Backyard Chickens

Backyard Chickens

Expanding on last week’s post about best livestock for small acreage, I want to talk about backyard chicken raising this week.  Contrary to the visions most of us have of stinky, dirty commercial egg operations, chickens are actually quite clean and very entertaining.

Egg laying breeds, such as Wyandotte, Sussex, Orpington and Barred Rock will usually lay an egg per day in spring, summer and fall.  In the winter, this number will drop in response to less daylight, so some people supplement the light by turning on a light in the chicken coop.  I prefer to let mine follow nature’s patterns and enjoy a bit of a rest in the winter.A grown chicken will eat about four ounces of food per day.  They can be fed completely commercial rations, which will cost about $10-$15 for a 50-pound bag.  They will eagerly gobble up your kitchen scraps.  You will notice richer, tastier eggs if you allow your chickens to eat bugs, grasses and plants too.  Ranging chickens are also happier and less prone to bullying.

Chickens do not need a rooster to lay eggs, only to lay fertile eggs.  For a small family 3-5 birds is usually enough to keep you in eggs.  They also have funny personalities – that’s where the term “old biddy” comes from I think.

If you get extra eggs, you can almost always find a market for them, which will help offset the cost of feeding.  Having fresh, homegrown eggs is well worth the small expense of keeping backyard chickens, and the entertainment they provide is just icing on the cake.