Egg Recipes - Poultry

How to Get More Eggs from Your Laying Hens

Brown Eggs - How to Get More Eggs from Your Laying Hens

Get More Eggs from Your Hens!

Keeping a backyard chicken flock productive is important to most chicken owners. Get the best ‘bang for your cluck’ by following my suggestions for how to get more eggs from your laying hens!

Some folks don’t care how many eggs their hens are laying because they are pets. However, if you are raising laying hens primarily for the eggs, you want to get the best return on your feed costs.

There are things you can do to increase the number of eggs you collect from your flock.

For more information, check out my articles How to Feed Your Hens for the Best Egg ProductionDo Chickens Lay Eggs in Winter? and How to Cull Your Old Laying Hens.

This post contains affiliate links.

One of my Black Australorps struck a pose for the camera!

What Affects Egg Production in Laying Hens?

There are quite a few things that affect a hen’s ability to lay eggs, such as her age, genetics, nutrition, stress, and daylight hours.

At the very tip-top of production, a hen will lay up to one egg each day. Most will take a day or two off every week, even in the prime of their life. You can’t expect a hen to produce more than one egg a day.

To improve your egg-to-chicken ratio, let’s look at what you can control.

Poultry Combo Pack

Genetics and Egg Production in Laying Hens

Egg production depends on what breed you begin with and whether you raise your own replacement chickens.

If you order chicks from a hatchery you have a wide variety of breeds and hybrids to choose from. Some of the best layers are hybrids such as Production Red, California White, Production Grey, and others.

If you wish to keep heritage breeds, the White Leghorn or Rhode Island Red are touted as the best (and I can attest to their ability to lay very well). Black Australorps are also reputed to be great layers, but I have found the Rhode Islands to produce better in my flock.

Once you have an established flock, you may wish to hatch your own eggs and breed selectively for better egg production. Raising your own replacements will allow you to breed for the best disease resistance and overall health of your flock.

You will need more space and, of course, you’ll need at least one rooster. Raising your own chicks will not work for everyone, but if you have the time and space, you may find it very rewarding.

Remember, you will be buying additional feed for that rooster and any young roosters that hatch. A rooster doesn’t consume a great deal and any unwanted roosters can be butchered before they begin to fight.

If you don’t want to deal with all of this, you might prefer to order replacement pullets.

Comparison of a Cornish Rock hen to a Production Red stewing hen.

How Age Effects Egg Production in Hens

A hen’s egg production is at its peak from approximately 6 to 18 months of age.

Somewhere around one and a half to two years after hatching, the average chicken will go into a molt and lose a lot of feathers and grow new ones. Their protein requirements increase to fuel the feather growth. During molt, a hen will lay few, if any, eggs.

Once she gets back into the swing of things she will lay fewer, larger eggs. Some people like the larger eggs from their older hens, but you will be collecting less ‘egg mass’ per hen. With aging, hens will lay fewer and fewer eggs.

Our forefathers would generally put their older hens in the stewing pot and make a meal of them. Many modern homesteaders choose to do the same, and I’m one of them.

I generally cull my hens sometime in their second year, unless they keep up better-than-average production. If there are a number of stewing hens ready to butcher around the same time, I might butcher one day and can the meat and stock the next day. If time is limited or the weather is hot, I stick them all in the freezer to cook up later.

Nutritional Needs of Laying Hens

Be sure to give your chickens the proper feed for the best results. Young chickens should receive chick starter until they are at least 6 to 8 weeks old. You can continue feeding this formula or switch to grower rations until close to laying age.

Switch them over to a good quality layer feed to give them the vitamins, minerals, protein, and calories they need to lay those beautiful eggs for you.

Free-ranging or pastured hens with plenty of room to roam will scratch out a lot of their nutritional requirements, but they will still need layer feed to keep them in top production. They should have access to grass and will appreciate scraps from your table and garden.

Make sure that your hens always have access to fresh, clean water. If they go thirsty, they will stop laying!

Note: Do not feed laying hens very many treats or they will have too much fatty tissue in their abdomen. This will cut down significantly on the number of eggs they are able to produce, plus it isn’t healthy for them.

Corn and sunflower seeds are fine for providing extra calories during cold weather but don’t feed these during the summer.

brown eggs in nest

Daylight Hours and Egg Production

Chickens naturally lay eggs during the spring and summer when the days are long. Their internal clocks tell them that this is the best time to raise their young.

You can trick them into laying eggs year-round by setting up a light on a timer in their coop. Starting in the late summer, have the light turn on to mimic daylight for around 14 to 15 hours each day.

Some breeds are more likely to produce well in climates with cold winters, so be sure to choose breeds according to your climate and conditions. Make sure you collect eggs several times a day during really cold weather, or they may freeze and crack. You don’t want to lose these precious eggs to frigid temps!

Of course, if you live near the equator, you may not need the additional light hours to keep your chickens in production.

Reduce Stress on Your Laying Hens

Just as we are less productive when we’re under stress, so are laying hens. If there are dogs and kids chasing them around the barnyard or predator attacks, things of this nature, your chickens will be living in a state of fear.

They won’t feel the conditions are right for laying eggs and raising a clutch of chicks. It’s also important to note that if you purchase laying hens or point-of-lay pullets, they will lay a few eggs after bringing them home (the ones ‘in the works’ before they left their previous coop) and then they will stop laying for about three weeks. So expect a dry spell with new hens. In general, keep them happy and stress-free for the best egg production.

Keep Productive Laying Hens!

You may hate the idea of butchering your old laying hens. That’s ok, no one says you have to. But you need to make the commitment of keeping them into retirement or finding someone who will take them and treat them humanely. Don’t dump them off in a field to fend for themselves. It would be much kinder to kill them quickly.

Personally, I prefer not to feed retired laying hens and I see nothing wrong with turning them into soup for dinner. By culling the older hens and raising young pullets to take their place, I keep a chicken rotation going.

There are times when I don’t collect enough eggs from our hens to keep up with the demand from my family and friends, and there are other times when I have too many eggs in the fridge. During times of plenty, you can store the extra eggs for later.

Happy, healthy hens in the prime of their life are the most productive!

Do you have any hints or tips for making your flock more productive? Leave a comment!

182 Comments on “How to Get More Eggs from Your Laying Hens

  1. Dear, I am from Pakistan. Here is hot weather right now but my 50 hens and 10 cocks are in a good cool condition. I also use recommended feed no.13 and other vitamins, electrolytes and green vegetables. but yet daily egg production is 15/day.
    All birds are stress free as nobody is allowed to enter in the farm and vaccinations are already complete. Their average weight is 1.7kg in Pakistan.

    Still I need some suggestions please.

    1. Hi,
      There are a number of different reasons that could be causing low egg production. If your hens are too old or too young, or they are going into a molt you will get fewer eggs. I am unfamiliar with the feed they are eating, but low protein content can lead to low production. If there are other causes of stress, such as too little water, something frightening them, or a change that makes them fearful… all of these can cause them to stop laying. Some breeds lay fewer eggs or start laying when they are closer to 1 year old. Best wishes!

      1. Lisa. hens are molted due to mating with males lol. I fed them with extra vitamins etc. so I am sure to give them a good diet. No stress I think. Maximum egg production went to 22 eggs/day now reduced. I think a sudden change in the weather or diet or recently vaccinated might be few causes. Still, I am looking to find the reason and will tell the reason as soon I find it. Thanks.

      2. Hi Inam Ul Haq,
        If the hens are losing a lot of feathers from the roosters, it could be stressful for them. If the roosters are all in the same pen, they become more competitive about mating and this can stress the hens out.
        Losing their feathers due to mating is not the same as molting. Molting usually happens at around 18 months of age and then once every year after that. When the hens go into a molt, they usually lose a lot of feathers and stop laying eggs until their molt is complete. That can last for 3 months or so. If your hens are molting, that would explain the lack of production. I hope this is helpful. Best wishes!

    1. Hi Don,
      It won’t hurt them. You don’t necessarily have to incubate the eggs or allow a broody hen to set on them. If the eggs are small (pullet size) it is better to wait until the eggs are larger to incubate them.

    1. Hi ya’u Haruna Gamji,
      There is a lot of disagreement about the best breeds for laying hens. However, there are some that are better than others.

      If you want to keep heritage breeds, White Leghorn (best overall, lays a white egg) and Rhode Island Reds (not as productive as the White Leghorn, but best heritage brown egg layer) are considered the best.

      If you don’t care about heritage breeds, you would get more eggs from some of the hybrid layers, such as the California White, Production Red, or Black Star. I don’t know if all of these are available in your area,

      Best wishes, I hope that this is helpful!

  2. Hi Sylvester,
    I haven’t had the best luck with my Easter Eggers for productive laying hens either. Although I love the color of their eggs (most are green, a few are blue) I have decided not to order them again.

    The breeds that have a large, single comb seem to do the best in the summer heat…the comb helps dissipate extra body heat. Smaller combs are better for areas with harsh winters, since they are much less likely to get frost bite.

    Easter Eggers and Americauna pullets start laying later than other breeds and I have never found them to lay more than a few eggs a week. They take longer vacations from laying too. So, if production is important to you, they probably aren’t the best choice.

    1. Hi Lisa Lynn – Thanks for your thoughts!

      It’s pretty much the same feedback I get from other Ameraucana, Araucana, and Easter Egger owners. Even in their first year of laying as pullets they lay nicely 4 to 5 eggs/week but only for 4 or 5 months their first year, then they have a long weird break of starting and stopping and starting molt again. And if they start laying again after a long molting break it’s only for a short time-frame, if at all.

