There is nothing better on a Saturday morning to enjoy farm fresh eggs from your own laying hens. But what does that really entail if you want to have your own flock?
How can you successfully raise backyard chickens without it costing you way more than you planned to spend?
Here are a few tips I have learned from the “Chicken School of Hard Knocks”:
- Buy chicks or hens? You decide
- LET’S TALK ABOUT CHICKS FIRST:
Chicks are cute sweet and oh so fuzzy! Here is what you should know. Chicks will cost about $3-$5 each depending on how fancy a breed. From chick to layer, it takes 6 months before they start laying, you will spend money on special chick feed ( more expensive that hen feed) special water containers and special feeding trays, heat lamps and have to have some kind of protective brooder with bedding material and eventually, of course, a protective coop with nesting spaces. Buy twice the amount of chick you need. If you are financially comfortable with the expenditures and probably plan to do this more than one time, it’s a super fun experience and wonderful to share with children. You will eventually need a coop but you will have a couple of months to obtain one before they need it. Be prepared for the fact that some of your chicks may turn out to be roosters, what will you do with them if you do not want them? I love my baby chicks and still have many of the ones in my flock that I raised, but they did cost me.
- ESTABLISHED HENS:
A hen that is already laying will cost you somewhere between $10 and $20 each depending on the breed. Voila! You will have eggs immediately. If you are on a budget, this is a less expensive option. try to find hens about 12-18 months old so they are still laying regularly. This is a great way to find out if you like chickens and your space is appropriate for them, But you will need a coop. I recommend you have it in place before you pick up your chickens. You do not have to buy a ready-made coop. There are lots of DIY designs and ideas online. Check big box stores that have pallets, often they will give them to you. You can build a little shelter by hammering them together and cover with chicken wire. You will need a feeder and a source of water, straw for the nesting boxes. Be prepared for chickens to be a little confused about where they are to lay after you bring them home. See it as an adventure! No need to buy fancy collecting baskets, my favorite collecting container is a plastic ice cream bucket lined with a soft cloth. Buy twice the hens you need especially if you are counting on a certain amount of eggs every day. Chickens take vacations from laying sometimes, especially in cold winter.
So what is the best choice? I love them both and make my decision based on time, money, purpose and season.
A quick word about predators, they will find your chickens. Unfortunately, It seems poultry is a predator favorite. Do your best to make sure you have solid fencing! Possums, raccoons, foxes and especially neighborhood dogs are the most likely to invade and attack your precious flock. Have a plan and get it in place so you can enjoy your chickens and their daily gift of fresh eggs for years to come!
Whatever you decide, chick or hens, it’s a fun journey, I hope you try it. Having your own flock is a fun and exciting experience!
Angela and her husband RJ own a operate Hidden Hill Farms of Kansas. She raises laying hens and offers farm fresh eggs for sale daily.
Want to know more? Watch for Angela’s class on raising backyard chickens coming soon.