Thursday, March 31, 2016

Raising Laying Hens for Farm Fresh Eggs

We've been talking about having chickens and building a chicken coop. Or at least fantasizing about having laying hens for quite some time now. So, this past weekend I visited our local Tractor Supply with my family and we took the plunge! There was a number of farmers selling chickens, ducks, rabbits, quail and various fertilized eggs for hatching.

We bought a Brown Leghorn, 4 Barred Rocks and a 6 month "white" laying hen. All of the birds we bought are supposedly from ages 6 months to a year or two. We bought a trio of Barred Rocks which the farmer claimed to be "show quality." We  were looking for just hens. We got home, put the coop and run together and let the older ones out. One was crowing. Oh no! Not what we were expecting... Lesson learned: a trio is typically a rooster and 2 hens! Oh well. Now we know.

Our chicken coop and expansion pen all put together with the hens and rooster. Standing in the doorway is one of the Barred Rocks.

Initially we bought half a dozen Buff Orpington chicks- straight-run (meaning we don't know what sex they are) from Tractor Supply too. However, after talking to family who had worked in a hatchery back in the day, he said they would count on 70% of hatchlings or chicks being roosters. So we picked up a dozen pullets yesterday. Pullets are sexed females of which they had 3 varieties mixed. We'll see what we come out with!

Buff Orpington Chicks

Pullets are sexed females.

For now the chicks have to be under a heat lamp (with a red bulb), until they "feather-out." I'm anxious to see how many of the first six we bought are males and females and how fast they grow. The dozen we bought last night are more red in color than our Buff Orpington chicks. We'll have to wait and see what breeds they are once they're grown. They are supposed to be a high-yielding bird. I'm happy they are red because I was hoping for some Rhode Island Reds or something similar, anyway.

We'll be waiting a while for eggs. The adults have given us one egg so far. I didn't even get a chance to take a picture! It was scrambled and in my 5 year old's belly before I got the chance! It's exciting to know we'll be gathering our own eggs, and be confident in knowing what they are fed. One step closer to a healthier lifestyle!

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