Incredible Chickens: The Complete Guide to Raising Chickens at Home In Your Backyard!

©2010 Shanna Ohmes

Have you thought about raising your own chickens?  Fresh eggs from your own backyard chickens are healthier than factory farmed eggs from the supermarket.  When you let your chickens roam and eat bugs, grass and seeds these eggs are richer and nutrient dense.  Don’t believe it?  Crack open one store bought egg and one pastured egg.  The first thing you will notice is it takes a slightly harder “whack” to crack open the farm egg.  That’s because the shell is thicker to protect the embryo inside.  The 2nd thing you will notice is the deep orange color of the yolk compared to the pale yellow yolk of the store bought egg.  The 3rd thing you notice is the taste.  Ahhh, there’s no comparison!

Even if you’ve never raised chickens before, you can learn how.  They are easy to keep.   In fact, chickens and rabbits were the main producers of protein kept in backyards during World War II when food was rationed.  They are easy keepers, quiet (as long as you don’t have a rooster) and efficient producers for a self-reliant lifestyle. 

For more information on Incredible Chickens Click Here!

Herbs to Keep Backyard Chickens Healthy

©2010 Shanna Ohmes

Nutrition plays a large role in the health of young chicks and laying hens.  By setting up ways for your chickens to access a natural diet, whether it is a free-range of your backyard, or a portable coop, they will be healthier. 

You can also grow your own herbs or buy dried herbs to make teas to supplement their diet.  Chickens already love to forage, all you have to do is make sure they have access to the things they need!  Many of these are “weeds” you probably already discard from your garden.  They are actually very nutritious and even medicinal plants not only for your chickens, but for us too!

Herbs for nutrition:

Raw Garlic—Have this available year long for your chickens.  You can also mash it in their drinking water for not only the nutritional benefits, but also the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties to prevent and curtail infections.  Have raw garlic available for newly hatched chicks, so they will learn to eat it at an early age.

Nettle—Urtica dioica—Nettle is rich in calcium, protein, manganese, phosphorus and potassium.  A wonderful all around herb.

Alfalfa—Medicago sativa—Rich in protein, amino acids, minerals and chlorophyll.  Make a tea from dried alfalfa to keep hens healthy for breeding and producing eggs.

Lamb’s Quarters—Chenopodium album—Rich in protein, calcium, vitamins A and C, B-complex and iron.  An all around herb for the digestive system.

Dandelion—Taraxacum officinale—Rich in protein, vitamins A,C,K,D, B-complex, iron, manganese, phosphorus and trace minerals.  Dandelion is a complete food for building the immune system.  Give dandelions freely to your young chicks and hens.  You can even make a tea and offer that free choice as well.

Organic apple cider vinegar—Mix with their water for a superb digestive tonic.

Herbs for the nest: 

Birds in the wild use medicinal herbs to line their nests.  The aromatic volatile oils have anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic properties.  You can imitate this natural process by applying a few handfuls of the fresh herbs to the nest before a hen goes broody.  Adding the herbs periodically during the spring and summer can help keep parasites at bay.

Peppermint, spearmint, catnip, oregano, wild bergamot, lavender, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme and fennel are aromatic herbs that freshen the nesting box.

Want your hen to be relaxed and calm?  Lavender and peppermint will relieve her stress while brooding.

Getting Started with Chickens—What You’ll Need

©2010 Shanna Ohmes

So, you are excited about raising chickens in your backyard.  You are ready for homegrown eggs, raising some of your own food and showing your children how to connect with where their food comes from.  So where do you start?

