I didn’t choose the crazy chicken lady life, this life chose me…
I know we raise cattle, but something you might not know about me….I am a little obsessed with my chickens. I have been raising chickens for, oh 8 or so years now. I love seeing the different breeds available each spring when I decide if I need to add to my flock or not. While I am not one of the poultry experts, I can give you some of my tips and tricks for raising happy chickens and some of my personal favorite breeds.
The most important things to provide to keep healthy chickens and happy chickens which equal high egg production are the following;
- Fresh water and a balanced diet.
- Safe and secure coop.
- Plenty of fresh air for movement.
Fresh water and a balanced diet
Chickens tend to be messier animals. Keeping clean and fresh water available is crucial to ensure proper hydration. Happy chickens like a diverse diet full of various fruits and vegetables. I also feed my hens’ egg crumbles as chicken feed and they like to clean up the grain after the cows. The best way to achieve a good thick eggshell is by using egg crumbles. They are high in calcium and create a thicker shell and offer optimal health benefits.
Quite possibly one of my favorite things about chickens, they will eat everything. We have zero food waste in our house because we feed our chickens any leftover food scraps. It’s a win-win, they love it and we keep food waste out of landfills! Did you know food waste is the number one contributor to greenhouse gases like methane? Raising chickens is like having one giant garbage disposal and one of the biggest benefits of keeping chickens.
Safe and secure coop
Good housing is critical to ensure chicken safety. Chickens are fairly defenseless against predators and they need a home to roost in nightly. A safe coop should be fully enclosed with either chicken wire or hardware cloth and include darker spaces for laying eggs. My chickens like a clean nesting box in the corner for privacy. A happy hen will lay farm-fresh eggs where she feels safe and secure.
Occasionally my hens like to claim other barns and outbuildings as nesting boxes. We have an old garden shed full of hay and they love the darkness of the corners to lay eggs in. I do worry about predators lurking in the corners since I allow my chickens to free-range during the day. I have found that if I let my chickens out later in the day after they have laid eggs, they tend to avoid some of the more secluded areas of the farm.
I do also have 2 outdoor dogs that greatly reduce the risk of predator threat. You do have to be careful with what type of dog you allow around your chickens. Mine have been exposed to them for many years and I would caution you with young or small birds and dogs. There is definitely some acclamation that needs to take place. I do trust my dogs to keep my chickens healthy and safe.
Plenty of fresh air for movement
I have quite a bit of open space to allow my chickens to free-range. Chickens require about 8 square feet in a contained run and 4 square feet in a coop. Listen when I say, happy hens lay eggs. A hen is not happy if she does not have adequate spacing. Chicken math is REAL. 6 chickens turn into 10 and 10 turns into 20 and so on and so forth. Therefore, if you want plenty of farm-fresh eggs, you need to ensure adequate spacing for your hens!
Beyond picking for insects and grubs, chickens thoroughly enjoy a good dust bath. I am warning you in advance, you can either have beautiful flower beds or you can have chickens; you simply can’t have both. My once-manicured flower beds have turned into dust baths for my feathered friends.
Common sense and practical guidelines help keep a backyard flock full of happy chickens and healthy chickens. Chickens are a total beginner’s best friend. They are relatively low-maintenance and provide families with the option of two food sources; farm-fresh eggs daily or meat production birds. Chickens require little space and can even be kept in urban areas.
Happy hens will produce farm-fresh eggs for up to 5 years and in some cases as many as 8! I have three 8-year-old hens who still produce for me daily! Happy backyard chickens make for the perfect companion for total beginners in the animal world!
Now let’s talk about some of my favorite breeds of chicken!
If you want a happy hen who will provide you with as many as 300 farm-fresh eggs a year, australorps are your gals! They are large, healthy chickens that enjoy picking up pests and cleaning up scraps. They have shiny feathers which are largely black with a blueish-green tint to them. Mine are extremely tame and don’t mind being carted around by kids. The girls love to greet me in the morning on the front porch awaiting a snack.
On the other end of the spectrum are my blue silkies. They are totally impractical, completely defenseless, and funny looking…but I do love them. They are a little crazy, have a little designer look, and strut through the yard like they own the place. My blue silkies are mostly roosters so they affectionately crow outside my window, usually when I’m on the phone. They are called blue silkies because they have blue ears, otherwise they are gray and fluffy and look like they are wearing funny pants.
Another breed I am totally drawn to, but don’t have…yet… is copper marans. I think they are just the most beautiful birds and love the deep gold color of the egg they lay. I have no real reason to get them but as I mentioned above, chicken math. I just want them.
If you are new to backyard chickens and looking to add your own chickens for some healthier eggs (and freeish) there are many different types of chickens. If you are looking for laying hens, australorps, Rhode island red, Dominique, or barred rocks are your best bet for a well-producing laying hen. Your local farm-supply store should have all the supplies needed for a healthy chicken and happy hen! They also offer an accessible guide and plenty of DIY chicken coop projects. Remember, happy chickens lay eggs! Keep your gals happy and you can enjoy farm-fresh eggs year-round!