Are you one of those that don’t like to rely on the grocery store for your chicken eggs? Maybe you want to be more self sufficient when it comes to your egg consumption? I will show you how we raise chickens for eggs!
We raise chickens for eggs for our family needs, plus a little extra to sell. This means we don’t have to rely on the grocery store for chicken eggs. We know what kind of life our chickens have and what they eat.
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Heritage vs Hybrid
A heritage breed chicken is one that farmers used in the old days. They are usually a dual purpose bird, meaning you can get eggs and meat from them.
A hybrid breed chicken is one that has been bred over the years to be much larger. These are usually used by modern day chicken farms and are what you see in stores. Unfortunately, most of these birds have lost some of the original traits/characteristics from their ancestors such as the ability to naturally breed, become broody/hatch eggs, adapt to cold/heat, etc.
We chose heritage breeds of chickens so we can get eggs and hatch our own future chickens.
Breed of Chickens
For the heritage types of chickens, there are so many different breeds to choose from. There are different sizes, color of eggs, size of eggs, adaptability to cold vs heat, etc.
There are many hatcheries you can search through to see which options would best suit your family.
We have a mixed flock of heritage chickens we raise that include:
- Rhode Island Red
- Barred Rock
- Black Star
- Bantam (small breed)
- and some that we don’t even know what breed they are
How Many Chickens to Raise For Eggs
How many chickens to raise for eggs depends on:
- Family size
- How many eggs your family eats/uses in a year
- Space to raise chickens
- Local laws/rules/HOAs
We are a family of 5 right now who eats about a dozen chicken eggs per week, and has over 1 acre of room for chickens. Given this information, I can calculate that we would need 12-15 chickens for our egg consumption. I would go towards the higher end of those numbers to account for egg losses (cracked, broody, etc), extra baking/cooking you may do throughout the year, and sales (if you are interested).
Starting with Chicks
We started out by buying chicks from a local feed store a couple years back, and have been hatching our own chickens since then. When hatching chicks, you never know how many males vs females will hatch. People will say it is usually 50/50, and depending on the batch, that is around what we find to be true (give or take a few either way).
Our females will be raised for egg laying and/or to sell to those looking for females.
Our males will be raised to sell, to keep as breeding stock, and/or (mostly) for meat chickens.
Before you buy feed for these birds, you need to decide right now if you are wanting to raise them organic or not organic. The organic feed is usually a higher quality but is much higher in cost than traditional chicken feed.
For the chicks, we use chick start as their food. This is a very small crumble so it is easy for them to eat and digest. I use chick starter feed until they are around 6 weeks old.
With the chick start, there is organic and non-medicated, traditional and non-medicated, or traditional and medicated. This decision is also up to your personal preferences.
After they hit 12 weeks old, we move them onto “big chicken” feed. For us, this consists of kitchen/garden/yard scraps/plants/weeds, chicken scratch, and layer feed.
Some people also ferment their feed, which means they soak it for a couple days prior to feeding the chickens. I have yet to do this but it is on my list to try.
Once we are able to sex our chickens, we separate the hens and roosters. We have a giant pen we call the “Bachelor Pad” where we keep only roosters. Since there are no hens in there, the fighting is at a minimum. Our hens then go into our “Egg Layer” pen where we have one rooster and many hens.
Usually, if you raise more than 1 rooster with hens, the roosters will fight, which could end in deaths, unless you have enough hens to satisfy the roosters. I like to keep 1 rooster to about 15 hens.
These chickens will require at least 5 sq. feet of space per bird. This is the bare minimum. I always like to give lots of extra space if I can! 15-25 sq. feet per bird is the most humane spacing people give to make sure they live a happy and healthy life.
They will also require a roosting area because they like to sleep on a roost, and nesting boxes to lay their eggs in. I usually do 1 nesting box per 5 hens. They like to share their nesting boxes with each other and rarely lay at the same times.
Your hens should start laying eggs for you when they reach around 4-6 months old. Be sure to check for eggs at least once per day to collect the freshest eggs!