The idea of raising chickens attracts homeowners mainly for the fact that they produce eggs regularly, essentially giving yourself a reliable and natural source of protein for your meals. Eggs themselves can be cooked in many ways and used in many different dishes too, big or small, so there’s basically no downsides.
Hens are also great for company and for distraction, keeping people busy with a fun pastime and even teaching important values to children on how to take care of animals.
However, raising your own chickens does come with some challenges and routines you have to stick to, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. For your hens to yield good eggs, you have to care for them!
With that, let’s jump into our main tips on how to raise chickens in your backyard!
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. – Anne Frank
Prepare for the eggs
There are a few things to note about how hens lay their eggs:
First of all, the seasons influence how often they lay eggs. The general rule of thumb is that more daylight means more eggs, so they tend to lay more during Summer and Spring, and continue to do so throughout Fall as well. Winter however should show a considerable decrease. But don’t be surprised if this doesn’t add up 100% in the end – hens can be unpredictable as to when and how often they lay eggs.
To facilitate this process though, you should make sure they have a proper nesting area. This can be nothing more than a box inside the coop – if they ever lay eggs in weird places, take the egg and place it on the nesting area so that they “learn to lay them there in the future.
How many chickens should you have?
A comfortable number to own is anywhere from three to six – a small group is nice because chickens are very social by nature and tend to stick together nicely. And for you, that means more eggs you can use.
However, a disclaimer: consult your local authorities because there may be restrictions as to how many hens you can own, or if you can have them at all. Most importantly, some places won’t allow you to own a rooster (as they can be a major nuisance to the neighborhood). Don’t worry though, you only need a rooster if you plan on raising chicks.
Learn to care for your hens
Chickens are fairly easy to care for, but that doesn’t mean they’ll take care of themselves. Here are the main things you should worry about:
Feed them well. Hens need proper nutrition to lay good eggs. A lack of calcium will produce eggs with thin shells that break easily, which is not good. Give them fresh ration and water every day to keep them well fed.
Prepare for medical care. In most cases a well fed chicken will cause no problems, but you should have some tools in hand just in case. Definitely have some gloves, gauze, dog nail clippers (useful for beaks and nails), and antibiotic ointment for wounds. Your local veterinarian might help with more details.
Create a chicken coop
Your chickens definitely need a place where they can feel safe. A chicken coop will be their safe haven from weather conditions, it will be the place where they comfortably lay eggs, and in some cases, protect themselves from predators.
You can purchase a small but comfy chicken coop, but one can be DIY’d as well from a few planks of wood if you have the expertise. If you’ve ever made some wood crafts in the past, it shouldn’t prove too much of a challenge since the structure doesn’t have to be too big for only three to six hens.
The hens should get used to it pretty quickly, but in any case, you can herd them inside the coop and lock it for the night as a way to make sure they’re safe from predators. They get used to it with time, and soon they will already be inside before nighttime.
Protect your chicken yard from all sides
To be fair, in most cases you can get away with just setting up some fences so that your hens don’t escape the premises and get lost… or devoured by a local dog.
But you also have to consider flying predators such as hawks and owls, or more agile ones such as foxes that can climb onto nearby trees and structures to jump over the fence. The most common solution is to completely cover the entire coop area with a chain link fence for protection on all sides. This is the best way to make sure your hens are safe.
Do you need a rooster for chickens to lay eggs?
As mentioned before, you don’t need a rooster for chickens to lay eggs. They will lay them just fine without one, the only difference being that the eggs will be infertile – as in, they won’t grow chicks. If you want to grow chicks at some point, that’s a whole different story as you will need a rooster, but some local laws forbid them, so be wary of that. Roosters are notoriously loud and feisty which may cause a ruckus in your local community.
Bottomline, if you’re getting some hens just for the eggs, you don’t need a rooster!
Looking to build your very own chicken coop? A local carpenter can help by providing free quotes!