Producing your very own farm-fresh eggs is one of the most satisfying parts of homesteading. Having a happy flock of egg-producing chickens can add a wonderful ambience, an enjoyable stage-play (chickens are curious and funny animals), garden fertilizer and a great pest removal service. Egg laying chickens can also be one the first enterprises that you can use to generate a small income for your time ane effort.
Beginners guide to eggs
I have been asked a lot of questions from beginners wanting to produce their own eggs. So here are the simple facts you need to know and useful links to more information.
Simple chicken facts
Every hen lays eggs. Roosters do not (this is a beginners guide after all :p ). Hens produce eggs without a rooster being present. Hens start to lay when they are around 19-20 weeks old. They will lay about an egg a day for a few years, then this will decline as the hen gets older. When the days get shorter (ie winter) hens can stop laying for a few weeks. During this time they may lose feathers as they molt – but some hens do not.
Eventually the hens will stop laying. On our place they go into a happy retirement as we consider that is payment for all the eggs they have provided us. Others ‘retire’ them to the pot.
Roosters can be aggressive horrible animals. However, roosters can do a great job of protecting the flock of hens. Some roosters are well behaved, but we have not had one like that as yet! Roosters will crow at any time of the day or night.
Chickens are omnivores – they will eat grass, seeds, insects, mice etc. Chickens can be destructive to your gardens and lawn as they look for food. For this reason most people keep their chickens in an enclosure.
Chickens need food and water each and every day. The more they can forage on ‘wild’ food the less you have to feed them bought grain.
Eggs will last a long time – many weeks if not washed outside of the refrigerator and even longer inside the refrigerator. If you wash eggs (because of dirt, poop etc), they will need to be stored in the refrigerator and will be good for a few weeks.
Choosing and then getting the right hens
There are many varieties of chickens you can get for laying eggs. We have found that brown eggs sell better than white or green/blue. People also like large eggs. For those reasons we pick chickens that produce large brown eggs. Read our guide on choosing and obtaining chickens.
Building a chicken house
Your chickens will need to have a place to live and be safe, especially at night. This is the chicken house of coop. You can find many designs online and even buy pre-made coops. We have always made ours from recycled materials we have collected. Read our essential guide on things to consider when building a coop.
Water and food
Your chickens will need food and water every day. You can make your chores easier by having some ways to provide feed and water automatically. You can buy large feeders at farm stores that will hold grain for a few days, or build one yourself from PVC pipe like this. For water, you need to provide good fresh water every day. We have developed this simple chicken waterer…and even a way to stop it freezing up during winter.
Getting more help
There are some excellent forums you can join to get help on chicken problems and issues (Backyard Chickens is my favorite).
We would love to see pictures and hear more about your chicken journey. Add a comment below.