The Definitive Guide To Keeping Chickens For Eggs

Filed in The Basics by on 26th November 2017 2 Comments

I have been keeping chickens for eggs – well over 5 years now. I can quite safely say, they are much easier than the usual domestic pets to keep. At first I will admit, it was nerve racking since I grew up in a town. The only time I ever seen chickens was either on the television or visiting farms on school trips. I decided to get hens when I moved into the countryside. The hens are funny little birds, they are definitely entertainers.

So you want to keep chickens for yourself? That is why you are here, right? Let’s answer some of the questions you have.

The Benefits Of Keeping Chickens

The number one benefit of keeping chickens, is of course the eggs. This is a bonus but amongst other things, there is quite a bit more to it than just the eggs. Chickens can give you complete sustainability, watching your hens scratch and dig for worms and bugs gives a sense of euphoria. Do you have children? Use the hens to teach them where food really comes from. Allow them to get up close and personal with the flock, they will absolutely love them.

keeping chickens for eggs

  • Eggs – Tired of spending money on store-bought eggs? Try some proper free-range super fresh eggs. Kirsten Lie-Nielsen wrote a fantastic post about store bought eggs vs free-range – trust me, it is well worth the read.
  • Sustainability – Start living green and reduce your food waste, chickens will lap up any food scraps you have. There is nothing more the chickens like than to tuck into your Sunday roast scraps that are thrown into the chicken run. Not only this, chickens are a natural fertilizer, thinking of composting? Have your hens do that for you!
  • Be Different – Be different than the average neighbor who has the cat or the dog. My neighbor’s are obsessed with them, I am in-undated with questions from friends and family wanting to know how I look after them and what it is like to keep them.

Keeping Chickens – Law

The Law’s vary on what country and county you live in. The restrictions do apply for rural and urban living. If you live in a built-up area you will need council permits. You must remember that chickens do come under the livestock classification. It would be impossible for me to list all of the councils rules. Even if you own your own home, you would still need to check with your local council.

keeping chickens in the back garden

If you are planning to keep 50+ hens you will need to register the flock. You can do so by calling 0800 634 1112 or on line on the DEFRA website.

Friends of mine do keep 3-4 hens in their urban home without any issue. They did however, write to their local council to obtain permission.

IMPORTANT – Please do not skip this step or your hard work will be a waste of time.

I Have Other Pets, Will Keeping Chickens Interfere?

This question is a little hit and miss. Personally I have a dog and rabbits (which have just had babies in the coop!). The dog is actually petrified of the chickens and wants nothing to do with them. The rabbits just live amongst them. The rabbits actually forced the hens from their nesting boxes to have their own family in!

backyard chickens

Chickens are generally quite tame birds and will get along with just about any pet. Generally speaking, animals always sort out their differences quite quickly and are happy to adapt.

Will Keeping Chickens Destroy The Garden?

Strictly speaking, yes! Allowing your hens to have full reign of your garden will cause problems. For the green fingered gardeners our there, you may want to consider a chicken run. Chickens generally spend the entire day digging for bugs and worms. On the other hand, chickens are fantastic natural fertilizers. Collecting chicken poop to use in compost could save money on fertilizer.

I would never recommend you give hens your whole garden. You can still have free-range,, but in a nice contained manner. You could move the chicken run around the garden as required. Worried about other pets? this is also a great way to separate them.

What Do They Eat?

Chickens are happy to pick and peck away at just about anything. This isn’t to say you wont need to buy food, because you will. If you are keeping chickens for eggs, you will need layers pellets. Pellets contain all the necessary nutrition required for laying eggs. Chickens also require shell grit which keeps their beaks healthy and sharp.

what do chickens eat

Top Tip: Forget buying shell grit. Once you have had a week or two worth used egg shell. Put the shells into the oven for 10 minutes on 180°. Take them out and leave them to cool, then crush them up. You can then add the crushed shells to their layers pellets.

Chickens also enjoy a healthy mix of leafy greens and kitchen scraps. They will pick and peck on Sunday roast scraps with ease. Chickens will basically eat anything. Checkout my other post on foods chickens cannot eat.

Be sure to check the water for your hens daily as it can go green. Giving them clean, fresh water everyday will keep your flock happy.

What Breed Of Chicken Is Best?

Picking chickens can be a fun process, there are so many to choose from. If I listed them all it would take me at least a year of writing. The American Poultry Association recognizes 65 different breeds of chicken. This does not include the most popular Cobb 500 used for meat.