      I agree that the pea-combs on Amer/EEs are nice in freezing climates to avoid frostbite but seems to have no correlation with egg production. A Seattle owner complained they were terrible layers even in the cooler Seattle zone.

      These are the sweetest non-combative temperament birds for all their jittery jumpy antics but certainly not a breed to consider for egg-laying unless they are used their 2nd year as meat. Farmer’s Market sellers should charge more for their blue/green eggs because of the rarity of getting EEs to lay but then buyers probably wouldn’t pay the extra cost even though it would be justified by the seller.

      My DH won’t eat our birds so we’re stuck with our Ameraucana as a non-layer – only consolation being that at least she is a very kind non-combative flockmate in our gentles flock and we’re glad for the experience of having her. But sadly we’ll not invest in any more blue egg-layers.

  3. Hi Lisa Lynn

    Sylvester017 here – I remembered you had around a 2-yr-old EE you were going to process and I thought at the time that was a bit young for a laying hen. Now that I’ve had my Ameraucana for 2 yrs she has completely stopped laying and a friend also has a young EE that has stopped laying. In consulting with other chickeneers we compared notes that these birds are not good layers or stop after their second year and that they are sporadic molters – starting and stopping more than once a year to molt.

    I considered a blue-egg Cream Legbar to get a different blue-egg breed but in consulting with others who have the Cream Legbar the bird can surprise you with a throwback of white eggs (its Leghorn background history) and others have said they are very poor layers and most are greenish rather than blue eggs. Some have had rare luck with their pullets giving a pretty blue egg but the 2nd year laying is pretty duddy compared to more common laying breeds like Australorps, RIRs, Leghorns, etc.

    Is it your experience very often that EEs reduce or stop laying sooner than prolific layers like the RIRs or Legs? I adore the non-combative temperaments of Ameraucanas/EEs and keep ours around because she is so sweet but she really does poorly in our heatwaves since July and she only layed 3 eggs her entire 2nd year. Guess there’s a reason why reviews say pea-combed breeds do better in cooler climates. The blue-eggers did after all develop in the South American cooler coasts before getting exported to other hotter countries. I’m just not so sure that having a pea-comb in our hotter climate can be the cause of production slowdown when other owners are having similar Amer/EE results cross-country in different climate zones. Our walnut-comb Silkie and no-comb Breda have no problems laying eggs in our heatwaves. Thanks for any thoughts!

    1. Hi Tonderai,
      Hens will lay eggs with a deeper gold or even orange colored yolk if they have pasture or can free range. The more green grass and foraged plant material, the deeper the color of their yolks. You can also give some alfalfa and greens in their feed if pasture is hard to come by. I hope this helps.

  4. So we have been feeding them a lot of corn this summer and this may be why they have stopped laying much to the displeasure of our egg buyers and the worry of myself. So after reading some of the comments on your site I have decided to experiment with giving them chili pepper flakes. From the get go they seem to want to eat them so we will see if this works. They aren’t old enough to cull yet only a 1 1/2 maybe, so I know that age isn’t the problem. I have a similar (lay) off during the winter does some one have a cure for this?? I will let you know how the chili flakes work out, it would be great if this works!

    Thanks everyone!

    1. Hi Candy,
      The pepper flakes are a good start. I would also limit their corn for a couple of reasons…#1 it can increase the amount of fat stored in their abdomens which will reduce their productivity, and #2 it overheats them in warm weather. So, if you haven’t reduce their corn intake, that would be a good step to take also. At 1 1/2 years of age, they may go into a molt and will need extra protein to grow new feathers. I just gave a suggestion to Mellissa in the comment above yours about that…so I hope that will help you out too.

      For more eggs in the winter, you will want to have a light on a timer for around 15 hours a day to trick them into thinking it’s summer. Some people chose not to do this, but to give their hens a break. I use the light on the timer because I need to get the best productivity from my hens for the feed I buy. All hens are butchered when they aren’t laying well enough to keep in my flock.

      If you are already using a light on a timer and your question was more about what to feed them…you can give them a little extra corn, sunflower seeds, or field peas or split peas to increase their protein and fat consumtion over the winter. Just be aware that your hens may need to burn off some of their excess fat from all the corn over the summer, and in this case the peas may be better because they have protein without as much fat as the corn and sunflower seeds.

      I hope this helps!

  5. Great article,
    I just bought 5 Redstarfemale chicks and also my older hens are molting. The chick feed is starter/grower is it ok to let the hens have that as well right now while molting?

    1. Hi Mellissa,
      The molting hens may need extra protein to help grow new feathers. I would keep oyster shell on the side for their calcium and maybe give them some field peas or split peas for protein if the weather is hot. If the weather is cooling off you can give them some black oil sunflower seed for protein.

      Other than that, they should be fine.

    1. Hi Pranish,
      That is a lot of chickens. The best advice I can give is to make sure that they have as much room as possible, clean water and food, fresh air and time outside. Give them straw or hay to scratch in and try scattering some seeds for them to hunt for to help relieve boredom. Best wishes.

    2. Wow pranish – 50000 layers! That’s stressful in itself! Like Lisa Lynn says give them PLENTY of room, outdoor foraging space with grasses, weeds, and dirt for dust baths, several shelters or popup canopies for shade/protection from aerial predators with some tree stumps for roosting perches, supplemental vitamins added to feed or water, constant clean water source like a nipple valve water system so wild birds or the chickens themselves don’t pollute their clean water source, a FILTERED water source will increase shell quality since harsh tap water minerals clog watering systems and imagine what the chlorine chemicals and harsh minerals in tap water sources do to the internal organs of humans or animals. Chlorine and fluoride have been found to interfere with egg shell quality. A good organic layer feed at least 18% protein without GMO soy or GMO corn if you want better production – soy interferes with the reproductive systems (forming/laying eggs) in animals and humans and research is up in the air about GMO fallout (already banned in many countries around the world except the USA). Good luck!

  6. I’m grateful for your ideas and for sharing them. We have a bunch of mismatched hens that we (mostly) love but they seem a bit stressed–so says my daughter. I can’t find any reason for it from your list but we are curious if maybe we are feeding too many tomatoes. I make salsa three times a week (at least) and have a lot of left over tomato flesh AND they love it! Could I be overdoing it?
    Thanks so much,

    Karen Helen

    1. Hi Karen,
      I hope your hens are doing ok! Feeding your chickens too much fruit can cause some problems…since it means that they will not eat as much of their laying rations with the balanced nutrients that they need (especially calcium for egg shell production). It might be better if you give them some of the tomato leftovers each day instead of all on the days that you make salsa. Can you put some of it in the fridge to save for the next day?

      Some other things that could cause problems would be: parasites (internal and external), heat (put some ice in their water if temps are too high), not enough clean water or grit for proper health and digestion, or another disease. Of course, this is just a partial list, so watch to see if there is a time of day that they seem particularly stressed. Can you give me any symptoms that your daughter feels are stress related? Hope they are well 🙂

  7. thanks for this great site! My girls stopped laying and your chile flakes turned them around. Well, one of them anyway. I’m sure Lovey is trying and she’s crowing a lot less today too!
    Did you know that there’s something called spontaneous chicken sex change? Lovey started crowing like a rooster a few days after she stopped laying and then Dove stopped laying and a few days later she, too, started crowing. Or at least trying. They pull their head up and out and look just like a rooster and let out a loud squawk so unlike their usual comforting brk brking. And at 5 in the morning!
    Thankfully the pepper flakes seem to be doing the trick.
    And thankfully so, those eggs are so important to me. They cured my food sensitivities.

    1. Hi Alison,
      That’s so weird! I’ve never seen any of my hens behave like that. I wonder if it is more common if there is no rooster in the flock? I’ve almost always had a rooster.

      I’m glad that they are laying and acting more like hens now! Thanks for sharing the info!

      1. Well, actually, it’s not unheard of

        I think the reason my girls started to switch was simply a dietary imbalance. I was reacting like crazy to their eggs until I took them off store bought feed because of the soy. All my food sensitivities magically disappeared after that which is just fantastic!

        But when my garden ran out of snails (who knew you could run out of snails?) I overdid it with the mealworms. They just loved them so much I couldn’t help but let them enjoy themselves until they sat around like feathery puff balls.

        When I finally lowered their mealworm intake, got them some pizza pepper flakes and supplemented with wild bird seed (niger shells removed?), I started getting 2 beautiful eggs again. But that was easily three weeks after Lovey stopped laying and a week for Dove. My food sensitivities started coming back again but thankfully they’re receding again now that I have such lovely eggs to eat.

        But it was the pizza flakes that did the trick. I cant thank you enough. My health is completely dependent on my girl’s eggs. No one else’s eggs do it for me.

        I found another blogger laughing about one of her hens crowing at times. Her hen switches back and forth fairly frequently and she doesn’t think much of it. I really notice it because I only have the two and I’m so dependent on them for my own health. It was like night and day when I first changed out the store bought feed. I am so incredibly better now.

        Thanks again. You have made my life so much better with this simple trick.

      2. Thanks for the link, I’ll have to check that out. I’m so glad that you found a way to eat eggs and stay healthy too! I have a bag of chili pepper flakes, I’ll have to try giving them to my flock again. I started, but didn’t keep up with it. Somenhow things slip my mind! 🙂 Best wishes with your chickens!

  8. I tried all these steps mentioned but my birds still lay few eggs. I start selling them out though they just a year old. Is there any medicine to increase their production?

