When we begin our venture into homesteading, 6 years ago, we got a bunch of chickens. By a bunch, I mean we jumped in and got 50. Call us crazy, adventurous, whatever. We loved it! We raised hens for eggs and meat birds, which we learned how to butcher. We now just have egg-layers running around the farm. If you’re looking to get started with animals on your homestead, farm or even in your backyard, chickens are an easy way to do it.
Here are some fun facts about chickens and eggs, plus the best breeds for egg production, dual purpose (meat and eggs), and cold climates.
- Hens will lay daily eggs, especially if you get the right breeds. One thing I didn’t know before we started is that hens will lay eggs whether or not you have a rooster.
- They really are fun to watch as they run around, especially if you allow your bird to free range (as we do). There’s also no sound I love to hear more than our rooster crowing throughout the day as he announces the dawn and calls to gather and protect his flock.
- They keep your bug population down. Free range chickens will hunt and peck all over the place to find delicious morsels to satisfy.
- Chickens love weeds and will help keep them under control.
- They create what we like to call a Chicken Tractor as they roam around and turn up the soil and leave their poop, allowing for better growth of grass in your fields (or back yard).
- The straw and manure you get out of the coop when mucking it is like gold in your compost, which makes for beautiful growth in your garden.
- They are a low-cost, low-maintenance animal to have on your land. Our chickens free range during the day and put themselves up at night. We make sure they have water, but with the compost pile (where they find all kinds of worms and goodies to eat) and the foraging they do, we do not have to buy any feed for them in the summer months. (In the winter we do supplement with a good layer feed, however, they still get out to forage in the winter). Plus, we feed them kitchen scraps (there are some things you shouldn’t feed them. You can read about that here).
- You do not have to refrigerate eggs you get from your coop, AS LONG AS YOU DON’T WASH THEM. There is a membrane coating called “bloom” that surrounds the egg. It’s purpose is to keep baby chicks inside the egg safe from bacteria. As long as you don’t wash them, you can store them on the counter until you are ready to use them. I usually wash my eggs just before I crack them. (Store-bought eggs have been bleached and the bloom has been removed, thus the need to refrigerate them).
- Chickens do require calcium for strong egg shells. You can purchase oyster shell to add as a supplement to their feed, but there really is no need to do that. You can just feed them their own crushed egg shells. After I crack them, I put them in a dish to dry (you don’t want there to be anything left on the shell, so they don’t develop a taste for eggs), then I crush them up into smallish pieces – small enough so they do not resemble an egg shell, but not so small that they cannot eat them. Voila! Free calcium supplement.
- Chickens are fun! And who doesn’t like fresh eggs in the morning!
Best Breeds for Egg Production:
- Plymouth Rocks (any of the different types) lay brown eggs
- Black Australorps lay brown eggs
- Jersey Giants lay brown eggs
- Welsummers lay dark brown eggs
Best Dual Purpose Breeds:
- Rhode Island Reds lay brown eggs, male – 8.5lbs/female – 6.5 lbs
- Brahmas lay brown eggs, male – 12 lbs/female – 9.5 lbs
- Dark Cornish (not the same as Cornish Cross) lay brown eggs, male 10 lbs/female – 8 lbs
- Wyandottes lay brown eggs, male – 8.5 lbs/female – 6.5 lbs
- Marans lay chocolate brown eggs, male – 7 lbs/female – 6 lbs
- Orpingtons lay brown eggs, male – 10 lbs/female – 8 lbs
- Turkens lay brown eggs, male – 8.5 lbs/female – 6.5 lbs
Best Cold Hardy Breeds:
- Plymouth Rocks
- Jersey Giants
My Favorite Fun and Unique Breeds:
- “Easter Eggers” these fun birds have little tufts on their cheeks and lay turquoise to green to deep olive to brown colored eggs. A fun addition!
- Turken Naked Necks these birds look like they are half chicken, half turkey because their turkey-like bare neck. They are kind of ugly, but fun to have around.
- Polish any of these are fantastic. They large, distinctive “crests” (think large poof on top of their heads). They lay white eggs.
- Cochins these are covered with soft, fluffy feathers from head to toe. They are fun to cuddle. Not good layers, but very good setters (they make good Mamas). They lay brown eggs.
- Frizzle Cochins just like the regular Cochin, but these guys look like they stuck their toes in an electric socket. Their feathers curve outward and forward giving them this appearance. They lay brown eggs.
If you’ve been on the fence about getting chickens because you don’t know where to start or what breed to get, I hope this helped. If you’ve never considered getting chickens, I hope this changed your mind!
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