Egg Laying Hens: The Basics of Starting a Backyard Flock

art-715-chickenFor those curious about raising chickens, the prospect of starting a backyard flock can be daunting.
However, the rewards of cultivating your own healthy, happy egg layers can far outweigh the challenges.

The first step is deciding on a structure to house your chickens in. They’ll need a safe and warm environment for roosting and laying their eggs. Coops can be purchased online or in farm supply stores. Alternately, constructing your own coop can be a great money-saver for capable builders. Whichever method you choose, make sure to allow about 4 square feet of space per chicken in the coop.

The next consideration is deciding which breeds to invest in. Hybrid birds such as the Hy-Line Brown and California White are generally the most productive egg layers. You can purchase chicks from a farm supply store or online from a mail order hatchery. While raising them takes some effort, you will be rewarded in about six months when your hens start laying. Or reap        immediate rewards by buying adult hens.

Most hens lay regularly throughout the first three years of their average 4- to 8-year lifespan. This does present a difficult decision for some farmers: to keep older, non-laying hens as pets, or to cull and replace the flock. Chickens, like all animals, are a responsibility and should be taken on accordingly. All things considered, chickens are easy to manage and worthwhile, and raising them can be the perfect adventure for many backyard farmers!

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