How are your chickens raised? ~ A Frequently Asked Question
I have to admit, I fought hard AGAINST having chickens for the first 6 years we have been out here. I never wanted chickens, never really liked chickens, never wanted to deal with chickens. Until I caved and got our first 6, so that Nathan could enjoy those fresh eggs. So, in just 4 short years, I have gone from not wanting any, to trying to find the best egg laying breeds. I’ve learned a lot in this time, and have been asked a lot of questions. I want to address our most frequently asked questions for you.
- What kind of hens do you have?
- We currently have barnyard mixes and Orpington Buffs laying, 20 total. But we have a total of 55 hens. They range in age from 3 years old to just a week old. Our Barnyard mixes add a lot of color and variety to our coops, and our Buffs add a wonderful gold color, and I’m excited to see what my Gold Sexlinks will bring to the mix (this breed lays an extra-large egg).
- How many Roosters do you have?
- We have two roosters. One Buff and one Copper Maran Mix. We don’t really keep roosters for fertilizing the eggs, but instead, to keep the girls in better formed groups and to keep them safe. Roosters are great for warning of overhead predators such as hawks. They also keep the girls from wandering too far away from the safety of ground cover. The boys are good to their girls, and get along pretty good for the most part.
- Do they let any babies hatch?
- They probably would if I let them. I’m not real fond of a “broody” hen, they can get pretty mean. Plus, when one goes broody, you will usually have several others follow suit. We collect our eggs daily. And when we do have a hen go broody (wanting to hatch a batch of eggs), we will move her to a different house or even a small cage for a couple of days. Since hens don’t lay eggs when broody, we can’t afford to have too many of them in this condition.
- How many coops do you have?
- We currently have 3 coops, each with their own house and nesting boxes, plus our “brooding box” for our youngest ones that are too little to go out in the yard yet. They will start their lives with us in the brooding box, where they will stay for at least a month and get handled daily. Then they move to the nursery, as I like to call it. This allows them to get use to being an outdoor chicken, and keeps them safe from the older girls and any predators that might be lurking. As they get older, we expand their front yard so they can start eating grass, chase bugs and do whatever they do naturally. When they are about 2-3 months old, they will be moved to the “teenagers room”. This is basically an extension of the main coop, but has been partitioned off with fence and a wire door between the two. This allows for the big girls and the “teenagers” to get accustomed to each other, without any worries of the big girls being mean to the little one. Here, we also give them yard space. Then there is the main coop and house. By the time the “teenagers” start to lay, they are all integrated into this coop, and the center door is removed to give everyone room to live happy. They will all have full run of the main coop and the Teenagers room until we bring in new babies, or I need to use it for some reason. Our nursery becomes a separation coop so that I can figure out which girls are laying and which are not.
- How much and what are they fed?
- One hen needs about 4 oz (a handful) of Layers Pellets feed to produce one egg. We get this from our local co-op farm store. They also eat whatever they would naturally eat, out in the yard and pastures. While they have full access to our 40 acres, they only roam on about 1 acre of land, sticking pretty close to “home” (their coops). You can find them out digging in our horse and cow pastures, in the grass, stealing my blackberries when in season, scratching through the hay that is fed to the horses (they also like to steal the horses grain when fed), or going through the compost pile to see what kind of goodies they can find. The only time the girls are locked up is at night or when we are not home to keep an eye out for predators.
- Do you grade your eggs or label your cartons?
- By law, we cannot grade our eggs in sizes. Well, I suppose we COULD, IF we wanted to go to the expense of being inspected. But, because we are under 3,000 hens, we do not have to be inspected, and I don’t plan on getting that big. Once our littlest chicks start laying and I have larger eggs to offer, I will have to come up with names for the eggs to differentiate them. And the only thing the law requires us to put on our labels is our contact info, and that the eggs are ungraded and washed. Anything else on the label if for your own information.
- Where can we find your eggs?
- Oh, that is simple! You can find us at Depot Street Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 am to Noon, May thru Oct. You call us at 423-972-1263 to arrange a delivery or to come to the farm for a pick up. You can also order online from our Square store, for a Saturday morning pick up, or a farm pick up.
Still have questions, or want to know something not covered? Comment below or send us an email, we will be more then happy to help you.