Chances are that you may have known someone raising chickens for eggs in their backyard while you were growing up.
Raising chickens isn’t an uncommon hobby.
In fact, even A-list celebrities like Lady Gaga and Jennifer Garner have taken to raising hens for farm-fresh eggs.
How hard can it be?
In this blog, we’ll answer exactly that.
Let’s get started.
1. Should you raise chickens for eggs in your backyard?
If you’re considering getting chickens to raise for fresh eggs, here are the things to consider before doing so.
We address some of these points in more depth throughout this article, but we wanted to provide some upfront answers to what may be going through your mind.
It’s permitted locally.
Before you move forward, be sure to check with your neighborhood, local town, or municipality to see if it’s even permitted.
You have space for a full-size chicken coop (henhouse) and space for your chickens to run.
You can afford chicken food.
While chickens are fairly inexpensive to raise, they are still an additional expense that you are taking on.
You want to take on the additional maintenance.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to shovel manure year-round.
Chickens require care every single day and that isn’t for everyone!
If you’re okay with getting a chicken-sitter.
Just like any other pet, you’ll need to get a sitter when you go on vacation, and chicken-sitters can be a lot harder to find than dog sitters.
Some people don’t love the restriction on travel, and therefore, chickens aren’t the right pet for them!
2. How do you raise chickens for eggs?
If you’re sold on raising chickens for eggs, here are the basic steps you can follow to get started.
Select the right breed
Because you’re planning to raise chickens for their eggs, you’ll need to select the right breed.
Some breeds are better than others when it comes to laying eggs.
See #8 for more information on the best breed to select.
Determine the number of birds you’d like
As chickens are social creatures, you want to make sure you get enough to keep each other company.
We recommend keeping anywhere from three to six birds.
This way, you’ll always have a steady supply of eggs.
The average adult hen lays about two eggs every three days (on average).
You should also keep in mind that chickens are at the height of their productivity during the first two years of their lives.
After that, egg production slows down, so if you enjoy the process of raising chickens, then you’ll need to consider replacing your flock eventually.
Research a reputable chick supplier
Check out #12 for where to purchase your chickens.
The main point to remember throughout this process is that you want to purchase from a credible hatchery.
Additionally, to prevent potential disease problems, the hatchery should vaccinate your chicks for Marek’s Disease and coccidiosis.
Prepare your brooder
Baby chicks are kept in a warm, draft-free shelter called a brooder.
You should prepare your brooder before your chicks arrive.
This structure must be completely enclosed with a bottom surface that can be covered with bedding.
It can also have a heating lamp.
You should avoid square corners in your brooding area as this can cause chicks to be trapped in the corner if the birds huddle in one area.
Focus on sanitation
Young chicks are incredibly susceptible to early health risks, so we recommend disinfecting all materials prior to using them.
After that, disinfect them weekly with either household disinfectants (if it’s safe to use and doesn’t leave a residual film) or a mixture of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water.
If you choose to use the bleach mixture, then you should rinse everything thoroughly following cleaning.
Create a long-term nutrition plan
When you raise strong chicks, you create healthy hens.
Strong chicks require a consistent nutrition plan, so make that a priority as you begin planning for your chicks’ arrival.
See #4 for what chickens eat and drink.
3. What should my chicken coop include?
For your chickens to be safe and happy, your henhouse should include the following six elements.
Nesting box: Hens love privacy and darkness when laying eggs.
For every four or five hens that you have, create at least one nesting box that measures 14”W-by-14”H x 12”D.
You can also add a door along the exterior wall of each box for easy egg collection.
Box bedding: We recommend adding soft, inexpensive material like hay or pin shavings that provide your chickens with a comfortable spot and easier cleaning.
Roosting bar: As chickens prefer to sleep high off the ground, a roosting bar provides a perch to sleep on.
We recommend constructing a wood roosting bar as opposed to metal or plastic as they are usually too slippery for chickens to grip properly.
Dropping board: This term refers to a board, pan, or box placed below the roosting bar to collect and contain manure, which makes daily cleanups easier.
Hanging feeder and waterer: Keep both the feeder and waterer off the ground to preserve freshness.
These should be placed inside the coop to keep away from other animals.
Enclosed run: This is where your chickens can stretch their legs while staying protected from predators.
We recommend using hardware cloth or metal screening with at least a 1.2mm gauge to ensure strength and durability.
4. What do chickens eat and drink?
Chickens do not eat a homegrown diet.
They require a commercially prepared layer mash that has been formulated by a poultry science nutritionist.
This mash will have the appropriate amount of calcium, calories, and protein to keep the hen healthy and ensure a good thick eggshell.
Chickens also drink fresh water and this transfers to their eggs, which are mostly composed of H20.
To keep the water clean, we recommend adding a splash of apple cider vinegar a few times a week to prevent bacteria.