    1. Hi Amos,
      There isn’t really any medication to increase laying. If they are receiving proper nutrition with enough calcium, fresh water always available, and there isn’t anything stressing them out…they should be laying an egg at least 3 or 4 times a week. Some breeds don’t lay as many eggs, but you don’t mention the breed you have so I’m not sure if that is the problem. Have you checked to see if they are hiding their eggs somewhere? Best wishes!

    2. Hi Amos E. Ameamu – so sorry that you aren’t getting the egg production you expected. There are so many factors to consider about layer chickens – type of breed and what their general POL age is, nutrition, vitamins, parasite maintenance (worms/lice/mites), digestive bacteria, bacterial or viral disease, molting season, number of daylight hours available, stress from extreme climate, etc, can contribute to a flock’s production or lack of it. It will take proactive research on your part to ultimately find what the cause of decreased production is in your flock. Eliminate the obvious suspected problems first like worms, parasites, molting is easily identified when the chickens are losing a lot of feathers and growing new quills and you could lose up to 2 months of no eggs during this time, same with limited daylight hours since a chicken needs 13-14 hrs of daylight to lay eggs so that’s why most winter production slows down, maybe you have extreme weather conditions like heatwave, check for gleet evidence in the vent feathers and treat, have fecal samples done at a vet’s lab and they can let you know if the chickens need treatment for worms or cocci which are very commonly contracted by chickens and easily treated. I have Googled the internet for answers to a lot of my chicken questions that are too numerous and detailed to cover in a blog. has many specific chicken raising problem threads and a lot of helpful posts. There are many other website resources on the internet with detailed help from hatching chicks, caring for chickens, identifying and treating diseases, nutrition, breeding, all the way to their old age care. The longer you keep chickens the more you’ll be increasing your knowledge about their care and maintenance as you research – some answers won’t happen overnight but the fact you are asking questions like this blog is a good proactive action and every question asked will give us one more bit of useful answer to add to our experience. It can be frustrating raising chickens but rewarding too as we learn along the way – GL!

    1. Hi Kofi,
      A lot will depend on the breed. Some heavy duty laying breeds will start at 4.5 months and some heritage breeds won’t begin to lay until they are 8 months or so. Some of the earliest layers are White Leghorns and some of the hybrids like Red Comets.

    1. Hi pennynorswothy – we had 2 different varieties of Leghorns and a Marans who were anything from overly assertive to downright vicious bullies. To keep the peace in our backyard flock we re-homed the bullies to a friend’s egg-layer flock. Bullies cause a gross disruption in flock politics or injuries to gentle flockmates consisting of different breeds so we researched the temperaments of our breeds and only kept the known gentle non-combative temperaments for our backyard. We get only small or regular-sized eggs from the gentle breeds but haven’t missed the drama caused by the dual-purpose or egg-layer breeds. Bullies have a way of transferring their bullying tactics to where other calm breeds can start getting aggressive. Isolating a bully will work but it isn’t fair to the hen to keep her isolated and a re-homing to another flock of her assertive peers is more humane. We isolated a hen for 2 weeks then put her back in the flock but it didn’t cure her bullying. Everyone does something different depending on the size of their flock, pen space, breed mixes, etc, but re-homing was the route we took for our situation because we didn’t have the space for two separate pens of assertive breeds vs gentle breeds. Smiles – Sylvester

    1. I feed a regular layer feed for chickens with extra protein (split peas on the side) plus I put out oyster shell for more calcium. Hope this helps, Gbadamosi!

  9. How do I feed them to get more eggs, my chicken are young and not all that productive.

    I have 11 birds and hardly do I get more than 3 eggs a day. What should I do

    1. Hi Hajji,
      A lot will depend on how old they are and if they are ready to produce. You can’t force them to produce egg before they are ready. Some breeds will start to lay as young as 4.5 months old and others may not begin laying until they are closer to a year old…it all depends on the breed and the individual.

      If they are 4 months old, they should be getting a balanced layer feed that has calcium and all the other minerals and vitamins they need, unless they have a large area of land to forage, with a wide variety of vegetation and insects. If they have a big compost heap, that will help to supply nutrients too.

      If you can give me more information about what you are feeding, and the breeds and their age, that would be helpful.

  10. If I have 3 6 month old hens and I buy some chicks, how long do I have to wait to integrate? All of my hens are gentle, they don’t fight or peck each other.

    1. Hi Tamara,
      I try to wait until my young chickens are at least 3 months old before integrating them into the flock. However, you need to make sure that they have plenty of hiding places in case the older hens start to pick on them too much. If you can wait until they are full size, that’s better. I just don’t have enough space sometimes to wait that long. Put the newbies in the coop at night and things should go more smoothly.

      Keep in mind that, even though your older hens are gentle, they will want to establish their dominance over the little ones. So be on the look out for any injuries or excessive picking so you can remove the young ones if there are any problems.

    2. I wait until my juveniles are 5-6 m/o and the same size as the older hens before integrating. I introduce juvies to the adult flock using a rabbit fence so they see each other for a couple weeks. Then during the night we will put the juvies in the coop w/ the established flock and hopefully there will be less drama than putting the flock together during daylight hours. There will still be pecking order drama but hopefully less dramatic then just tossing the newbies in with the oldsters w/o some sort of gradual introduction.

    1. Hi Willie,
      There isn’t a medication to induce laying. Make sure she has clean water, the proper feed, and isn’t under any stress and she’ll lay when she’s ready. Some breeds will lay as young as 4 months old and others may not lay until they are much older.

    1. Hi Mohammed,
      I don’t know of any medications to increase egg size. The size of the eggs will increase as hens get older. Young pullets will lay small eggs, but as they mature the egg size will increase.

  11. I have a few older hens and want to buy in a few point of lay pullets. Can they be mixed or should they be kept separate ?

    1. Hi,
      You can usually mix them together after a period of ‘breaking in.’ Start out by putting the new chickens in a cage or pen where they can all see each other. After a day or so, you can allow the new chickens into the pen with the others, but I suggest doing this overnight…it seems to work out better. Stick around to make sure there aren’t any serious fights, but let them work things out otherwise. Best wishes.

  12. Dear Sir,
    I hope that u will b fine. Sir I want to start organic chicken laying farm almost from 400 chicken. is this business is successful and profitable .please give me a best and sincere advice. I shall be very thankful to u for your this kind help.

    1. Dear Amir,
      There are so many variables that will affect your success with starting an organic egg production system. You should start by determining how large your customer base is. Locate potential markets and find out how much they are willing to pay for your product. Next, you should look at the investment you will need to make. How much will the housing, hens, and feed cost? Will you need to hire help? Is the feed available locally?

      I highly recommend starting out with just a few hens for your own eggs. See how well you like caring for them. Will you be able to sell the extras? Then you can add more hens later if you feel comfortable with making the investment.

      There are many books available that give the basics for starting your own business. I would recommend some serious research before you make a decision. The potential for profit is tempting…but when you are talking about living animals, there is also the potential for disease to claim an entire flock, leading to financial ruin.

  13. I have 10 new chickens that about 1 year old and we only get one or two eggs a day what should I do to get more eggs

    1. Hi Ben,
      I would need more information to answer that question. If you read through this article and have tried all of the suggestions above, perhaps you have a breed that doesn’t lay well?

      This time of year, the first question I would ask is, “Do you have 14 hours of daylight a day, or more?” If your hens aren’t getting enough daylight hours, they won’t lay as many eggs. A bright light on a timer that comes on for 14 to 15 hours a day should increase their production within a few days.

      Best wishes!

      1. remember, all animals need more protein during the cold months…we all do
        That said; i give my hens(extra protein in their feed….actually 26% more in their feed.
        After these results, i have continued this program for the last few years.

        Much healthier hens, excellent eggs, not to mention flavor. Also oyster shell is so important. The feed one buys does contain this, but not enough. So i also subsidize their meals with more
        and it gives them stronger bones and most of all the iodine so important for all of us humans
        and animals….So there, hope this helps.

      2. Hi Sel,
        I do give my flock more protein and fat too during the winter. I’ve been using split yellow peas and sunflower seeds. I have to mix them with oyster shell to encourage more calcium consumption or the egg shells get thin. Great reminder! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  14. hi lisa my name is david its good found this tipes of places on internet where people still cares about organic foog im really intersting on a close future put my own red rhode island egg farm ( back yard 🙂 ) but it will be so nice if you can give me some tips really happy that im found this blogg

    1. Hi David – I’m Sylvester017 and one of Lisa Lynn’s many favourite layers are Rhode Island Reds (RIR). It has been very nice of her to set up this helpful and popular website. She will share her experience when you ask a specific question in regard to her RIRs. For a bunch more information look up (BYC) and Search for Rhode Island Red and there are dozens of blog threads on RIR personalities, space requirements, coop designs, diet, health issues, etc. About 40-50% of the people on BYC are organic but of course, Lisa Lynn is moreso. Lisa Lynn’s specialty is raising her chickens for eggs and then eventually for meat as well. She raises chicks also to replenish her poultry stock. Good luck with your RIRs !

    2. Hi David,
      The Rhode Island Red is one of the better producers of brown eggs. If you don’t mind a hybrid chicken, you would get better production from one of the Red Stars, Golden Comets, or other production hybrids. They tend to produce very well for a couple of years but may wear out early than the heritage. I don’t keep my laying hens around for too many years, because I want to get the best production from my hens.

      I suggest that you look into the cost of organic feed in your area. Consider whether you can raise any of your own feed, or if you have enough land for them to free range. Can you set up a large composting area where they can scare up their own grub to help keep costs down? When you do your research, check to see what people are willing to pay for organic eggs in your area. If you can’t keep the cost of production low enough to sell at a profit, I suggest just raising enough to feed your family and don’t take on the extra work and expense of raising to sell. Quite often there isn’t enough profit to make it worth selling eggs.

