Backyard Chickens, Yes or No?

Is Having a Few Hens for You?

Maybe you didn’t think about being self sufficient before 2020, but what about now? Did you see shortages, empty shelves at the grocery store? In spite of the grocery store shortcomings, at least I knew there were always gonna be fresh eggs right in my back yard. It was a nice feeling, real nice, but is keeping chickens for you? Let’s take a closer look…

Having backyard chickens is going to add to your chore list, and yes, they’re kinda messy, and yes, you’re gonna spend a little extra money just to have those “free eggs.” But, putting all that negative stuff aside, the question of whether or not it’s worth it is a simple one. Yes, and here’s why.

The flavor of a fresh egg is rich, the color is vibrant, and the texture is amazingly firm in comparison to grocery store shelf eggs. But here’s the best part, farm fresh eggs taste better, and hold more nutritional value than store bought. Studies have found that fresh farm eggs have less cholesterol, contain the right kind of fat and have more vitamins than conventional eggs.

Fact: By law, an egg can be sold for up to 30 days after the date it was put in the carton. And farmers have up to 30 days to go from when the egg is laid to the carton. That means those supermarket eggs can be two months old by the time you buy them. It only makes sense to assume after two months some nutritional value has been lost.

Upkeep and What to Expect

Every morning I spend about 10-15 minutes tending to my birds. I use a pooper scooper, pick up the droppings from the nest box and coop, fluff up the pine shavings, fill the drinker, collect eggs, and…. that’s it. Once a week the coop gets fresh pine shavings and the feeder is refilled. My birds free roam during the day on our property, however, if they were confined to a coop, a more rigorous cleaning regiment would be inevitable.

Probably the biggest mistake I made when getting my first backyard flock was how many birds to get. Lesson learned, I bought way to many, and ended up with more eggs than my family could possibly eat. Keep it simple, if you want to feed a small family of four, five to six hens is just about right.

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Gardening with Chickens: Plants to Avoid

It’s a question I get asked a lot, what plants are poisonous to hens?
As part of my answer you need to remember that hens are foragers – they nibble plants here and there, and then set off scratching for more bugs. Because the honest answer is that there are LOTS of plants that are considered toxic to chickens but, in my experience, most hens know not to eat them. Read Article

by: the good life ani’t easy
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First Eggs

Took an Unusually Long Time

Finally after 29 weeks my March chicks started laying. Usually my birds reach their point of lay at about 18 weeks, this year was far from the usual. I blame the delay on weather, this year Phoenix experienced brutal heat. Most of July and August hit 110, with a few days reaching 118. Although my ladies have a mist system and a fan, this kind of weather takes it’s toll.
Cooler weather has arrived, that means happy birds… and that’s what fills the egg basket.

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Why Your Hens Aren’t Laying Eggs

Hens Not Filling the Egg Basket? Here are a few answers to why.

First of all, don’t panic, egg production changes for many reasons, and they aren’t all bad, so lets narrow it down and take a look at all the different scenarios. We’ll start with the most common reasons.

Molting
Every year your chickens will molt, in other words, lose their feathers and grow new ones. Unfortunately, it also means most hens won’t lay eggs until their molt cycle is done. However, there are variations to that rule. The molting process is fully explained HERE.

The Broody Hen
When a hen is broody, it means she wants to hatch eggs and raise chicks. Some breeds are more broody than others, for instance, Silkies. When a hen decides to go broody, there is little you can do to change her mind! She’ll stay in her nest and sit on her eggs, other bird’s eggs, or nothing at all! Remember, just because you don’t have a rooster, doesn’t mean your hen won’t go broody.  A hen will become broody and sit on eggs whether they’re fertilized or not.
The pic below is a broody Silkie, notice how she has a flattened appearance, or looks spreads out. That’s a classic look for a broody hen. Unfortunately, she will not lay eggs during this time. More Information.

Broody Hen

Seasonal
As the days become shorter it is a signal that winter is on it’s way. It’s natural for hens to lay only a couple eggs per week in the winter months, sometimes none at all. Hot weather can also affect egg production, here in Phoenix, production can slow or even stop when the heat becomes extreme. Summer Heat Tips.

Stress
If you move your birds, add new birds, or anything that has changed their routine, is a good enough reason to take time off from laying eggs.  Sometimes a predator scare can upset a flock and they’ll stop laying for a week or more.  Another important factor is your bird’s feed. Make sure they’re consuming quality feed, and I don’t mean chicken scratch. Protein and calcium are essential.
Chickens need adequate space, overcrowding makes for unhappy birds, and this is especially important, why? Because happy hens fill the egg basket! One more thing, pests can also cause a stressful environment, so make sure your birds are not bothered by mites. More on Pests.

Sickness
A sick hen will not lay, ever. All I can tell you about that is to look for the most common signs of illness. Watery eyes, droopy tail, Hen doesn’t leave the nest, coughing, diarrhea, etc.   A sick bird is pretty obvious, and should be isolated from the flock immediately.

Let’s not leave out the inevitable….age.
Unfortunately, all hens reach the age when they no longer lay eggs. Of course there are some that continue to surprise us with an egg well after their productive years. It may surprise you to learn that hens usually only lay eggs until they’re around 3 years old. Their first 2 years are the most productive, then, fewer and fewer as time passes. Except for those special ladies that don’t agree with that statement, and I’ve had a few!

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