5. How much room do you need to raise chickens in your backyard?
When people think about raising chickens, they think about living on a farm.
Yet, you don’t actually need all that much room to raise chickens.
Each chicken will need four square feet to itself in the nesting coop (also called a henhouse).
You’ll also need 10 square feet per chicken in their enclosed run.
If you choose to raise a flock of 6 chickens, then this will translate to a 6’-by-4’ nesting coop plus a 6’-by-10’ run.
With that said, the amount of room you have is rarely the deal-breaker that you’ll encounter if you’re trying to raise backyard chickens.
The real issue people run into is whether chickens are permitted in your neighborhood.
That’s a whole other issue that we’ll cover in the next section!
6. Are chickens allowed in your neighborhood?
This is a million-dollar question for most people.
We recommend that you check if chickens are permitted in your neighborhood.
Who do you check with?
Both your homeowners’ association or your municipality or county.
You may be surprised to learn that many suburban and urban areas only have restrictions on the number of hens allowed or the possession of roosters.
7. Why should you raise chickens?
There are numerous reasons to raise chickens.
The eggs your chickens will produce are tastier and fresher than store-bought eggs.
They’re also better for baking.
If you’re a composting household, you’ll be able to toss the eggs shells and chicken poop right into the compost pile.
Chickens themselves are fairly low maintenance.
While you will need to make caring for them (feeding, cleaning, etc.) part of your routine, they’ll largely entertain themselves.
They pick at grass, worms, beetles, and generally make great gardening companions.
8. What breeds of chickens are best for egg production?
There are nine breeds of chickens that are the most prized varieties for backyard hens.
Here’s what breeds you should look for when you’re buying:
Rhode Island Red
9. How much does it cost to raise chickens?
Not as much as you might expect!
Chickens are fairly simple and inexpensive to care for, and you will see a decent return on their eggs.
Female chicks will normally cost anywhere from $4 to $7 apiece.
If you order an assorted flock instead of a specific breed, then they can sometimes be even less.
Feed normally costs around $25 for a 50-pound bag.
If you raise a flock six, then you’ll go through this in about a month.
You will incur other fees like building a coup, purchasing supplies, and visiting the vet occasionally.
The materials to build and furnish a coop (including wood, fencing, and hardware) alone will set you back at least $300.
If you’re not able to do this work yourself, then you’ll need to pay for a professional to assist you.
Overall, you should anticipate spending between $500 and $700 to get started.
This number will vary depending on the size of your flock, coop, and run.
10. How hard is it to raise chickens?
Raising chickens isn’t necessarily hard, but it does require daily time and a serious commitment.
We wouldn’t recommend getting chickens on a whim or because you think it’s funny.
You’ll need to love the fresh air and labor (at least to some extent) that comes with caring for chickens.
11. What does a day-in-the-life of raising chickens for fresh eggs look like?
Here’s what your day may look like if you’re caring for chickens:
Morning: Let your chickens out of their coop and give them access to their enclosed run.
You should give each chicken a once-over and look for bright eyes, red comb and wattles, steady gait, and shiny feathers.
All of these are signs of a healthy hen.
Next, supply them with fresh food and water.
You should also take time to turn over and fluff coop bedding and check for eggs.
Afternoon: Take time to check for eggs again and give your chickens their daily treat (optional).
Sundown: At sundown, lock the hens back inside their nesting coop.
This will protect them from predators overnight.
When it’s cold out, we suggest supplying them with scratch grains before bed as digesting them has a warming effect.
Once a week: It’s time to clean out the coop!
Rake the bedding of the coop and replace it with fresh bedding.
You should also scrub their feed and wash dishes.
12. Where should I purchase chickens?
Believe it or not, buying chicks online is a safe way to bring hens home.
We recommend purchasing from a hatchery certified by the National Poultry Improvement Plan.
Here is an example of a hatchery to purchase from online.
13. Can you raise chickens for eggs without a rooster?
Yes! There is a common misconception that you need a rooster for a hen to lay eggs.
The male is only necessary if you want eggs fertilized to hatch as baby chicks.
We actually recommend against roosters in your backyard flock because they can become aggressive to hens and people.
So, what do you think?
Do you still want to raise chickens for eggs?
For some people, this is an incredibly worthwhile endeavor.
This process allows them to get outside, work with their hands, interact with nature, and produce some of their own organic food.
For others, the daily work just isn’t worth it.
Having a few eggs (or more) each day simply doesn’t make up for the work that they have to do, and having chickens to raise interferes with their ability to travel or do other things.
The good news is that, if you want to do this, it’s a fairly easy and accessible project.
It’s also a great way to use your land if you’re not sure what else to do with it.
If you have a local farmers market, that’s the perfect place to sell farm-fresh eggs and make a killing off of what your chickens are producing.
Additional ResourcesIf you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page. And before you buy land, make sure you check out Gokce Land Due Diligence Program. If you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.