Raising Chickens for Eggs
The main reason most people keep chickens nowadays is because they are keen on raising chickens for eggs. If keeping chickens for egg production is what you want, you can help the quality and the quantity of eggs layed by following some of this simple advice.
Firstly, all hens of the right age will lay eggs, you don’t need a cockerel.
If quantity is what you are after when raising chickens for eggs then one of the many breeds of hybrid hen will usually fit the bill. They have been engineered to lay eggs almost daily from the age of between 20 and 24 weeks and will continue usually until about 2-3 years old, after that both quantity and quality will start to decline.
Many of the pure breeds are good egg layers and will continue laying eggs although less frequently, for far longer. I have several pure breed hens that are still laying good numbers at 6 plus years old, something you are unlikely to get from a hybrid. Some of the breeds recognized as good laying hens include, Leghorn, Australorp, Ixworth, Sussex and Rhode Island Red although there are many others. Carefully developed strains by some of the specialist poultry breeders are very sought after due to the numbers of eggs that they lay.
Egg colours also vary and this is specific to both the breed and the strain. Dark brown eggs for example are laid by both Marans and Welsummers, with the darkest eggs being highly prized. Blue eggs are laid by Aracana and several hybrids. The majority of the other breeds lay eggs from varying colours of egg, from purest white through the spectrum of creams to shades of brown eggs. It should be remembered though that regardless of the colour of the egg shell, all colours of egg are the same inside.
When raising chickens for eggs many people prefer the bantam eggs to full sized chicken eggs. This is possibly because although the eggs are much smaller (as are the birds) but the egg content has also a higher yolk to white ratio. Bantams in general will however lay slightly less eggs than larger birds. Bearing this in mind though they do cost less to feed due to the smaller size of the bantom and you can keep more birds in less space. Bantoms could be the answer for those with limited room but still keen on raising chickens for eggs.
The colour of the colour of a chickens feathers has no bearing whatsoever on the number, size or colour of the eggs that they lay, so you can have a pretty variety of both feather colours and egg colours in your flock if you choose carefully.
Now onto raising chickens for eggs with vibrant coloured yolks - Quality feed is essential, both layers mash and pellets contain all the nutrients your bird needs. The only essential addition is grit that they can peck at when required to help them grind the food up. Access to grass and all the other goodies found in the average garden, e.g, bugs, snails, berries and seeds will greatly enhance the birds diet and therefore improve the colour of the yolk. When rearing totally free range chickens will usually lay eggs with almost dayglow coloured yolks, which really look like they should carry a government health warning.
Egg shell quality should be more than good enough if your hens are fed on the above diet, and additives like oyster shell should not be necessary. Even if your birds cannot be free ranging hens, which in most cases is not an option. Just letting them out in the garden for a few hours occasionally will not only improve their eggs but also the health and happiness of the birds. If even that is not possible, then giving them fresh greens occasionally will certainly help a lot when raising chickens for eggs. Leaves, either whole or finely chopped, vegetable peelings,(not potato) a cabbage or cauliflower tied up so that they have to reach for it all help to keep the chickens healthy and active.
It is also vital to monitor the general health and well being of the bird. Parasites such as lice or mites will debilitate the bird, reduce or even stop the number of eggs and ultimately could be fatal if left untreated. Worming at least twice a year is also needed particularly if the birds have access to outside. There are good products which can be mixed with the feed which will carry out this role very well.
Observation is always the best medicine. Take time to just watch the hens when rearing chickens for eggs as they go about their normal day to day business. Any that chickens that are quiet, listless or generally behaving differently to the others should be thoroughly checked, as it may be the start of an illness or possibly an injury that has gone unnoticed. Chickens are very good at hiding when they aren’t feeling well and it is up to you to spot it.
And finally when rearing chickens for eggs, don’t expect every hen to lay eggs every day. There are times when there will be no eggs from chickens at all, for example during the moult when they put all their energies and resources into growing new feathers, on cold, short winter days most hens will stop laying, and of course if they are broody. If you don’t have a cockerel and don’t wish to breed then breaking a broody is pretty essential, as they are determined ladies and will sit fruitlessly for as long as it takes, often to the detriment of their health.
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