Before moving to our current home, I wanted chickens so badly. I reasoned with my husband that having a few chickens who provide fresh eggs daily would be cheaper than buying eggs at the store. It wasn’t until we bought our new home and moved out of the HOA community that forbid backyard chickens to our new little farm that I really started looking into the additional benefits of raising chickens.
Rather than finding laying hens who had already developed personalities, we purchased some baby chicks from our local feed store. We started with three Rhode Island Reds, and two Ameraucanas. Both breeds are known to have calm, gentle demeanor (which was important to us because of our kids) and be good egg layers.
The new chicks were a lot of work. We had to keep them indoors until they were fully feathered, which meant adjusting the heat lamp as they grew, and constantly refilling their food, water and changing their bedding. This also meant keeping the dogs from using them as chew toys but ended up helping the dogs get acquainted to the chicks as they grew so when we did move them outdoors, it wasn’t an issue. Both our dogs actually turned into great farm doggies and protect the chickens!
Once the chicks were fully feathered, we moved them out to the coop we built for them. The kids loved going into the coop each day to feed and water the chickens and my husband and I got great laughs out of watching the kids play with them in the backyard, mostly. Sometimes, though, my daughter’s obsession with the chickens drives me crazy. Charleigh (pronounced Charlie) takes them on the swing with her, tries to sneak them into her bedroom, sneaks them into the house, tries to put them in her backpack to take to school, and even hides in the duck coop with the chickens!
When the chickens got close to the age they typically begin laying eggs, the kids would go out each day to check for eggs but come back in empty handed. Then one day, we heard the craziest noise coming from the coop. One of the chickens was singing in celebration that she had laid an egg! Not long after, the other girls began laying as well and before we knew it, we had 5 fresh eggs each day and constant singing (yes, hens “sing” after they lay).
We were loving our hens and fresh eggs so much that we decided we wanted more chickens, especially since one of the hens had become broody and was wanting to sit on her eggs even though they weren’t fertile. Rather than purchasing chicks, we visited a local farm and purchased fertile eggs of various breeds. We allowed the broody hen to sit on them, but it was short lived and we ended up having to move the eggs to an incubator. The kids enjoyed helping me regulate the temperature and humidity and loved watching the baby chicks hatch!
Before long, we had a ton more baby chicks, who then grew up so quickly, revealing to us that three of them were actually boys! We went from no roosters to three roosters. Mr. Roo was the first to find his voice, at 3 am one morning, right outside my bedroom doors that lead to the back patio. It wasn’t long after that when the two others joined him in crowing before the sun rises. Much to our surprise, we adjusted rather quickly to the noise and it doesn’t even bother us anymore.
As you’d guess, the roosters began mating with the hens, and the hens began nesting, and a few more chicks were hatched! Now, we actually give away a lot of our eggs because we have more than we can actually use. We eat a lot of eggs for breakfast, and boil them too. The hens have nesting boxes in their coop and also one right outside of our front door. We literally collect eggs every time we walk into our house as this seems to be the preferred nesting box for a majority of our girls, probably because I keep fresh herbs in this nesting box.
We do not coop our chickens up anymore. We used to lock them up at night for fear that an owl or cat would get them, but since we added the pony and goats to the mix, that hasn’t been an issue. Our hens and roosters have free roam to all of our property. We offer them organic feed but they mostly eat an organic diet of grass, bugs and worms. We don’t give them any hormones or antibiotics, and they have constant access to sunlight. All of this means they produce eggs that have richer/darker yolks and have better nutritional profiles than store bought eggs, which means they also taste so much better.
After collecting the fresh eggs, I store them in these cute containers a friend gifted me, as well as in this adorable egg holder I found at an antique store.
Freshly laid eggs can be left at room temperature for at least a month before they need to be moved to the refrigerator. We usually use them before that, and always do a float test first (put them in water and if they sink to the bottom, they are still good, if they float to the top, they are bad). If we collect eggs that are dirty, we wash them and store them immediately in the refrigerator since their bloom (the eggs natural external protection layer that keeps bacteria out) has been washed off.
If you’ve been considering getting backyard chickens of your own, I’d totally recommend it. If you can’t but want healthier and yummier eggs for your family, pasture raised eggs are so much better than “certified organic,” “free range,” “cage free,” or regular eggs. Pasture raised means the chickens are free to roam on open grassland as opposed to being caged, they eat an organic diet (chickens are not vegetarians – they eat bugs and worms too), they see daylight and aren’t given hormones or antibiotics, and they are healthier and taste better! Happy chickens = better eggs!
Next came the ducklings and ducks eggs, but that’s another post at another time!
And just because these are too cute not to share, enjoy far too many photos of my adorable kiddos with our chickens! You can also watch some of our videos on our YouTube Channel The Borders Bunch!