Raising Your Own Chickens

October 26, 2020

Chicken hatcheries across the country have been swamped with inquiries from people wanting to raise the birds at home. While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of information online, it’s important to remember that being well-informed is crucial to raising a healthy flock of happy hens.  So here is a starting point. First, there are many different breeds of chicken. There are actually more than 500 breeds of chicken, each sought after for its egg production, size, hardiness and more. For the novice, experts recommend the speckled Sussex or the Rhode Island Red as they thrive on small farms. The average lifespan of a domestic chicken is eight to 10 years, and most hens start laying at around 18 to 20 weeks old. However, that doesn’t mean your hens will produce five eggs a week every week for eight years. More likely, they’ll maintain that level of production for a few years, then begin to slow down, sometimes drastically, until they stop laying altogether after maybe five or six years. Egg production isn’t guaranteed, especially as the years go on. This is why, while the birds in your first flock should all be the same age, maintaining a flock long-term usually requires phasing in new birds two or three at a time, so there are always at least a few young ones to keep egg production up. Chickens need friends. Ideally, a chicken flock will have at least three birds, so that the hens can have a social life even if two of the three don’t get along. Of course, as in any social group, hierarchies can emerge, and incidents of a flock ganging up on one or two members are unfortunately common. That is why it is important the hens have enough space and activity to keep them engaged with nature, not each other. Even small flocks can be a risk for disease transmission. The most common offender in this regard is salmonella, which, while mostly associated with the relatively mild unpleasantness of food poisoning, can also be much worse, even fatal. Chickens, unfortunately, are carriers for the bacteria, though mostly unaffected by it, and can pass it to their owners either through direct contact, like petting and cuddling, or through their eggs. Fortunately, a little bit of care and thought in the handling of your birds and their eggs can largely eliminate (or at least severely reduce) the risk. Remember to always wash your hands thoroughly before and after interacting with the chickens, and make sure to inspect and thoroughly clean your eggs before use.

SOURCE: Apartment Therapy

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