      I don’t want to discourage you from raising and selling organic eggs, I just want you to do your research first. Check your local health dept rules. Can you deliver eggs and sell at a farmers market? Or can you only sell from your property? Do you have to use new cartons? How much will they add to the cost? There is a lot to consider and I am at the point of reducing the number of chickens I keep so that I will eventually just raise enough for our own family. I have found it difficult to make any profit in my area. And my original idea was to raise what we need anyway, so I am coming full circle and trying to downsize to what I want to raise for home consumption.
      Best wishes and let me know how things are going!

  15. Hi Bill,

    I never tried them but I understand the straight regular Cornish game bird (not Cornish X) is a meat bird and won’t have the rapid growth problems of a Cornish X. The Cornish game bird developed because it was supposed to be a fighting chicken but the surprise crossing gave the breeders a bird with a wide breast for meat instead. They lay about 60 eggs/year – not a lot but you can get eggs from them until time for processing. But you’ll probably use your regular dual-purpose cockerels for meat because the dual purpose hens will certainly lay more than 60 eggs!

  16. Sylvester,
    I may have gotten the breed wrong on the “tasty ones ” lol … will have to get back to you on that one.

  17. Hi Bill,
    Sounds like Sylvester has shared some good info with you. 🙂 I agree that you should give the chickens plenty of space. If you have severe winters, they will be ‘cooped up’ more and you want the coop to give them room to get some exercise during the day if they can’t go out. What you might want to figure out, is how many eggs do you want each day? If you only want 2 or 3 eggs a day, then 3 or 4 hens will be plenty. If you have a large family and want to get a dozen or more eggs a day, you need more hens. At most, they will lay one egg a day, but most hens take a day or two off each week (or more). I would say that if you can put 3 or 4 nesting boxes in your coop, and a couple of roosting bars that go the length of the coop, you could easily fit 1 dozen hens in your coop…especially if they can free range and you put tarps or plastic over the run to give them an outdoor area in bad weather.

    I think that my favorite dual purpose hens would be Rhode Island Red, Black Australorp, Barred Rock, and Americauna (although they are a bit on the smaller side, but they do very well in free ranging flocks). There are many others and every chicken enthusiast will give you a different list of the best ones to get. 😉 You could check out Henderson’s Chicken Breed Chart for lots of ideas…

    1. Hi Lisa Lynn – here’s the new link for the Henderson Chart. The one you gave is going away this Spring 2014 so the new website is for the Henderson Chicken Breed Chart – Smiles 🙂

    2. Thank you Lisa,
      I was thinking around 8 hens and 1 rooster . We eat maybe a doz of eggs a week … some weeks more : but I have alot of people willing to buy what we dont need. The winters here aren’t typically severe , but we do occasionally get snaps of severe storms every couple of winters. I didn’t plan on covering the run since they will have access to all the land during the day and incliment weather isn’t that common and the coop will be a decent size.
      As far as breeds I am planning a mix of RIR ‘s , Deleware’s , Plymouth Rocks , and Australorps . Not sure on the rooster yet But these breede from what I read all seem for the most part to be calmer and lay larger brown eggs well. I may throw in a cornish X for better table fare at times … not sure.
      But I appreciate all advice and will keep checking in here every day or so : and will also keep everyone up to date on how well I do and keep listening for helpful tips.


      1. Hi Bill,
        Those are all nice chickens and 8 seems like a nice number for your situation. I like having a rooster because they help to protect the flock from predators and it’s nice to hear them crowing. The Cornish X are usually ordered as chicks, raised on a high protein feed for 8 weeks and then butchered. I have one Cornish X hen that I saved because she was a runt. She lays pretty well, but eats quite a bit of feed. They aren’t generally kept for breeding. You can read more about mine on my site if you like. 🙂

        Best wishes with your chickens! I’m sure that you will enjoy having them and I’d love to hear how it goes. 🙂

      2. Hi Bill – Sylvester here.
        Let us know how your Cornish X project goes if you do it. My egg-seller friend got a dozen free chicks from someone who over-ordered so she tried raising them. Poor things can’t get much past 6-8 weeks old before they are too feeble to move because they grow too fast. She had her dozen in a mobile tractor over grass but still crows managed to kill off 2 right through the tractor. They don’t move much even as chicks and are easy prey. They did dress out large but she says not as tasty as her 5-month old Ameraucana cockerel of same size. She said she had to use a special recipe to marinate the Cornish X because they’re bland otherwise. She offered to give me a few of her chicks to raise but I had no space and kinda glad now I didn’t. It sure was hard to resist the chicken addiction though LOL.

  18. Evening Folks,
    I have been reading through your blog here and have gotten alot of useful info . I live in Va. and have a 15 acre tract a good distance from the rd (900′) I have fairly large yard and we have decided to build a coop and raise a few birds, after taking care of the neighbours birds 2 yrs in a row while they were on vacation.I do have about 100 acres of woods around @ 3 acres of house and yard area.
    My question is … how many chickens would be sufficient for my coop. I dont want to overcrowd. I am building a 6′ wide x 10′ long x 6.5 ‘ tall raised coop , with a 10 x18’ fence affixed to the coop ( with an electric barrier to keep predators at bay). We plan on letting the birds freerage ; and only securing them at night and in extreme weather. Also looking at larger well laying and good meat birds ….. no small breeds of birds.
    I appreciate all input and advice as a novice ….Thank you


    1. Hi Bill, Lisa Lynn is great to share her experience with you. I can’t wait to see her reply. Kudos to you for having a predator protective environment – I assume it will be used while they free-range. Definitely do not overcrowd as chickens are addicting! After deducting sq ft used for feed/water/nestboxes/treat bin/etc then provide 5 sq ft clear space per bird in the coop housing. Outside the coop in the pen area most people advise 10 sq ft per bird. Chickens are wonderful but somewhat busy and messy. You will be glad you provided a roomier spacious environment with less health issues to face in the long run.

      My egg seller friend has had 3 years of mixing and matching breeds. She’s had both dual purpose and egg layer breeds. She says decide on either dual purpose or egg layers and then don’t mix them. She also advised against various Sexlinks. They are spent by age 2 with health issues like oversized eggs, prolapse, eggbound, etc. She lost all her Sexlinks slowly to one or more of these issues. However, the Leghorn living in the same pen outlived them and has been integrated into the big flock.

      Lisa Lynn will probably tell you she loves her Naked Necks and RIRs for both egg laying and meat. I understand RIRs are good layers for dual purpose as most dual purpose don’t lay as many eggs per week as the RIR. RIRs have a better rate of production probably because they are not a broody type of breed. New Hampshires are related to RIRs and are about 1/2 lb smaller. Some people love Buff Orps for dual purpose but can be annoyingly broody. My egg seller friend likes Ameraucanas/ EEs because they are prolific layers of very big and colorful eggs and her cockerels dressed out as big as her Cornish X project birds! However EEs/ Amers are considered egg layer breeds and should not be mixed with dual purpose breeds. My friend’s estimation is that they are a gentle breed and as egg layers should not be stressed since stress interferes with production. Heavier dual purpose breeds can bully and stress the gentler EEs/Amers and Leghorns. Dual purpose as pullets are pleasant but as 1-2 year olds often transform to aggression on weaker flockmates. I believe Lisa Lynn processes most of her dual purpose between 2 to 3 years old so probably doesn’t face this problem too often.

      My personal favourite for a medium dual purpose bird that is a good forager, calm, and easy on the feed bill is the Dominique. The hens reach 5 to 5.5 lbs so not a whopping 6+ pounds like RIRs but we like the easier feed costs and curious outgoing friendly unafraid nature of the Doms. Doms also have a lengthier laying history like Leghorns. RIRs average 5 eggs/wk and Doms 4/wk. Doms can get broody 1-2x a year so if you want new chick stock they brood their own young. We suggested Doms and Buckeyes to friends in cold Colorado so they got a quad of young Doms with 2 Buckeye pullets. They free-range in the snow, the Dom roo is protective of the 5 girls, and both breeds are very calm and friendly. Just be aware that during breeding times a normally sweet roo can get aggressive toward humans but this is normal. If he continues nasty behavior after that, then you can make soup of him LOL

      Whatever dual purpose you decide on – weigh all the factors and try to keep the breed weights similar i.e.- I wouldn’t mix 9 lb Brahmas with 6 lb breeds. Brahmas are gentle giants and probably could still be bullied by some feisty dual purpose breeds. BYC ( has a wealth of input from people who own 100s of chicken breeds. Have fun researching – you sound like a wonderful chicken owner – I love you LOL

  19. Hi Sylvester,
    It’s funny how different chickens can be! I’ve never had my flock scratch so much in the nest box like that. Of course they have lots of places to scratch when they aren’t nesting, so maybe that helps.

    I have wondered if maybe as hens get older they have more trouble utilizing the calcium. But your’e right, those white leghorns sure do lay big eggs and that could certainly have something to do with the thin shells. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I can’t figure out the nestbox scratching since they free-range all day for their scratching needs. One Silkie scratched so hard she re-injured a toenail breaking and bleeding again so that was when we decided to line all the boxes w/plexiglass. Most of the hens do a fair amount of scratching but my OCD Silkie ruins the wooden bottoms that I’m afraid the splinters will injure the others when they scratch in the nestboxes. My kooky sweet Ameraucana likes to lay her egg in the box with all the broody Silkies, There are 2 other empty boxes but she sits on top or stands over the broodies to drop her egg. Go figure? Of course the Silkies don’t mind because it gives the silly girls an egg to sit on! Wish I had a hatching farm – I’d have nothing but Silkies to do the work and forget the incubator machines.

