to make room for the eggs your chickens will lay the next day.
- Remove debris on the eggs with a soft cloth but make sure that the 'bloom' remains. The bloom or the shiny cuticle outside the egg seals the shell's pores, prevents bacterial invasion, and prevents moisture loss from the egg. Wash eggs that are covered with chicken feces to avoid contamination.
- If you cannot eat all the harvested eggs, place the remaining ones in the refrigerator (at a temperature of at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit or 7.2 degrees Celsius) to prevent bacterial growth.
A healthy environment accounts for healthy chickens. But first, safety precautions need to be observed. Wear a mask before you attempt to clean the coop to prevent inhalation of dust and manure.
- Mist or disinfect the walls (disinfectant: 1 tbsp of chlorine bleach + 1 gallon boiling water). Remove the feeders and drinkers and clear out the beddings before disinfection.
- Clean the chicken coop weekly or as needed to prevent manure and odor buildup.
- Change the content of the feeders and drinkers regularly.
- Prepare dust baths (sand + wood ash or Diatomaceous Earth) to control the spread of mites. We recommend adding in dried herbs like basil, oregano, lavender, lemon balm, mint, marjoram, or parsley to the dust bath as it will help with your chicken's health if they nibble on them plus these herbs also ward off insects. Keep the dust baths in a dry place as chickens won't use it if it is muddy or mucky.