Backyard Chickens For Egg Production

Of all the critters that you have to choose from to stock your homestead, chickens should be a no-brainer. Whether you have an urban backyard, or have found yourself a few acres in the country, the backyard chicken can be one of the greatest assets you can have. They provide eggs, meat, manure and insect control to name a few of their benefits.

There are more breeds of chickens than I can possibly go into here, but I will tell you some of the ones that I have personal experience with. Birds that will help you bring your backyard into egg production. The breed (or breeds) that you select should be chosen for their ability to bring something to your table.  

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Part of my flock. I have nearly two dozen in all !

First of all, are you wanting a chicken for egg production, or for meat? Or both? Some breeds lend themselves to producing both eggs and meat. If that’s your ultimate goal, these are the ones you might want to consider. The breeds I will recommend are some obvious choices. For a dual purpose bird (meat and eggs) I would suggest you think about Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks or perhaps a Sex Link. The Sex Link comes in red and black. They are called “Sex Link” because as soon as they are hatched, they can identify the gender, just by their markings. Other chicks have to be turned upside down to check. They squeeze them and squirt stuff out and… well, let’s just say it’s not too pretty. Even then, determining the sex of a day old chick is a skill that takes a long time to develop, and I couldn’t do it if my life depended on it.

I have found that the sex link hen it’s one of the best layers, and grows to be a large enough bird to make it a good meat bird also. They are one of the best layers I’ve ever had. They seem to lay well year-round. Even in the winter.

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This is a Black Sex Link. Beautiful black hen with gold neck. She is over 5  years old !

Ranked up there (as far as I’m concerned) is the Barred rock, as they are great layers too. They will pretty much lay year round. Very friendly.

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Barred Rock Hen

I never had any Rhode Island reds, but they are said to be one of the best laying chickens too.

So, it really is important so take care as you select the breed you want.  Right now, as part of my flock, I have six Production Red hens and one PR rooster. They are beautiful and are great layers. They are a cross from Rhode Island Reds, and look a lot like them. I am a little disappointed with the size of the egg. They are medium. But then, I am probably just spoiled to the extra large eggs that the sex link and barred rock lay.

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Production Red Hen

If you are fortunate enough to have someone close to you that will sell you grown chickens, buy them! That’s the easiest way to get started. If that’s not the case, you will probably be buying day-old chicks. I have dealt with McMurray hatchery on several occasions, I found them to be professional, and have great stock, as well as service. All the breeds discussed above can be found there, as well as dozens more. If you do buy day-old chicks, you will need to build a brooder before they come in the mail. This is pretty easy to do. You can make a brooder out of a cardboard box, or anything else that has side walls. I have even used a small wading pool as a  brooder. You just need to make sure the sidewalls are high enough to keep the chicks from jumping out (about 10-12 inches. Some sort of heat source will need to be placed above it. I’ve always hung a 250 watt heat lamp about 12 inches above the brooder. You want to give the chicks enough space that if they get too hot, they can move away from the light. The temperature needs to be between 95 and 100 degrees at first. After a few days, they will begin to grow feathers. You can raise the light, which will decrease the temperature in the brooder. Every week you should drop the temp about 5 degrees. If the chicks get too cold, they will move under the light. If they get too hot, they will move away. If you are doing this in the spring, and live where the climate is not too cold, you might get away with using a 100 w light bulb instead of a heat lamp, thus saving you money on electricity. After a while, when they get completely feathered out, they shouldn’t need any heat source. Also, be aware that the chicks will need to be fed “Chick Starter” not just regular chicken feed. It is higher in protein, and will give them a much better start.