      1. Odd behavior! I’ve thought about having a silkie for hatching eggs, but I know the large flock would be too rough for them. 🙁 It would be so much easier than using an incubator!

      2. HaHa – one Silkie wouldn’t be enough to brood. You’d need about 3 or 4 of them in a separate flock but once one starts to brood the others will join in succession usually and then you’ll have all of them squeezing to cover one plastic egg, a cucumber slice, or whatever they find in the nestbox. Silkies are THE best mommas as you won’t find a more conscientious breed to stick it through from hatch to rearing – but I agree that they would need a separate dividing fence from the large fowl especially if brooding and rearing chicks or ducklings or goslings or pea chicks. Like I said, they’ll brood ANYTHING. Our first Silkie was 18 months before she brooded. The other one was 8 months old and kept brooding every 3 or 4 months throughout the next two years. That’s why I suggest more than one Silkie and in a separate flock of their own. They sometimes share the chicks in a single community if they all set the same nest together which is not uncommon with bantams. I like Silkies because when they do lay eggs the size is decent for bantam – about 1.25 oz. My Buff Leghorn only lays 1.75 oz and she weighs more than 2x the Silkies and the yolks are the same size – just the whites are a little less in the bantam eggs.

      3. Good to know. 🙂 Someday I hope to have more space with separate housing for a variety of breeds and types of poultry. We hope to move in 5 years, when hubby retires. The plan is to move back to NY where we grew up and build a sustainable home on some property that has been in my family for ages. We would build a barn for the new livestock and I want heritage turkeys, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and several breeds of chicken. Oh, and goats, pigs, and whatever else I can fit in…lol! Then maybe I can have a little flock of Silkies for brooding and hatching all the wonderful eggs!

  20. I noticed my 3-year-old White Leghorn started occasionally showing a few bumps on the outer shell of her 2.25 oz eggs and though not exactly thin, they weren’t as solid as the medium 1.75 oz egg shells of the Buff Leghorn pullet. Maybe the White Leg’s egg is so large and moves too fast to absorb enough calcium to cover an XL egg in the older hen? Don’t know – just a thought. She eats plenty of oyster shell. Her new owner says she’s still cranking out those big eggs at least 5-6x a week and has reported just one dented egg when it hit the hard surface of the nestbox. The new owner is working on fixing the nestboxes to hold more straw for cushioning. I told her “good luck” since all my hens love kicking out the straw to lay their eggs on the hard bottom. I put hard plexiglass on the bottom of the wooden nestboxes to keep the hens from scratching so hard that they rip their toenails clawing in splinters! A plastic bottom doesn’t work as it also gets clawed too. No more damaged toenails with plexiglass but we have to keep busy refilling with straw.

      1. Hi Tamera – I no longer have my White or Buff Leghorns – they were rehomed to a friend and are still great layers and she’s shared no problems. She rehomed all her Leghorns – mine and hers to her new friend who never had chickens before and the friend couldn’t be happier. I hated to move all the great laying Legs out of my flock but they started to bully the younger gentler hens by chasing, hogging the feed, jumping them in the dust-bath, pulling out feathers, chewing off combs and wattles so that was it for the Legs in my flock! Legs are generally mind-their-own-business hens but at maturity 18 mos to 2 yrs they can go bonkers on gentler breeds. If you have Legs I would keep them in an all-Mediterranean flock (Ancona, Andalusian, Catalana, Minorca, Siciliana, Sicilian Buttercup, White Face Spanish, Penedesenca/Empordanesa) where they are in a flock of their energetic assertive peers.

      2. I don’t integrate new juveniles until they are about 5-6 mo and as large as the old hens. They are separated by a rabbit fence for several days in the open yard to get “acquainted” and then the new girls are put in the coop w/ the old girls after roost at night. That way they wake up together in the morning in the coop and hopefully will be less drama then just mixing them together during daylight. Pecking order still has to be established which is why I like having known gentle breeds together where there’s less likely chances of injuries. I personally like lighterweight breeds like Ameraucanas, Araucanas, Breda, Cochin bantams, Easter Eggers, Houdan, Polish, Silkies, Sultans for a gentles flock. Larger gentle breeds would be LF Brahma, Cochins, Crevecoeurs, Dorkings, Faverolles, Jersey Giants, Sussex. I won’t mix smaller gentles w/ larger gentles because a gentle larger fowl can still be tempted to pick on smaller sized gentle breeds.

  21. My road island chicken is 3yrs old and lays one egg a day! The egg is kind a covered with little bumps and the shell is very thin ! She loves dryed mealworms, am I giving her to many ? (I feed her a handful daily)of course she misses her friend , which dyed a couple of month ago! So if I don’t pick up the egg at a certain time , she eats it! Any info would be greatly eppreciated! Tks for your great article!

    1. Hi Christa,
      I’m sorry to hear that your hen’s friend died 🙁 It sounds like she isn’t getting enough calcium in her diet. If she eats too many treats instead of her layer feed, the egg shells will be thin. Most likely the shell is so thin that sometimes she breaks it and has found that what’s inside tastes very good! Try to increase her calcium intake and collect the egg early so she doesn’t eat it. Hopefully the shell will harden up with the extra calcium so she wont’ be so tempted to munch on it!

      You can also give her some free choice oyster shell and see if that helps with the egg shells.Thanks for reading and best wishes with your great little chicken! For a 3 year old to lay an egg every day…she’s doing awesome!

    1. Good point. I haven’t had any real bullies in my flock. I think when you have a large number of chickens, the pecking order works itself out. But when you have a small flock, it seems that you sometimes get a hen that is driven to pick on the others all the time. This will stress them out and they’ll be less likely to lay well. So it’s best to remove the bully and replace her with a more docile hen.

      This is just my general feeling and you may have had a different experience. I don’t think I’ve had less than 20 chickens in my flock since soon after I started keeping them. So my experience with small flocks is limited. 🙂

    2. Hi Anonymous – I had to re-home a 7-lb Marans immediately after she attacked a 2-lb Silkie and started to go after the alpha hen. A year later had to re-home our 3-year-old White Leghorn who came out of a severe moult with a vengeance to re-establish her place in the flock. Whenever a Silkie is in jeopardy in the flock, bullies are re-homed. I now keep under 5-lb birds in the flock with gentle temperaments only. Normally I don’t interfere with flock politics unless a dangerous situation arises. Heavier LF breeds more than 5 lbs can be tempted to bully or attack gentler smaller fowl and a 2-lb Silkie doesn’t have a fighting chance against 7-lb bullies. There’s a reason owners advise against mingling flocks of different weights, temperaments, and breeds without doing the research first. With Silkies in the flock I find the Ameraucanas and Buff Leghorns (calmer than White or Brown Legs) have been good mixes – they actually submit to the older Silkies. I like that kind of peace. Less stress, more eggs! Smiles 🙂 Sylvester 017

  22. Thanks for your explanations. I have a challenge on one of my layers ( pullets ) she started laying recently her eggs are averagely ok but recently she started laying very very small eggs like a dice use in playing ludo game. What do I do? Or can she later start laying big eggs? Pls I need your advice via my email address below. Thanks, JAMES from Nigeria

    1. In case you are wondering…I contacted James and let him know that sometimes you will get very small eggs, sometimes called wind eggs. There isn’t much you can do other than provide the proper nutrition, a clean comfy coop, and allow for exercise so that the hen or pullet is not stressed. They won’t lay wind eggs forever so just be patient!

  23. Lisa, Wow did I learn a lot. First time to read your blog. Saw it via Linkedin. I currently have a mixed flock; Americanas, RR and Silver Laced Wyndotts. They are free range out with the sheep and pigs. I was raised in Upstate New York and always showed at the NY State Fair. My Dad was a chicken man from way back. I think we raised over 20 different kinds of chickens. He was instrumental in keeping the Red Dorkings alive. When he moved south he sold out his breed stock and I don’t hear much about them any more.

    1. Hi Karen,
      I grew up in NY too 🙂 Not too far from Buffalo. I went to the fair in Syracuse when I was 12 or 13 and the thing I remember most was a cool butter sculpture. Funny. 😉

      That’s so cool that your Dad was a chicken guy and kept a heritage breed going! I haven’t heard of Red Dorkings, I don’t think.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing! Best wishes with your flock!

    2. Hi Karen Kelly:
      The Dorkings of any variety are rare but there’s a place in the Lucerne Valley of Calif that is raising Dorkings to preserve this rare breed. It’s called Flip Flop Ranch which is also a working guest ranch where you can stay with your family overnight or have school visits and tour the facilities, learn to can food, tend the livestock (they have sheep and goats too), etc. I thought it was a neat idea. Flip Flop is expanding their Dorking varieties to include some rare colors. The only thing is Flip Flop has straight and rose combs mixed so that may not be a choice you can ask for specifically. For now they are concentrating on just saving as many varieties of this breed as possible. The Dorking chicken is the only chicken they breed to preserve and distribute to others interested in having or preserving this rare bird.

      Dorkings are a very big chicken with short legs. Personally I don’t like heavy breeds with short legs, oversized eggs for their body weight like White Leghorns or sexlinks, or basically anything that looks like an oddity or deformity. I’m strange that way – don’t like to see deformed jaws on dogs like Bulldogs or Boxers or Boston Terriers, either. But that’s just me again.

