Have you been dreaming of heading outside in the morning to retrieve your own farm-fresh eggs? It’s easy to understand why! Cheap, store-bought eggs are lower in quality and nutrition than eggs from a happy, healthy backyard chicken. And the taste doesn’t even compare. But should you keep this a dream, or take the leap into starting your own backyard or urban chicken flock? We are going to dive into the process of doing needed research, gathering supplies, choosing breeds, and constructing a coop. But first, let’s talk about how hard it can be to keep chickens.
How hard is it to raise chickens for eggs?
Getting ready and set up is the hardest part about starting a backyard chicken flock. After that, it’s as simple as ensuring your chickens have feed, water, and a clean coop each day.
Even if you aren’t yet on your dream homestead, you may still be able to start raising your own egg-layers.
Raising urban chickens
If you live in a city, be sure to check your local ordinances on raising poultry. My husband and I lived the city life before moving onto our land, but we still wanted to incorporate the homesteading lifestyle. Because of that, we did some research on whether we could legally own chickens in the city. We were excited to discover that raising 4 or fewer hens in an enclosed space was in fact allowed. Now, hopefully this is the case for many other cities, but you will want to check. You should be able to do this by doing a quick search on your city’s government website.
Urban chickens aren’t any harder to keep, so don’t let that deter you. Let’s go over some basics you should know before starting your first backyard chicken flock!
What kind of chickens are easiest?
When you’re choosing what kind of birds to start with, you’ll find that there are MANY breeds to choose from. Some chickens are bred specifically for meat, while others are bred solely for egg-laying. There are also dual-purpose breeds. When you are choosing what breed (or breeds) to start with, remember to take climate into account. Some breeds aren’t as hardy as others if you live in a very hot or very cold climate.
Let’s quickly go over some popular egg-laying breeds, and some characteristics of each that may be a decision-making factor. If you’re concerned with chickens being hard to keep, choosing from one of these easygoing breeds will help!
Easygoing chicken breeds
- Rhode Island Red
- These are the first chickens I ever had experience with. They are great for any climate and proficient egg-layers. They are considered to be a friendly, dual-purpose breed.
- Barred Plymouth Rock
- Another dual-purpose breed that is hardy in any climate and shows a docile temperament. This breed comes in a variety of colors. They handle confinement well, which is a plus if you are not able to allow your chickens to free range.
- This breed is one of the best egg-layers you could find. They are often considered one of the most family-friendly birds. However, this breed does not do well in particularly hot climates. It is well-suited for northern regions of the US.
- Buff Orpington
- This fluffy, dual-purpose breed does well in almost any climate, but especially in cold. However, we have raised buff orpingtons here in the South. Keep in mind this is a broody breed, which means they will want to sit on their eggs once they get old enough.
- Easter Egger
- There are actually several breeds within this category, including Ameraucana, Araucana, and Legbar. Easter Eggers are a type of mixed breed. They are friendly and hardy in most climates, and will give you a colorful egg basket full of greens and blues.
Yes, there are many other breeds that could be an option as you go on your first chicken-raising venture! However, the purpose of this list is to give you a starting point. You can go with all one breed or create your own mixed flock!
How to care for backyard chickens
Most of us are very familiar with the term “free range chickens.” Sometimes people assume that free range is the healthiest and best option there is. While this is true in many ways, there are a few things to keep in mind as you decide just how “free” you’d like your chickens to be.
A pro of allowing chickens to free range is their ability to forage, which saves you money on feed and gives the added benefit of bug control. They are good at self-regulating the volume and nutritional content of their food intake so there’s really no need to worry in that aspect. The problem is, if you never lock them up, they will likely begin to wander off and lay eggs in random places. This tends to happen even if you make a coop available for them to roost in.
Personally, we prefer to let our chickens free range the property most days, but in the evening time we lure them back into the pen and coop with feed. They are then locked up for the night. This encourages them to keep their egg-laying in the coop as well as protects them from predators.
Also bear in mind that chickens like to flock together, so consider getting at least three to start.
How to house backyard chickens
If you’re a beginner concerned with how hard it is to keep chickens, know that the easiest option is to buy a prefab chicken coop. There are many available online, or you could get one at your local farm supply store.
There are also detailed DIY plans available online. I recommend searching Pinterest. (Speaking of, you may want to check out my board called Homesteading for Beginners)
DIY’ing should save you money and give you more customization options if you are wanting a specific feature, size, or look.
Bear in mind that if you do not plan to let your chickens out to free range during the day, you will probably want a coop with a run. A run is just an attached structure that gives your chickens a little extra space to roam in the fresh air.
Even better, if you have some extra space to move your chickens around but can’t free range, try looking into a movable chicken coop or “chicken tractor.”
Unless you plan to clip the wings of your chickens, I wouldn’t even bother with a fence. You could do a fence covered with a layer of netting, if you wish. Not all chickens will try to fly over a fence, but many will.
How to easily feed backyard chickens
What you decide to feed your chickens will depend somewhat on what your goals are. Since we are talking about egg-layers, that is what my recommendations will be based on. I’m also assuming you would like your chickens to be on a natural, yet high-production diet.
There is so much we could get into when talking about chicken feed, but just know that they can eat basically anything that is whole grain, low salt, and low added sugar. Non-GMO pellet feed is great for getting them to come into the coop at night. Chickens also love fruits and veggies (just be sure to avoid citrus). They will eat weeds you pull from your garden, and even calcium-rich eggshells! (Remember to crush them up first, otherwise they may start pecking at their own eggs.)
If your chickens won’t be fully free range, you definitely want to go with a high-quality pellet feed to ensure they are getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals for egg production. They prefer eating small amounts at a time, so if they are exclusively in a coop you will probably want to feed them both in the morning and evening. However, they don’t tend to overeat, so if you give them too much at once they will probably just leave it there.
Truly, chickens are the easiest livestock to start with in your homesteading journey. They can also be very fun to care for and get to know!
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting addicted to the chicken life!
Homestead Anywhere Ebook
I cover this topic inside the Homestead Anywhere ebook, a collaborative guide to blossoming where you are planted. If you are new to the homesteading lifestyle, or even if you’ve gotten your feet wet and just want to learn more, you will love this beautiful ebook. In addition to raising chickens, we cover gardening, canning/preserving, DIY natural cleaning products, farmhouse recipes, homestead finances, and so much more. Enter your email below to receive your FREE digital download!