After they are about 4-6 weeks old, they can be put outside. Keep in mind that they need to be feathered out pretty well if it is cold where you live, or you will still need to provide a heat source.
Now that they are outside remember… everything… and I do mean EVERYTHING that lives in the woods think you brought the chickens to your place to feed THEM. It seems that there are more predators out there than you can shake a stick at. They include foxes, wolves, possums, skunks, raccoons, hawks and owls… not to mention the neighbors dog, and maybe even your own. I have gone through several dogs, and have only found a couple, that didn’t pay them any attention. Your chicken coop should be closed at night, and secured against any of the above, or you WILL be feeding the local wildlife. I lost 13 hens to a possum in 3 nights. I had left a VERY small opening in the top of the coop, and he went in and helped himself to some chicken dinner. I might as well have put some biscuits and gravy out for him too. I fed him well. But then the Lord called the poor critter home… if you know what I mean. You can even make a moveable chicken pen, called a “chicken tractor”. As you move it around it gives them fresh grass/bugs/worms to eat, and fertilizes your yard to boot. How cool is that ?

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My chicken tractor. Note that it’s on skids…

Here’s a video of my Chicken Tractor

 

Also an often asked question is… do I need a rooster? Depends. If you are in the city, and have neighbors that want to sleep past 05:30, I would say… uhhhNo.

 

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Production Red rooster crowing

Roosters are not essential for egg production, only for fertilizing the eggs (you remember the birds and the bees, right?) So you don’t have to have one. Personally, I like to hear them crow… makes it sound more like a farm  🙂

If you can, let your flock free range during the day. This will cut down dramatically on your feed bill ! If they are out eating bugs and worms, they are not inside eating the expensive feed you bought.

Chickens can provide so much food (and fun) that I can’t understand why anyone who can have them would not have them.

Entire books have been written about their care and benefits, so I won’t keep you any longer, but I do want to encourage you to start your flock soon, and discover Da Benefits of Da Bird !

One of the benefits…

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Fresh eggs !

Take care, leave a comment, and check out my YouTube Channel

17 Comments

  • Betty Wilson
    Posted July 8, 2017 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I have six red sex young chickens…. Got them late May. On three different occasions I have found what looks like raw egg white….could it be that the egg isn’t forming a shell, if so is it due to lack of something the chicken (s) aren’t getting enough of???

  • Mike Benjamin
    Posted May 26, 2016 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Do the wings of Chickens have to be clipped when they fully mature??? We have month old Red Sex link chicken now…just wondering. Also we live in Connecticut. What has to be done to keep these chickens warm in the winter…

    • admin
      Posted May 27, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      They don’t HAVE to be clipped. But if they are flying out of the chicken run, you may want to clip them.

  • Elizabeth
    Posted March 7, 2015 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I have had Road Island Red chickens, Dominicker and Sex Links, I LOVE the Sex Links!! They are beautiful birds that lay huge eggs year round. None of my other hens have layed through the winter. Sex Links lay bigger than jumbo grocery store eggs. I do feed them laying pellets. I need to let them out to free range more. My dog, a black and white boarder coley does like to grab a chicken, so I lock him out of the back yard while my chickens are out and lock the chickens up at night. I love having chickens and fresh eggs. The chickens are wonderful pets. Beautiful to watch in the sunshine, beautiful colors of their feathers. I’m in the Greenville area of SC. Our winters range from very mild to pretty cold. The last two years have been cold for SC>>

  • Jane Oboh
    Posted August 14, 2014 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Were can I get life hen for cooking in norcross Atlanta Game.

    • admin
      Posted August 18, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      I would look in your local Craigslist. There are always lots of chickens for sale around here… there probably are where you are too…

  • Posted April 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Hola! I’ve been reading your site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Lubbock Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the excellent work!

  • CountryChick
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    I just read your blog about the chickens and HAD to comment. lol Last year, I decided that the only way to get true organic fed, soy-free, non-antibiotic or hormone fed, free range chicken eggs was to get my own chickens. I have plenty of acreage for them to bug hunt and am handy enough to build them a chicken tractor. Turns out, the four little black sex links hens I got, LOOOOVE the mulch located around my pampas grass, in all of my flower gardens AND also LOOOOVE the decorative river rock around my entire house. I have had to put up poultry fence to keep the little landscape wreckers out. You forgot to mention any downsides to their bug search scratching…. 🙂