      In spite of their stocky legs everything I read about Dorkings is really positive – their productivity in cold climates up to 5 medium eggs/week, docile temperament, ability to brood their own young, tasty white meat bird, and so much more! I’m happy to see a place like Flip Flop take on the preservation of an old breed and concentrate on it, make it a diverse gene pool, etc. After all, these Dorkings go back to the Roman invasion in England in 43 A.D. ! I believe England’s recreated Lincolnshire Buff chicken breed had Dorking in its history as the Linc’s SOP calls for 5 toes and no feathers on the feet. The Lincs were created in England around the same time Buff Orps were in the 1800s but the Lincs went extinct for several decades until a dedicated group recreated them again using the Dorking as its foundation stock.

      Flip Flop sells eggs and chicks and ships. They have silver, tawny, tan, plus more varieties. They are not a hatchery but will work with you on orders if you’re patient to wait when their broodies hatch their eggs.
      Smiles 🙂 from Sylvester017

      1. Thanks Sylvester, I e-mailed the Flip Flop Ranch just after I read the information you provided about their farm. I have not heard back from them as of yet. I will try calling them, they may be busy as most of us farmers are in the Spring.

        Have a great day, I really enjoy reading all of your comments, your better than Google.

      2. Hi Karen – yes, Flip Flop is busy. I believe somewhere in their Dorking info page they say that if you can’t wait for the time it takes to get Dorkings from them than it probably isn’t the breed for you. It took me a couple months to get my other breeder to answer me back but it was worth the effort and I still had to wait another 4 months before she shipped my 1st set of juveniles to me. Some breeders only want to ship eggs or chicks but in my backyard scenario I couldn’t have either so finding someone who shipped juvies was a blessing. Even if they don’t ship juvies or adults it doesn’t hurt to still ask them if they would make an exception for just one or two juvies. Of course, USPS shipping is very expensive for live juvies/adults compared to hatching eggs or chicks which is more reasonable but expect lower survival rates. Good luck should you choose to go with Dorkings – beautiful bird worth saving. Smiles 🙂 Sylvester017

    3. Hi Karen Kelly – another Dorking breeder that’s been around quite a long time is Sandhill Preservation and they have straight comb as well as rose comb varieties in quite an assortment of colors. The only drawback is I can’t participate in orders because 25 chicks is the minimum of a total order and I’m zoned for only 5 hens and no roos. I think their orders are mix and match breeds if you want but still has to be a minimum 25 chick order. Still if you go in with another person or two you can divide up an order. Just a thought. is the website.
      Sylvester017 – Smiles

      1. Thanks Sylvester,
        25 chickens are a bit too many for me at this time. Will see if I can find others that may want to go in with me. I will keep this source in my file.

        You are such a wealth of information. My hat goes off to you. Thanks for keeping me informed on all that you know.

        Have a blessed day.

  24. Hi Lisa Lynn – this has got to be the best blog topic online w/ pounds of good ideas tossed around. Bless you!

    1. Thanks so much, Sylvester! I’ve been enjoying all the feedback from folks like you! I’m hoping to have some eggs soon from some young pullets I hatched last fall…will share photos when I do. 🙂

      1. Ohhh – photos would be wonderful!

        BTW – how did your sprouting on a heat mat turn out for you for your birds? I have a 50/50 chance of success sprouting as I don’t have a heat mat yet. A friend promised me his but then he had some family health issues & probably forgot about it. I haven’t read very favourable reviews about the heat mats I’ve researched. What brand are you using?

      2. I’m actually writing about sprouting a bit in an article now and I posted about it last week. 🙂 I started with the heat mat under lights in the basement and that didn’t work out too well…too cold down there. So now I’m sprouting seeds for the chickens in a sunny window…no heat mat. You can read more about the sprouting here…

        I don’t remember what brand heat mat I have…I bought them through Gurney’s seed catalog years ago.

  25. Thanks for the good information, Lisa Lynn. We have just 4 Barred Rock hens who provide 2-3 eggs daily. We adopted them from friends who had to move suddenly, so I don’t know that much about their ages and history. But, they seem happy. And having 2-3 fresh eggs daily is enough for us right now.

    1. Hi Sally,
      I really enjoyed the Barred Rocks I’ve had…just one pullet right now and she is doing great. 🙂 They are such a pretty bird, but can sometimes be a bit aggressive with other breeds. I’m glad to hear that you gave them a good home and they are providing some nice fresh eggs for you! Great job!

  26. I rented a house in the country about 2 years ago and last spring decided to get some chickens. I figured that I could trade eggs for other goods if the world blew up. I did a lot of research and ended up with 4 Rhode Island Reds and 2 Fog Horn whites. I built a nice 8×10 chicken coup complete with hanging food/water containers, 2 roost bars, and 6 nesting boxes. I live in southern Minnesota and our winter has been brutal. I had to insulate the coup. I also used a (flat) battery heater between patio blocks and some brooder lights for those days when it was -25 out. (my chickens are spoiled-but they have layed everyday all winter) I also have an LED blub on a timer that extends the light several hours each day. I let them out as much as possible and I think they are very happy.

    I appreciated the tips in this post and look forward to learning more here. I am considering adding another 6 chickens this spring. I guess I am a glutton for punishment. It has been great fun though.


    1. Hi Tim,
      It sounds to me like you’ve caught the ‘chicken bug’ 😉 You’ll want some of every breed soon. I think it is incurable, although it may go into remission occasionally!

      Sounds like your chickens are very lucky! Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Funny you say that, I was thinking that the new ones I get this year, I would get something different so I could keep track. Great blog! Thanks.

      2. Hi Tim – had to chuckle about figuring out which hens lay what to keep track of productivity. One of the reasons we got different breeds w/ different egg colors so we can tell who layed what! 2 Silkies (1 lays cream matte, 1 lays pinkish glossy), Ameraucana (blue), Buff Leghorn (pinkish tan). Plus we had to go w/ gentle smaller breeds to mingle w/ the bantam Silkies.

        Sounds like u have a great setup to protect those floppy combs during winter. It’s not just the cold that frostbites but the moisture too.

        Foghorn Leghorns will outlay anything u ever add to ur coop & really – w/ 2 Legs & 4 RIR – u won’t need to ADD anymore to an 8×10 coop. Mediterraneans & RIR love space in spite of all the “does well in confinement” reviews! Feeding/water area takes up space, treat bin takes space, dust-bath area takes up space, roosting bar area takes up space, nestboxes take up space, etc & really doesn’t leave a heck of a lot of room to add more girls – but I admire ur spirit. Of course, if they forage in the snow, the size of the coop is immaterial. I only have a 4×6′ coop for 4 hens in So Calif but they forage-range everyday even in the rain & the coop is just for roosting/egg laying. Happy chickening!!!

  27. Hi Lisa Lynn,

    Good dental visit – lucky!

    Yes, my breeder gives eggs raw to her chicks but cooks them for her hens and her dogs. She invested in purebred flock/guard dogs because of the very remote area she’s moved to and can’t afford to lose show birds to predators. For my hens I cook the eggs just as a precaution to discourage a taste for raw just in case – but that’s me.

    It’s beneficial that you go through your feed fast as I hear storing feed for long isn’t good anyway. I go through nestbox straw faster than feed. A 50-lb bag of organic crumbles lasts 3-5 months depending on how much we supplement. We use crumbles because the Silkies can’t munch on the big pellets. During hot months, the hens seem to eat less maybe because there’s more to forage. In winter, they have bigger appetites and the at-will whole grains are eaten heartily. In summer there’s an abundance of bugs especially crickets, but there’s slim pickings on garden insects right now.

    Wow, you have a good control of humidity for your hens to not have comb problems! That’s great. There’s a very tall ceiling on our round hole nestboxes that I think helps w/ better air circulation which is nice. But since I haven’t had a big comb to deal w/ for a couple months, it’s been a blessing. I’m liking the pea and walnut combs in winter!

    Heard on a radio program that weather extremes are going to be the new normal because of our Sun’s sunspot activity. You’ve got storms and we’ve got heatwaves. I’m hurrying to get all my seedlings transplanted as most are over a foot tall already – they don’t know it’s only January! Got lots of cuke and pepper plants this time just for the chickens.

    I’m w/you re people who abandon their domestic animals whether it’s birds, dogs, cats, reptiles, or livestock! Those owners should be turned loose in the wild to fend for themselves and see how it feels! It’s more humane to eat your organic birds than to abandon domestically cared poultry to wild predators. The desert areas here have roaming, abandoned, and skinny horses, donkeys, exotic reptiles, starving dogs. Smaller abandoned animals like bunnies, goats, cats, or chickens get munched. Neighbors behind us lost their mortgage but before they moved out, they responsibly took their purebred dog to a rescue organization and found homes for their 2 cats. In crisis they still managed to be responsible re their pets!

    1. Gosh, I’m sure I replied to this post…don’t know where it went?! Sounds like you are keeping really busy! I’m so jealous of your garden right now! I am so looking forward to spring! I’m so sad to hear about the animals being abandoned…:( It is happening all over and my heart goes out to them. I’m glad your neighbors took care of their pets before moving out.

      Best wishes with the cukes and pepper plants!

      1. Hi Lisa Lynn -Tee-hee! Things vanish into thin air on ‘puters!
        Warm Jan is gone & now we’re getting mild sprinkles – but way too little 4 drought-declared CA. Supposed to have 50% chance rain today & all I’ve had is sunshine so I planted some green onions – might as well take advantage of the weather. 3 of 4 hens are laying & one is brooding as if she thinks it’s Spring!

      2. I hope you get your much needed rain soon! I’ve been reading about the drought and feel so bad for everyone. But it sounds like life is carrying on well at your place!
        16 F last time I looked here 🙂

  28. To Lisa Lynn –

    Dentists – ugh! Hope ur visit was a good one.

