Do you love farm fresh eggs? Are you tired of suffering through those cartons of inferior eggs or paying those astronomical prices for the good ones? Well no more! The answer to quality, nutritious, and "free" eggs is backyard chicken raising! That's right. I did it and you can too! Here's how.
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Step 1: Pick Up Chicks
Girls! Girls! Girls! Well hopefully girls. Kinda hard to tell at this point. But remember ladies, you do NOT need a man! All the single ladies. All the single ladies. That's right! Female chickens WILL lay eggs without a rooster present! Girl Power!
They're so tiny and cute!!! I could just eat em up! But I won't. Cause I'm gonna get free eggs out of these babies!
Step 2: Keep Them Warm, Watered, and Fed
Pretty simple. They need plenty of water, chick food, and a heat lamp to stay warm. If you have an outdoor brooder, well aren't you just some fancy know-it-all show-off! Just kidding! We kept ours inside in a large dog crate until they were bigger and it was warmer outside. Once they have "real" feathers and it stays at least 70-80 degrees outside, they should be ok.
Step 3: Realize All Those Episodes of Friends Where They Kept a Chick and a Duck in an Apartment Were All Lies
Yeah, chicks are nasty! Like, completely disgusting! They poop EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME!!! They poop in their water, in their food, on each other....ON YOU!!! Clean up regularly for their health, your health, and your sanity. Hopefully you can convince one of your kids that chicken care is super cute and fun, and they'll do it for you. If not, put on some gloves, a mask, and the full armor of God almighty, cause it's about to get so gross!
Step 4: Sorority Housing
Realizing that chicks grow at an astronomical rate, plan ahead for move in day. I'm sure some of you are wiser than I and already have a coop before you get chicks, but trial by fire is how we roll. So as the warmer weather was creeping closer and my cute chicks starting going through that awkward teenagery phase and shedding their baby feathers all over the freaking place, "we" built them a glorious home in the backyard. I say "we", because, well, I DID paint it. Mostly. My husband and daughters built it for me. They designed it, redesigned it, took it halfway apart and redesigned it again as I learned more about what chickens needed. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. It's good to make sure there's a roosting bar (they sleep on those as well as poop on them), nesting boxes (where they'll hopefully lay their eggs and not poop), a ramp, and a door. Mine has extra doors where I can get into it and clean it. They have a nice little pen surrounded by chicken wire, with a big door for when I let em loose in the yard. They did a fantastic job, but I get credit for the painting. Well, the color anyway. You can build your own or purchase a kit or a pre-made hen house. Just make sure it's well ventilated and that it's elevated so it doesn't get wet inside when it rains. According to my friend, there's nothing "madder than a wet settin hen"!
*side note: Make sure the ramp has steps. Turns out, without steps it's just a really scary slide. And they're too CHICKEN to go on it! (That was FOWL humor!)
Step 5: Moving Day
By now they look like miniature big-girl chickens. They're cute again and are eating almost as much as they're pooping. Seriously they poop a LOT! Put some clean bedding in the house and watch as they admire all your hard work and efforts on their behalf. They may not seem to fully appreciate the craftsmanship and expense you've gone to, but rest assured, they are quite pleased. Surely in a couple of months they will reward your efforts with "free" eggs on a daily basis. Begin the countdown.
* side note: I thought my chickens were superiorly intelligent genius birds because they went inside by themselves from the very first night!!! I didn't have to chase them and put them in! Turns out it's just a boring old instinct to roost. Oh well.
Step 6: Optional Step for Accidental Rooster
So your favorite chicken baby, you know the cutest one with the prettiest feathers? Well, turns out she's a he. Happens sometimes. You'll wonder and suspect for a while, because there's just something a little different about this one. You'll know for sure though when he elicits a non stop stream of crowing at all hours of the day and night. That's right, these blessed little personal alarm clocks do not just crow at sunrise. It's all day. Everyday. Now if you're out in the country, that may be just fine. He'll love all the ladies. They can have baby chicks. All good. OR, like in my case, you may live in a regular neighborhood, with neighbors. People who don't necessarily appreciate the sound of a rooster crowing bright and early on Saturday morning. Perhaps you can bribe them with all of the eggs you'll soon be getting. Perhaps they've already decided that you're the worst neighbor ever and want to call the city on you. In that case, it's best to find him a new home. Mine is currently pimping it out at a farm surrounded by chicks all day. What a life!
Step 7: Are We There Yet?
So it's about 4 months in and the internet told you it was time for them to start laying. You've cleaned out their home several times, put plenty of fresh bedding in the nesting boxes, and decided you must start composting to make use of the mountains of poop you've scooped up. Supposed to be great fertilizer and really, you should reap some kind of reward for this mess. Now, you don't have to do this, but it's suggested that you place a golf ball inside the nesting box, so they'll realize that's where they're supposed to lay their eggs. Now you just wait.
Step 8: And Wait
Continue to feed them, give them plenty of water, and room to run free. Sing to them. Give them treats. Any kind of bribe to convince them it's time to start laying. And continue waiting.......
Step 9: Put Them on a 30 Day Action Plan
Believing that your girls are lazy, free-loading, and selfish, you berate them for their unsatisfactory performance, and show them the eggs you had to go buy from the store because they refuse to do their job. Put them on a 30 day action plan, laying out in detail your exact requirements, their job duties, and what support you will provide to ensure their success. WARNING! Do NOT ask them to sign it. They will poop on it.
Step 10: Get Real
Now that your blood pressure has BOILED, your brain is SCRAMBLED, and you're just a SHELL of your former self, because you thought this would be OVER EASY (I CRACK myself up!), you realize that it can take 6 months or so before they are laying, and they are still growing. Just be EGGstra patient, keep doing what your doing, and it will eventually happen. In the meantime, go buy some more eggs. And that is all you have to do to get "free" eggs!