Deciding that we wanted to raise hens for eggs has been a fun adventure for us. We have fresh eggs daily, something to eat any scraps and compost them for us, and the best entertainment around!
Getting started with keeping chickens for eggs is a fairly simple process, and today I am going to share with you some ways to do just that.
There are some things you will need to know about keeping chickens first. Some may seem common sense to you, and some may be a surprise.
Here are the 6 things you should know about keeping chickens.
Secret #1: Chickens come in a variety of sizes and colors.
I guess I was just used to seeing the brown hens for “brown eggs” and the “white hens” for “white eggs”. Oh, foolish girl I was.
Chickens come in different sizes as well, the main sizes being classified as standards and bantams. They have “classes” like game, Asiatic, layer, feather-legged, and clean-legged.
You can find “Fancy” breeds like Polish, Frizzles, Silkies, Amerucanas, Easter Eggers, or Wyandottes. Standard breeds can include Rhode Island Reds, Isa Browns, Buff Orpingtons, Leghorns, and Barred Rocks.
Bantams would be Silkies, Seabrights, Egyptian Fayoumis, BB Reds or bantam Rhode Island Reds. So, you can see there is a LOT of different varieties for your homestead to choose from.
Secret #2: Egg shell color is NOT dependent on how the breed was raised, but rather the breed itself.
I was talking to a lady at the farmer’s market one day, and she was surprised to learn that brown eggs are not necessarily more healthy than white ones. What color the shell will be is determined by the breed of chicken.
All chickens with red earlobes will lay brown shells. Chickens with white earlobes will lay white shells.
Easter Eggers will lay green to olive to pink shells, Amerucanas will lay blue-shelled eggs. Fayoumis will lay a pale pink shell. How’s that for a colorful display?
Secret #3: How healthy the egg is for you is determined how the hen was raised and what it was fed.
It has nothing to do with the color of the shell. Factory chickens that never see the sun, grass, or bugs are not going to lay as healthy eggs as chickens that are allowed to roam and eat grass, bugs and get some sunshine.
If you are purchasing brown eggs from the store solely because you think brown eggs are healthier, there is no reason to.
Your best bet is to start raising hens yourself, or at least find a farmer you know is keeping chickens and buy eggs from them.
Secret #4: If you are raising hens for eggs, you don’t need a rooster to have eggs.
This is just amazing to me that people STILL think that. Yes, it’s true. When I am asked how I get eggs without a rooster, I explain that a woman doesn’t need a man to have eggs each month.
Only if they want to get pregnant will they need that egg fertilized. That seems to help them understand.
If you want to have fertile eggs, or have eggs you can hatch into chicks, you need a rooster. To just get fresh eggs, roosters are not at all necessary.
Most urban areas won’t allow them, either. They are noisy, crowing at all times of the day. Some can be bullies, too. When we have a chick that winds up being a rooster, it becomes soup. Our neighbors thank us for that.
Secret #5: When keeping chickens, remember that their needs are very basic and easy to care for.
They really only need a safe place to lay their eggs, a safe place to roost, clean water, and food. Their coop can be as fancy or as minimal as you want it to be.
We converted an old metal shed into our coop, and we have built fancy “tractors” to move around the yard.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but you don’t have to have a chicken palace for your girls to be happy. Sunshine, food, water, and a place to scratch will do.
Secret #6: If you are raising hens, you only need 3 or more chickens to have a flock.
I used to think of “flock” as dozens and dozens but flock size starts at 3. And, you really should have at least 3 of them if at all possible.
Chickens are very sociable creatures and they like to be around other chickens. Having only one chicken can be a risk of the chicken getting lonely as well.
Were there any surprises to you about keeping chickens? What would you add to the “myths”?
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Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.