    Thanx 4 the info! For organic feed u r doing well at $4/doz ! W/ the added whole grains, meats, produce, seeds, vitamins, medicines, preventative products, & treats, it’s 2x more 4 us. It’s going to cost 3 yrs’ worth of eggs just to get back our investment in their housing & we just expanded again. Still it’s cheaper than buying a purebreed dog w/ yearly vaccinations, vet visits, grooming products/fees, shots, licenses, food, fencing/housing, etc.

    Do you cook/boil ur abundance of eggs to feed back to the chicks? I would never feed them raw shells or raw eggs as my breeder says she does 4 her chicks, but I do hard-cook overage eggs to feed back to the adult hens. My DH sometimes mixes the boiled eggs into their morning feed mix for added protein. They don’t realize it’s eggs in that form so it doesn’t encourage raw egg eating in the nestboxes.

    Which of your combed breeds had the little bit of dark tips?

    1. Well, the dental hygienist was very good and caused much less pain than usual…so I requested her again when I go back in August. 🙂 Fortunately I haven’t had a cavity or any major problems in the last 20 years.

      I know that $4 per doz is pretty good 🙂 but it is still a tough pill to swallow when I go to the feed store and buy 4 bags of layer feed and have to shell out almost $90! And I know I’ll be back in less than a month. I figure that by eating my old hens, I’m getting back the money that I spent buying them and feeding them up to point of lay…even though the cost is pretty high for a scrawny, tough old bird. At least I know they are organic and have lived a much better life than any chickens I could buy at the store.

      I understand your comparison to buying a purebred dog…although I have always had mutts from the pound or a shelter and have trouble comprehending the purchase of a specific breed unless it’s a working dog. As long as people who have their chickens as pets are dedicated to keeping them through their retirement, I think it is great. I don’t understand folks who abandon them…well, I do understand, but I don’t agree at all!

      I don’t generally feed eggs back to my chickens. If I have any that are cracked, I cook them for my dogs as a treat. Sometimes the hens do lay eggs with thin shells that break in the nests and I toss the mess on the floor for them. They don’t seem to be actively breaking the eggs to eat.

      I only noticed one hen with a little bit of dark skin on the tips of her comb and I’m not entirely sure if it is frostbite, because the rooster is a little bit aggressive and has been pretty actively mating with them recently. But it was one of my Rhode Island Reds. I have two heat lamps on in the coop right now, since our temps have been so incredibly cold and the water will freeze quickly without the lamps on. I’m hoping this arctic weather passes soon and we don’t have anymore deep freezes for the rest of the winter. But that might be a pipe dream!

  29. Hi Lisa Lynn –

    The garden and the chickens think it’s Spring already – got a broody Silkie and all my sweet and hot peppers are loaded with blooms set w/ fruit already. Several tomato plants survived from last year and are setting new fruit now.

    Nice you’re getting that flock of 50 whittled down LOL! When you say you have “older” hens that have to go in the Spring, what is your criteria for older?

    Do your ducks lay well? How often? Do you use their eggs in baking? Mom loved duck eggs for all her farm cooking. Mom always kept 3 or 4 geese too. Boy, their eggs were whoppers! Still, chickens are the most economical and reliable egg-layers year-round. No matter what season we’re having we always have at least half the hens giving eggs.

    My re-homed floppy-combed White Leghorn had the pointy tips of her comb slightly discolored during the November frost and vaseline/ointments don’t really help those big combs. Currently I have the 2 Silkies, an Ameraucana, and a very small-combed Buff Leghorn – got accustomed to not dealing w/ big floppy combs during cold spells. I see why snowy States keep pea-combed breeds now. Do you, or have you ever had, to deal w/ combs?

    Our Silkies have very small walnut combs and I wondered how they’d do during our heatwaves – those little buggers are super-hardy in the coldest or the hottest climates. I’m a little worried about the Ameraucana though when the heatwaves hit. The Buff Leghorn has gone through a heatwave this past year in stride but I’ve heard Ameraucanas/EEs don’t do that well?

    1. Hi Sylvester,
      How wonderful to have spring on the way. 🙂 It was -7 when I got up this morning!

      Any hen that is going into her first molt it a candidate for culling in my flock. I am spending around $4 per dozen to raise eggs right now, with the organic feed. And I have around a gross of eggs in the fridge. It’s just too much and once they are older than their first molt, I start to look for the least productive to cull. I wish the feed didn’t cost so much, because I’d love to just have chickens for the fun of it and not have to think about the economics. But with this many, I’m afraid it won’t work. I do have the flock down to 21 adults (one rooster), 8 pullets, and 5 ducks.

      The ducks lay an egg almost every day. I use them a lot in my baking…in fact, I haven’t put a chicken egg in baked goods in quite a while.

      My breeds with big combs are doing pretty well, but I did notice that one had a little bit of dark on the very tips. Other than that, they are doing well.

      On my way to the dentist! Have a great day!

  30. Hi Lisa Lynn: re your Jan 25 ’14 post above – Sad regarding your one little sick Silkie experience – reminds me of the Dominique chick we purchased which is supposedly a hardy Colonial heritage breed and yet we lost her at 19 days old to a violent seizure right in our arms! Same w/ our two APA Ameraucana juveniles – one never grew and died but her sister is our sassy healthy girl in the flock today. You just never know what hidden imperfections or genetic problems chicks or juveniles succumb to but once they reach adulthood they usually possess the hardy breed reputation they’re supposed to have. Raising puppies or kittens is the same. The litter can be healthy and then one sickly baby in the lot never makes it. Nature’s humane way of culling the weak I guess.

    Just a suggestion from our experience on offereing the red chili to the hens. Go light with it or they won’t think it’s special if they get glutted w/ it every day. We offer every couple days to keep it a novelty for them. Same w/ any other food we offer. We withhold certain foods we think are getting ignored and reintroduce it a few days later. Even when they start ignoring their morning container, my DH will stir it up w/ a spoon or add something like a Tbsp of cooked rice or sprinkle a tsp of wild seeds and they think it’s a whole new tray to attack! By dusk we seldom have leftover feed containers. Our girls average a 1/4 cup apiece of our prepared food/grain mix and forage or at-will the rest of their intake. My DH was mixing about 1 cup apiece per girl and we had too much waste by end of day. I finally got him to make less and refrigerate a little to give out later in the day if it looks like they’re needing more. Less is better as the girls are active foragers. I read on a website somewhere that greens are what contribute to the golden Omega 3 in their yolks. Our orange yolks are so beautiful next to the pale sickly light lemon yolks of store-bought eggs – even the so-called “organic” store-bought eggs!

    1. Yes, I’ve wondered too about how some are so healthy and others so sickly. In nature all of the animals with defects or lower immunity die before they can reproduce, so we are providing an unnatural set of conditions. I’ve been culling any from my flock that seem less thrifty than the others, so their genetics aren’t passed along.

      I’ll keep that in mind about the chili flakes. I should raise extra for them next summer in my garden. We always end up with more than we need anyway. 🙂 Yes, the yolks of my eggs are so much deeper gold color…even in winter. I’ve been giving some alfalfa along with their feed. They don’t care for it, but eat it when the dish gets low. I’m trying to only give them what they can eat up by the end of the day too. Not as difficult with the size of my flock. I have 6 more cockerels to butcher, then I will be down to 21 adults and 6 or 7 pullets, plus the 5 ducks. Some more of the older hens will need to go in the spring. We are getting more eggs than we can eat or sell. With the cost of the organic feed, it just doesn’t make sense to keep them all.

  31. I have an Ameraucana who is 3-4 yrs old (can’t remember when I got her, but it’s been quite a while). I thought she was at the end of her egg-laying career because she laid probably less than 20 eggs by mid-year. She’s survived 2 hawk attacks & is pretty pathetic looking, with her droopy wing & lazy eye, remnants of her injuries. However, this week, in Jan. (!), she’s laid 5 eggs!!! I don’t supplement with light, but use a red lamp part of the night if it’s esp. cold. I keep a mixed flock, but will always have 1 or 2 Ameraucana’s. When hawks attack, it seems to be my big, fluffy, striking-colored hens that get the worst of it, where as the Amer’s are quicker & better camouflaged. They also seem to blend in well with the rest of the flock & are easy going & people love when I give them the blueish eggs.

    1. Hi Wendy,
      Your hen is pretty lucky to have survived all those attacks! What a special girl she is…and deserving of some time off. 🙂 Glad she has started to give you some more eggs this month. I like the Americaunas and Easter Eggers too…such pretty eggs and I have also noticed that they seem to be a bit less susceptible to predator attacks. I have 2 Americauna pullets and my rooster is an Easter Egger, plus I have around 8 or so young pullets from that rooster, so I hope to have some more pretty colored eggs in about 3 months.
      Best wishes! Thanks for sharing!

    2. To Wendy:

      How I hurt for your sweet Ameraucana’s injuries. Hawk attacks & injuries are quite a shock to a hen’s laying cycle.

      Ameraucanas like Dominiques & Leghorns are known to have long-life laying cycles where other breeds slow way down after year two.

      The 2 Ameraucanas I got from a breeder were free-ranged w/ their momma & managed to escape hawk & dog attacks. Ameraucanas are a skittish alert breed & even quicker than nervous Leghorns. We lost one Ameraucana to illness. The remaining Ameraucana challenges wild birds & cats out of the yard. The fact that she gives us large pretty blue eggs is just icing on the cake! My pullet started laying in the dead of winter & hasn’t stopped yet.