To get the best laying chickens and the most production of eggs all year round. The Hybrid breed would come out on top here. Most hybrids are based on the classic Rhode Island Red, Maran, Plymouth Rock, Sussex or Leghorns. These hens came around the 1950’s when there was a huge demand for eggs and meat. When you think of a chicken you instantly think of the red and brown color. The breed in question is called the Hybrid Warren (As shown below).

keeping chickens

This breed is known as prolific egg layers, they lay all year round. The Hybrid Warren can lay 320 – 335 eggs per year, which is a lot!

Red/Brown/Orange in color, they have a lovely docile nature; make excellent, low maintenance productive pets and are great for first time Poultry Keepers or those with small Children.

They love interaction and attention from people and are great fun and entertaining to watch. If working in the garden you will always have a shadow – just encase worms appear! This makes it the perfect breed for beginners.

How Do I Protect My Chickens?

Chickens are not hard to keep and they are very low maintenance. They do however, require some care when it comes to protecting them from the elements and predators. One of the main worries are foxes, they are expert diggers and masters of destruction. Foxes can take out an entire flock on their own. This is why it is imperative that care is taken when it comes to the chicken housing.

The best security for a chicken is their coop. They need a coop with a strong frame and added galvanized wire mesh. It is also possible to take extra steps for security measures such as sensor lights, wire mesh flooring and automatic doors. Not only this, they also need a nice quiet place of their own to lay on their nesting boxes.

A chicken coop will have to be cleaned out every week to keep the flock in good health. I suggest purchasing a plastic chicken coop, this helps with red mites. Red mites cannot grow and nest in plastic they only thrive in wooden coops. Purchasing a plastic coop will also be better for cleaning, just give it a quick jet wash. Plastic dries quicker than wood!

What To Do When Keeping Chickens

  1. Check the water and food levels.
  2. Check the coop to make sure it is clean and livable for chickens. If the coop is dirty, your girls won’t be happy and could influence the egg laying.
  3. Empty the nesting boxes of any eggs that have laid. You may need to check this twice a day as some lay later in the daytime. Removing the eggs stops the hens from being broody and sitting on the eggs for long period of time.
  4. Open the door and let them free. If you are free-ranging them, leave the door open so they are able to come and go as they please. Again, they may return to the coop to lay more eggs.
  5. Take a head count. Count all of your chickens before bedtime and before you lock them in for the night. Keeping a head count will ensure they are all in, safe and well.

The Cost Of Keeping Chickens

Now we finally get down to the part that was probably worrying you, costs! To be honest, keeping chickens is probably one of the cheapest pets to have. The coop will be the most expensive thing to purchase. Generally speaking, on average my spend comes in at around £15 pounds every 3-4 months.

Let me break it down for you:

  • 1 Bag of layers pellets is just £7.
  • Sawdust for bedding and the coop floor is £5.54.
  • Straw for the nesting boxes is £3.45.

keeping chickens for eggs

To save even more money it is possible to cut costs by buying bales of straw and sawdust. You could also go along to a factory and get bags of free sawdust from workshops. When you add up all of this against the price of eggs you buy per month, it is well worth it. Another thing to remember is, you can have the chickens pay for themselves by simply selling eggs. Who wouldn’t want fresh free range eggs in the morning?

So what are you waiting for 🙂 Take the plunge… you won’t regret it!

 

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  1. Alison wood says:

    Fantastic reading.
    I have a query, I had 2 hens and 1 suddenly died , the other 1 has stopped laying eggs. I do feel sorry as she’s now on her own.
    She’s eating ok.
    Does she need a friend and how hard would it be to introduce a new 1?

     
  2. Admin says:

    Hi Alison,

    I had the exact same issue many moons ago! I had two hens in a relatively small coop with a decent run. The one hen was very broody and laid on the eggs all day and rarely came out to eat or drink. Eventually the hen died and left one.

    They can die suddenly for a number of reasons, though introducing another hen would not be a problem what so ever since chickens are docile birds and will get along with each other no matter what breed or age they are.

    My advice would be…. introduce a new hen don’t worry if you are not wanting to as the hen alone will not be lonely. But if you are wanting to get more hens it would not be an issue here at all. Introduce her straight into the coop. Sorry to hear about the loss 🙁 It is always sad when a girl is down!

     

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