These days it’s becoming much harder to trust companies with the food we eat. Many companies refuse to label their “food products” or like most pizza shops blatantly refuse to divulge their ingredient lists. Many companies spend billions of dollars each year just so that they can keep their ingredients a secret. I’m sorry but to me that is a big clue to the quality of their ingredients and products. If any company can’t tell me what I’m consuming then they can forget my money. My health is more important than their bottom line.
In an effort to know what is entering our bodies, my wife and I try to grow as much as possible ourselves, and make most things from scratch. As you saw in a previous post we raise a specific breed of chicken for meat. We also have another breed that we raise as our egg layers. We raise Black Australorp chickens as our egg layers. We chose them because they tend to be an aggressive egg layer and they don’t mind being cooped up as much as some breeds, which is good since we live in New York. We order all of our chickens from Murray McMurray Hatchery, but feel free to check out other hatcheries. We have just had good luck with this hatchery.
We have fifteen hens and one rooster. We generally get 14-15 eggs per day. We would be fine with only 7-8 hens but some chickens will only lay eggs every other day instead of every day so I didn’t want us to run short. We just give any extra eggs to family or sell them.
There was no way I was going to spend a ridiculous amount of money for a tiny prebuilt coop so I built my own. I figured out how much room I needed for the amount of chickens we would have and it seems to have worked out well. My coop is 8’x8’ and is 7 ½’ tall. I built the coop like a tiny house and placed roosting poles about 3-3 ½’ off the floor so that the chickens would have a lot of room when they were cooped up during really cold weather. I hang the waterier and feeder near the door so that I don’t have to climb into the coop to feed or refill their water. I built an exterior nest box unit so that it is easy for egg collection. I also put tires on the coop so that I could move it whenever and wherever I want to. I’ve been told that I built a chicken Taj Mahal but I wanted a coop that would last for years instead of one that needed repairs yearly. Here are two pictures of my chicken coop.
Now we enjoy fresh eggs everyday for breakfast as well as for use in our cooking. It’s nice to know exactly what our chickens are eating, knowing that they really are free range and knowing that they are actually living a decent life for a chicken. I do not heat the coop and they do just fine. The only thing I do is add a small 40 watt light so that they still get 14 hours of light throughout the winter months so that their egg production continues. During the really cold parts of winter I change their water twice a day since it freezes. This doesn’t seem to be a real problem until it gets below 10 degrees outside because they produce plenty of heat. I did insulate and wrap the coop with Tyvek to aid in heat retention. I made sure to add plenty of ventilation as well which is key to keeping them warm in the cold winter.
If you live in an area where you can raise chickens for meat or for eggs I highly recommend that you try raising at least one or two. Start small and work your way up to more. They are very easy to raise and take care of. Chickens are pretty neat to watch when they are free ranging and they are great for the land as well. Growing a garden and raising some chickens will help start you on your way to being self sufficient as well as knowing what you are actually eating. Do you raise chickens now? Have you ever thought about raising your own chickens for eggs or meat? I hope this post encourages you to try raising some of your very own chickens and have fun doing it.