Monday, June 11, 2012

Chickens 101

A few weeks ago, the Money Saving Queen (Sarah Roe) asked me to write an article about raising chickens.  At first I laughed cause I AM A CITY GIRL (I have to keep reminding myself) and not a chicken expert.  I decided to take on the challenge and with help from Farmer Kyle, I did it.

When to buy chicks? Check at your local farm/feed stores in March & April. They will usually have a variety of breeds. There may also be local hatcheries or farmers that you can buy chicks or even hens from.

What to buy? I highly suggest that you shop around and research breeds before you purchase your chicks/hens. Not all hens have a high yield of eggs. If you are only wanting to have laying hens, make sure you only purchase PULLETS and NOT STRAIGHT RUNS! Pullets are females only but straight runs can be male OR female.

How many should you have? Keep in mind the area in which you are going to keep them. They don't require a lot of space but do need plenty of room to stretch their legs. Laying hens generally also lay one egg per day so depending on how many eggs you want to get a day, that will help determine how many chicks/hens you want to get.

What are the basics that you need for chickens? To have chicks/chickens you will need a hen house/coop that has watering trough, feed trough, nesting boxes and roosting bars. We also have an old swing set frame in our chicken run because they like to roost outside at night in the warmer months. Depending on how you choose to keep them (in a run or free range) you will need a fully enclosed run area where the coop is located or a you can have a chicken tractor which is basically a portable chicken run with coop. You can do an online search of chicken tractors to get a better idea.

What do they eat? You can purchase chicken feed and chicken scratch at your local farm/feed stores. Chicken feed runs about $12-14 for a 40lb bag and chicken scratch is about $11-13 for a 50lb bag. In the winter months you need to feed them cracked corn cause it helps keep their body temperature up. They also need LOTS of water, grass, weeds, worms, bugs, grains, etc. I spoil my hens and give them night crawlers, grass clippings, hay and I have been known to warm up some oatmeal for them during the winter and Gatorade in their water in summer.

What about selling eggs? Fresh farm eggs are the only way to go in my opinion! We sell our eggs for $1.50/dz or $1.25/dz if you have an egg carton to give me. This way I am not trying to find cartons and I end up just recycling them with my customers. I have heard of people who sell their eggs for $2-$2.50/dz but we don't sell ours to make money on them just to help pay for feed.

How hard are they to take care of? My 6 yr old daughter is in charge of our chickens! She feeds them, gives them water, gathers the eggs, helps clean the eggs and puts them in the cartons. She LOVES her job! I take care of the “dirty” stuff but she is responsible for everything else!

What are great resourcesTrust me, I am NOT an expert on raising chickens! Here are some great resources to help you get started and to maintain your chicken crew:

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