Raise Your Food

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Backyard Chickens for Fresh Eggs

Written By: Julie - Sep• 16•13

backyard chicken eggsRaising backyard chickens for fresh eggs is a fun project that has tasty results. There is something amazing about finding fresh, delicious eggs in the nest box every day. A few chickens in the yard can eat up your kitchen scraps, give you a bit more self-sufficiency, eat the bugs out of your yard, and you get some free entertainment out of the deal.

Watching chickens scratch around and squabble over tidbits of food is a lot of fun. Some chickens even like to be held and petted. I love my cat, but the chickens are definitely more productive! Free-range eggs are more nutritious, lower in cholesterol, and generally much safer than factory-farmed eggs.

Before investing in backyard chickens  you will want to research which breeds are best for your circumstances. Just as with dogs, different breeds have different traits. Some chicken breeds need a lot of room to roam. Some are better for confined areas. The number of eggs each breed lays is also different. Productive breeds can lay 200-300 eggs per year. Less productive breeds may lay 150-250 eggs per year. Bantam breeds are smaller, so they need less space per bird for housing and scratching around.

If your family only needs a few eggs, you might decide on a few less-productive hens that happen to have other characteristics you like. You can choose breeds based on their colorful feathers, great feed to egg conversion ratio, friendliness, or their colorful eggs (eggs come in brown and white Рbut also green, blue, plum, pink and chocolate brown). A good rule of thumb is to plan on 2 hens per household member to get a steady supply of eggs.

Before you get chickens though, check on your local regulations. More and more cities are allowing chickens but most have rules about the number of chickens allowed, where the hen house can be located in relation to the property lines, and whether or not you can own a rooster. A typical regulation I see is that you are allowed 6 hens per lot, no roosters, 25 feet from dwellings and property lines and they can not be income-producing. On the other hand, my city allows 20 chickens per half acre and roosters are allowed.

Of course, there is no guarantee that any specific chicken will be a typical example of its breed, but you’ll be more likely to find the right chickens for your needs if you do a little research first. Leghorns and other super egg-layers are known for producing a lot of eggs, but the birds themselves don’t get very large so they don’t eat a lot.

If you like the idea of raising and helping to preserve heritage breeds but you also want very productive layers, you might want to look at Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and Barred Rocks. If you like colorful birds and eggs, Easter Eggers and Ameraucanas are fun breeds that are also very friendly and they lay blue, green or pink eggs. Rare breeds such as the Croad Langshan (which lays plum colored eggs) and Black Copper Marans (chocolate brown eggs) can also spice up your yard!

You do not need a rooster to get eggs. Hens will lay eggs without a rooster. They tend to slow down on laying in winter, but a light in the coop will increase winter production. Just be sure to give them a break at some point during the year since egg-laying is hard work.

Chickens typically live 5-8 years, with their most productive egg-laying in the first few years.

If backyard chickens are right for you – they are a nice addition to any micro-farm or backyard farming venture.

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