Here are a few pointers to get you started:

  • Start with day-old chicks.  You can order these in the spring through mail order from hatcheries.  The downside is most orders are a minimum of 25 chicks.  This way, the chicks keep each other warm en route.  If you don’t want that many, you can share your order with friends.  Or, you can go to farm-supply stores and order what you want.  You don’t need roosters, so only order females (pullets).
  • You need a brooder.  This is a box with a heat lamp to keep the chicks warm until they are old enough to be kept outside.
  • Bedding.  You can use pine shavings, dry leaves or straw.  Change it when it’s soiled.
  • Feeder and waterer.  Designed for chicks, keep these cleaned and filled.
  • Portable coop.  When nighttime temperatures stay above 50° F., the chicks can be moved out to their mini-coop.  This keeps them safe from dogs, cats, skunks, opossums, foxes and other predators that love an easy buffet.  You might be surprised that many of these predators do roam city streets at night.
  • Feed.  In the beginning you will probably start with chick starter feed.  As adults, they will need a “laying mash” available at your farm supply store.  Chickens love grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps and most veggies from the garden.
  • Crushed oyster shell.  Hens need grit to help them grind their food because they have no teeth.  Oyster shell also provides calcium and makes for stronger eggshells.
  • An appetite for eggs!  Your hens will start laying eggs when they are 24 weeks old.  One hen will lay 5-6 eggs a week.  In one week, with 4 hens, you can have about 2 dozen eggs.  Don’t worry, you will find plenty of ways to enjoy those eggs.  And if you share some with your neighbors, they will appreciate them and support your backyard chicken raising adventure.

7 Reasons Why You Should Raise Backyard Chickens

©2010 Shanna Ohmes

If you would like to be a part of the growing food revolution movement to eating real foods, then you have probably already learned how eggs are a part of a healthy diet. You may have also learned that how chickens are raised affects the nutrition of those eggs.

Did you know it’s simple to raise chickens in your own backyard? Why would you want to? Here are a few reasons why you should raise your own chickens.

• More nutritious for your family—a homegrown egg, from a hen that’s allowed to eat bugs, seeds, grass and other goodies from your yard and garden, has a deeper color than factory-eggs. This deep color indicates denser nutrition, and is rich in beta carotene, vitamin D, vitamin E, folic acid and vitamin B-12.
• By raising your own hens, you’ll know they are humanely treated. You can feed them wholesome feed that’s free from antibiotics and growth hormones, most of which they will forage for themselves. In factory raised hens and meat birds, these additives are passed onto us through the eggs and meat, and the chickens are kept in cramped cages or close confinement indoors.
• You can preserve endangered breeds. These heritage breeds have been reduced in numbers because the commercial growers focus on the faster growing types.
• Chickens are small and can easily be raised in portable mini-coops which can be moved around your yard daily. This is good for your lawn and keeps the hens happy eating bugs, seeds and grass. Chickens also eat termites, grubs, fire ants, grasshoppers, fleas and flies.
• They are quiet and make good pets. It is the roosters that crow and make the most noise. Just 3-4 hens are quieter than most dogs. At most they squawk when they lay an egg and make small clucking sounds when scratching in the dirt. A hen will lay an infertile egg almost daily. The only reason to have a rooster is for fertile eggs to raise chicks. So, you really don’t need a rooster for egg production.
• There are many breeds to choose from: most are dual-purpose, which means they provide both meat and eggs. Some are very small and lay tiny eggs. Some lay brown or green eggs or even speckled eggs. Fancy breeds have topknots of feathers on their heads while others have feathery legs.
• Raising chickens with your children involves them in learning where their food comes from. Many children today think their food somehow comes from the back of the store. Now they can make that connection in how it gets to their plate.

Raising chickens in your backyard is easy and entertaining. We spent hours watching ours jumping up to peck the seeds from drooping mammoth sunflower heads. They were very comical.

When you keep chickens, you will discover the true meanings behind many of those old “chicken sayings” that your grandparents used to say. Like, “hen party”, “madder than a wet settin’ hen”, “hen-pecked”, “like a banty on a june bug”, and “rule the roost”.

Welcome to Backyard Chickens!

Welcome to the Backyard Chickens blog!  This is part of a series of sites connected to The Natural Living Site.  I will update these sites as often as I can with articles, news and products to help you raise chickens in your backyard.  After reading through this site, you might be interested in my other sites listed on the right side of this page.  If you have any questions or suggestions for more topics, please drop me a line!