With spring upon us in the northern hemisphere, lots of people are adding baby chicks to their homestead. Keeping your own chickens is a fantastic way to produce healthy, home-grown eggs and is easier than you think. In this guide I will outline everything you need to know to get your chickens laying eggs!
Picking the Right Breed
First of all, you need to make sure you choose a breed of chicken that is known for its egg laying. Sometimes people forget that certain breeds of chicken, such as Silkies, just don’t lay many eggs. It doesn’t matter how much feed, protein, or water you give a chicken, if you have a bad laying breed you won’t get many eggs; it’s as simple as that.
For instance a breed such as the Leghorn will lay over 250 eggs each year, whereas Ameraucanas will lay fewer than 100. If you want a beginner friendly breed that lays lots of eggs I recommend either: Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Plymouth Rocks or Buff Orpingtons.
Once you have chosen your breed you need to make sure chickens have the following three key things to get them laying: feed, water and calm.
Keeping Their Stress Down
Chickens will not lay eggs if they are stressed. Period.
One of the biggest things that can cause chickens to become stressed is predation. Whilst it isn’t possible to completely eliminate predation you can reduce the probability significantly through designing their chicken coop and run effectively.
What you need to do is ensure that the poultry netting is high enough to stop any predators jumping over it and also, deep enough to stop them digging underneath it. In most places poultry fencing 4 foot tall and 3 foot buried will be fine. Happy, stress free chickens will lay eggs.
Meeting their Nutritional Needs
Whilst being thrifty as Homesteaders can be a blessing at times, with chickens it can backfire.
Some people try to save money on their chicken feed by using either maize or letting the chicken fend for themselves. If you want good egg laying chickens, this is wrong.
Your chickens need at least 20 grams of protein a day in their diet, or they will stop laying eggs. For beginners I recommend that to meet their nutritional needs you should feed your chickens a high quality layers pellet. This layers pellet will contain all the protein and other key nutrients they need to produce eggs. More experienced keepers could also look at mixing their own feed to optimize egg production. Certain people also mix commercial chicken feed with home grown crops; again this is only recommended for more experienced keepers.
Keep Them Hydrated
Finally, you need to make sure they have access to fresh, clean water 24/7. Just a few hours without water can cause them to go off lay for a few days.
If you’ve ever kept chickens before you know that they are incredibly ‘fussy’ and if something interrupts their routine, you won’t be getting eggs anytime soon! I prefer to keep two waterers; one in their coop and one in the run, this way they always have access to water.
I hope this short guide to egg laying chickens has helped you, if you follow everything in here you will have your very own sustainable source of fresh eggs!