Once you have a chicken coop established raising chickens for eggs is low maintenance. Learn how you can raise chickens for eggs in a few easy steps.
About three years ago now we decided to add chickens to our small homestead. We were looking for fresh pastured organic eggs and couldn’t find that combination anywhere.
That is where self-reliance kicked in and we bought our first six baby chicks. There is certainly a sense of empowerment in providing your own food whether it be meat, eggs or vegetables.
Fast forward to today with its uncertain economic times and we have chosen to add 10 more chickens to our homestead to help secure a steady food source. This would be one that would not require a refrigerator or a freezer and would come naturally each day.
HOW TO RAISE CHICKENS FOR EGGS
Pullet is the terminology used to describe a hen that is less than one year old. It is the hen that supplies the eggs. Most hens will lay 3-4 eggs per week and as they age this will taper off. Our first batch of chickens are now four and are still great egg producers.
Hens will begin producing eggs when they are 18-28 weeks old. Exact timing varies by breed, daylight hours, feed given and stress levels. During the winter months when the daylight hours are short, we do not get eggs. We prefer to give our hens a break as this is their natural cycle. However, if you have hens that will be laying for the first-time it is not uncommon for them to lay a few during restricted daylight.
Where to Begin
Purchasing Pullets can be done from an on-line source such as My Pet Chicken or from your local feed store. We have used both sources and have had healthy robust chicks each time.
What is needed
Before your chicks arrive, you will want to make sure you have the supplies ready. We use an extra-large plastic tote that we line with wood shavings. We keep the chicks in the basement and their plastic home is raised up a few inches using a couple blocks of wood. This keeps them off the cold cement floor and feeling warmer.
A small chicken feed dish and water holder are required as is a heat source. Heat lamps are a fire hazard so you might want to opt for this less dangerous radiant heat source instead. A thermometer will let you know if you are holding at the desired temperature for the age of your chicks.
There are different feed options to choose from based on your own personal preference. There are organic and non-organic options and some are even medicated. But no matter which option you choose these little fluff balls will need the Starter/Grower formula to begin with. This is a feed type that has some tiny pieces mixed with a ground powder to make it easily digestible.
Taking care of chicks
Once the chicks arrive at your home their vents (anus) will need to be checked. If there is a build-up of feces then remove immediately. Clean with a soft tissue. If it is hardened, then wet a paper towel with warm water to gently soften the feces first before removing. This is crucial to make sure that your baby chicks do not have plugged vents which will lead to a blockage. Continue checking them for the first few weeks.
The next important step is to introduce them to water so they will learn to drink. To do this, dip each of their beaks into their fresh water and observe. Repeat if necessary until they begin drinking on their own.
Based on the number of chicks you have and the size of the dishes being used, will determine how frequently you add food. For our set-up of ten chicks I change out the water three times per day. The water quickly gets hot and is an easy place for algae to start forming. You will soon see how much your chicks appreciate a fresh cold drink. When I’m changing out the water, I also fill up the food dish. Chicks grow unbelievably fast and will eat more than you can imagine.
Keeping the chicks warm
The baby chicks will be kept warm under the heater for six weeks before being able to move into an outside coop.
For the first week the chicks must be kept at 95F
The second week lower the temperature by 5F to 90F
The third week lower the temperature again to 85F
The fourth week the temperature should be kept at 80F
The fifth week the temperature should be at 75F
The sixth and final week under the heat source should be at 70F
As they grow, they will want to test their wings. As they get older, they might even fly out of their plastic home. To prevent injury or the inability to fly back inside their home, consider adding something to increase the height of the bin. Here, you could place some chicken wire around the perimeter of their home. Begin by drilling several holes in a line around the top portion of the plastic tote. Rest chicken wire on floor and wrap around tote. Secure wire by using twist (bread) ties. Go through hole from outside of tote to inside then again back to outside using the next hole. Wrap twist tie tightly securing wire in place. Repeat until wire is secured around the outside of the tote.
Birds by nature like to sleep up off the ground often in trees. Your babies will also appreciate being elevated too. You can make something out of wood that is just a couple of inches off the ground for them to perch on. We added this after the second week.
Taking care of chickens
Once the chicks have grown in their feathers and no longer require an additional heat source, they are ready for their outdoor coop.
But wait…..you are almost there.
Going through Acclimation
They first must go through a coop acclimation period. This is a time when they must get introduced to their second home so that they will always go back to it. This is especially helpful when free-ranging the birds. Ours will always go back to the coop to lay their eggs as well. Hopefully, this new bunch will do the same. This coop lock-down period should last one-week.
By this point the maintenance will have decreased significantly.
Each day, checking the food and water levels and if it is hot changing out the water daily. Water should be kept out of sunlight; the plastic degrades and algae will form.
Once the hens have begun laying eggs you will want to begin feeding them the egg layer crumble and once, they get older the egg layer pellets. They will tell you when it’s time to move to the pellets. HINT: when there is a lot of powder and small pieces all over because they prefer the larger pieces.
I regularly use is oyster shells. I put this in a small chicken dish for them to take if they desire. It helps with keeping the shells of their eggs thick making eggs less likely to break.
I also use apple cider vinegar into a second water feeder. This helps keep their system clean of any unwanted parasites. This can be done regularly however I only do it periodically.
Food grade diatomaceous earth should be sprinkled on the ground of their run area. It can also be used in a sectioned off area for dust bathing purposes. This white powder kills any lice and mites on the hens keeping them clean and bug free.
How frequently the coop itself is cleaned depends on many different factors such as how large a coop you have, how many birds, if they free range part of the time, how large their run is, time of year and so on. So, I will leave that up to you.
DO NOT FORGET TO CHECK FOR EGGS EACH DAY!
Raising chickens for their eggs requires more time when they are babies and less time once they are older. Learning how to raise chickens before you fully commit makes smart sense. Taking matters into your own hands is priceless.