    And also, as far as the dogs go…I have four, all different breeds, and all over 60 lbs. that thought the chickens looked tasty and were more than frenzied up when I first brought them outside for the first time as young chicks. To train them, I had a friend stand nearby with the dogs on leashes while I squatted down and pet and talked gently to the chickens like I do my dogs to show the dogs that these were not “wild” animals or something to be chased. After a few times, bringing each sides closer together and the dogs being told “leave it” if they got too excited, they learned to ignore the chickens. I also bought shock collars to use in case anyone decided to not listen to me and instead chase chickens. I never had to use them (for that purpose, anyway). I had one small incident with one of my dogs, but I think it was because the chicken had sat down in the middle of the dense pampas grass and the dog thought it was something besides my chicken. She did get a few feathers out of the chicken, but did not hurt it otherwise and has never bothered them since. As a matter of fact, I leave the chickens out to roam and all the dogs free when I run errands or whatever and have never had an issue, so it CAN be done. It just takes some patience and the right teaching methods. Having them all out together also helps keep hawks, owls and other critters away during the day since at least one dog is always paying attention to something somewhere.

    And I don’t know about your black sex link hens, but mine like to stay out until it’s so dark, I have to have a flashlight in summer to do the nightly lock down.

    They are good layers though and I’m getting large brown eggs from them. I just wish I’d had a neighbor that raised organic fed, soy, antibiotic and hormone-free, free range chickens that I could spend a few dollars a month on eggs instead of the hundreds I’ve spent on housing, fencing (to keep them out of everything), food (that I can’t buy locally and have to purchase online) and property destruction.

    Just adding my personal experience on the subject to those wondering if chickens might be right, since there IS a downside to them. 🙂

    • admin
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Yep, they will really scratch up a garden. I have to keep mine fenced out till fall.

      I USED to do the flashlight after dark stuff, but that got OLD.

      SO… I found something that they REALLY liked (like scratch or corn) and call them in each evening when I WANT THEM TO GO TO BED, not when THEY want to go to bed. I only feed lay pellets free choice all day, so corn is a treat.

      Find something they reeeeeely like, and call them in with it (use a verbal call of some sort… and use it every time- they will come running to the call after a few days) … lock the door and get on with your evening…

      Problem solved…

      🙂

    • admin
      Posted April 22, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      By the way, great training on the dogs… I will try that if I get another dog that is looking for a chicken dinner.

  • Posted March 11, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Hello, We found your video on YouTube for the Greenhouse and just had to share it on our Facebook page. Feel free to visit our Facebook page and add your stories, hints, pics of your garden/farm. We are a new page and are slowly but surely building an audience. I found I had to copy the link to post to our Facebook page because for some reason it wouldn’t let me just click the share button. Weird.

    Anyway we wanted to say we have added your blog to our bookmarks. We too have a blog website @ http://www.FarmgirlsCreations.com….check it out when you can.
    Have a wonderful week. Gotta get back to working or I don’t make money. LOL
    Your friends @ FarmgirlsCreations

  • Charles
    Posted March 5, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Just a comment on the Red Sex Link chickens. Great egg layer, very docile, good around children. However, I have heard you can’t have a Red Sex Link rooster and Red Sex Link hens and produce more Red Sex Link baby chicks. The birds are like hybrid vegetables, they won’t come true to the parent seed, the Red Sex Links are of one stock for the males and a different stock for the females and they don’t produce the same offspring. If someone has actual experience with this post it here for us all. Thanks

    • admin
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      Hadn’t heard that before… but Tractor Supply had some good lookin’ Red Headed Chicks down there the other day (Red Sex Links).
      I started to buy some.

    • Posted April 20, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

      Hi Stacy! We just got some new chicks and are loniokg forward to adding them to our flock to have plenty of eggs for our girl to sell to the neighbors. I love reading about your garden, your chickens, and your projects. Thanks for such a pleasant read!

  • Angela Graveline
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi there.

    I’m in Austin and thinking about doing chickens and using cattle panels for chicken-related construction (might use your greenhouse sled frame). Is it possible to get cattle panel home without a pickup truck (I have a Honda Civic)? Any tips other than ‘buy a pickup truck’?

    • admin
      Posted March 5, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      If you buy enough of them, someone might deliver.
      You can find them at some feed stores and lumber yards. The lumber yards may deliver.
      Best suggestion… find a “friend” with a PU truck…
      🙂

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