      I opted to get an actual APA Ameraucana to get the guaranteed blue egg. I love the gorgeous Easter Eggers but it’s not guaranteed they’ll lay a blue egg. Now that I have my guaranteed blue egg, I can get an EE next time to be surprised with her egg color – love the Ameraucana & EE sweet temperaments! My friend has several adorable EEs & she gets colors in blue-green, mint, pink & cream from them!

  32. First off, great article. I learned a lot, but since I am interested in Self-sufficiency instead of consumerism it would be great if you could include more information on how to feed the chickens without buying commercial feed. It may be cheaper to produce the eggs via owning your own chickens and feeding them with store bought food, but I wouldn’t consider it self sufficiency. Can you help me out or point me in the right direction? Thanks

    1. Hi Stephen,

      I’m interested in being more self reliant too and would love to grow more of my own chicken feed. I do cut down on the amount of feed I need to purchase by composting in their pen and feeding all of our kitchen waste to the flock. However, this isn’t enough to take the place of their grain. I’m also interested in sprouting grain for them, which is supposed to help boost their nutrition. I’m sharing a link with you to a website that you might be interested in. I think you need to sign up for their free videos to watch this, but it should be well worth it.

      I hope to have more information about growing feed for your chickens and bypassing the feed store, but so far my efforts have not been stellar. I attempted to mix my own feed mix, and found that they weren’t consuming enough calcium and were not interested in the pan of oyster shell…so the eggs were all breaking in the nest box.

      I hope you will stop back to see how my experiments are going. 🙂 As I have more info, I will continue to share. Best wishes with your quest for self sufficiency!

      1. Hi Lisa Lynn,

        Great info. We found a website about feeding whole grains to chickens. Let me know what you think as I don’t know anything about this group?

        Being 100% self-sufficient today depends on how much acreage you have and the video link seemed to specify 5 acres. In suburbia we couldn’t grow enough in a backyard to feed our 4 hens or us year-round. However, we do keep a garden that keeps us all in fresh veggies (and bugs) for over 1/2 the year with freezer or jar canning to save excess harvests. Saving seeds from these veggies for the following year is not hard either. We need to add more heritage varieties to the garden but again takes a LOT of space planning. Keeping the garden patch lighted at night has deterred rodents this year. The only rodent nibbles we got was from one tomato pot hidden in an un-lit area.

        We buy whole grains in 20-25 lb sacks and let hens free-will oats, quinoa, wheat, and brown rice (rice we cook for the bantams and add Brewers Yeast) to supplement their organic layer crumbles. With no soy in the feed, protein lists 5-8% lower so we supplement with fresh or canned meats and seeds – all of which is purchased as we can’t grow all this in a backyard. For protein, chickens will eat rodents or small reptilians but they emerge after dark when the hens are sleeping – LOL

        We can’t have open compost bins in the city for the hens to forage because of rodents and have to keep a commercial sealed container. We do the best we can since we don’t live on 25 acres anymore!

        Lisa Lynn, have you heard that GMO corn doesn’t pop and only non-GMO corn is used for popping corn? If that’s true, it wouldn’t hurt to use popcorn to grind up for the chickens. Any thoughts?


      2. Hi Sylvester,
        Yes, you are definitely limited by the amount of space you have…as am I! Even with a full acre, I would probably need to turn every space inch of our property into a compost pile or garden space to completely support my chicken flock. Of course, I have more hens than I need and I seem to have trouble keeping the flock size at just what our family needs. I have several friends who would be very disappointed if I reduced the size of my flock and didn’t sell eggs anymore.

        I went and read the article you sent the link to. I tried switching to whole grains this fall. I supplemented with Redmond’s Nutribalancer and oyster shell on the side, free choice. But the hens didn’t eat enough calcium and the shells were very fragile. Every day I would find a lot of eggs broken open in the nest boxes and eaten. I tried mixing some oyster shell right into the feed but they ate around it. I also found that they picked out the things they liked and left the alfalfa and oats unless I withheld feed until it was gone. Then egg production would drop off. It wasn’t the outcome I expected or hoped for, for sure!

        I’ve read a lot about sprouting grains for your chickens and the increased nutrition in sprouted grains. There is a good article in Backwoods Home Magazine (which I like very much for the how to articles, but choose to skip over the political content) about sprouting grains for livestock. I’ve got some wheat berries soaking on a heat mat under lights in the basement as we speak. I’ll let you know how that goes. 🙂

        I have not read that about popcorn. I’ll have to look into that. I am feeding only organic, non-gmo feed now. It is a layer feed from my local feed store. It does contain soy, but at least it’s organic. I could order an organic, soy free feed from Azure Standard, but it is pellet feed. I got a bag back in October and the chickens didn’t eat it unless there was nothing else in their dish. But then, it was ground and cooked, so the nutritional value is probably much lower.

        Thanks for sharing the link! My flock gets organic, whole grain scratch on the side as a treat. But I have to be careful not to give too much or the egg shells start to get thin again.

      3. Hi Lisa Lynn,

        My friend supplies eggs & needs more hens as you do. Thanks for sharing about your diversified flock & feeding guides. I guess the sprouted grains is nutritious for us humans too. Chickens love tender sprouts of plants for a reason. Yes – it’s a struggle getting the feed just right & the requirements adjust with the seasons. Black sunflower seeds should only be fed in the Fall/Winter & cut down in Spring/Summer because of liver fat problems – who knew?

        Our feed store carries a variety of commercial & organic feed for all livestock. I get no-GMO no-SOY organic because studies are showing GMOs and soy interferes with livestock reproductive cycles (egg-laying too) so my no-SOY layer feed is low in protein – we supplement w/ meats, mealworms, yogurts, fish, seeds.

        We feed 2x/day – mornings when hungry they get moistened layer feed w/ quinoa, wheat, pumpkin seeds, popcorn, & oats. My blender gets a workout! The Silkies aren’t keen on dry feed so moisten it for them & the larger hens don’t mind. The egg-layers free-will the Oyster Shell heartily – we scatter some Shell around the container for the Silkies who prefer eating that way. All get fresh fruit or chopped produce. The Ameraucana gets shrimp & sweet potatoes & others get their meats. All get shelled sunflower seeds. Lastly, cooked rice w/ Brewers Yeast, fresh corn, bread crumbs or cooked pasta. Evenings they glean remains of the dishes & we hand-feed raisins as treats. All grain & leftovers are removed to deter night critters.

        We noticed each hen doesn’t eat a lot of one food, i.e, one tiny Fancy Feast can of fish will satisfy a total of 4 hens. They start out in a feeding frenzy & the 4 get full by the time we get to the bottom of one tiny can. Same with fresh meats or eggs in the same quantity.

        So much fun learning about our flock. Maybe we’ll go simple next time with just one breed & make life simple – NOT! Love too many breeds to limit us to one – LOL – Smiles 🙂

  33. Hi Lisa Lynn,

    So Calif weather is so warm the ladies not moulting haven’t missed a beat laying! Weird to be getting eggs when most states above the CA line are having major storms.

    Our APA Ameraucana is so hyper she keeps cracking her eggs. She’s not eating them – she layed a soft-shell and could easily have eaten it but only seems to be damaging some eggs with those big skittish feet of hers. So, we have to rescue the egg the moment we hear it hit the nestbox before she steps or pokes a toenail on it.

    We doubled the straw in the boxes hoping to cushion them more but the hens all throw the straw out of the way to drop the egg on a hard surface – makes no sense! Good thing the hen-cage is at our back door to hear the hens fussing around to lay so we can rescue the eggs. Since we’ve been doing this, no more hairline cracks.

    An angled nestbox bottom would be ideal so the eggs can roll out of the way of a large-bodied hen but our nestboxes are pre-built into the coop plan so unfortunately can’t accommodate adding such a system.

    Have a Great New Year!

    1. Hi Sylvester,
      That’s great that you are getting good production! Are the shells hard enough? If they aren’t very hard, you might want to give them a little pan of oyster shell on the side, crush and feed the egg shells back to them, or find another way to increase their calcium intake. I’ve had some issues with the shells being thin and they don’t like to eat the oyster shell. But they will usually eat the old egg shells. 🙂

      Best wishes for a Happy 2014!

      1. Hi Lisa Lynn

        The Ameraucana pullet’s 3rd egg was the soft-shell. She consumes lots of Oyster Shell. Guess the one soft-shell was a fluke, We’re not having any problems now – TG! She never scratched for egg shells in the garden bed and never liked boiled egg which she ignored as a chick unlike our Buff Leghorn who goes wild for egg.

        The Ameraucana history was bred on sea coast foods, South American grains and sweet potatoes and she picks shrimp, oyster shell, fish, etc over any other kind of food and basically is the only one to indulge in the cooked sweet potatoes. All our chickens love proteins but the crustaceans send her into a frenzy. On the other hand my Silkies with Asian bred history go totally nuts for rice – they can smell it coming from across the yard. Maybe coincidence but I’m noticing a correlation between breed history and the type of foods they prefer. Our Mediterranean White Leghorn was the only one to eat fresh tomatoes or cooked spaghetti. To this day no other hen eats fresh tomatoes since she’s been re-homed.

        My Silkies love scratching for crushed toasted egg shells out of my garden beds at the end of harvest – LOL! A blogger I read last year said she didn’t like giving crushed egg shells back to her hens because of the “diminished returns” syndrome – but I don’t mind the Silkies having fun scratching for the old shells that never quite broke down into the garden soil! Tomatoes are high calcium feeders and love the crushed shells in the soil too.

      2. Hi Sylvester,
        Very interesting correlation between feed preferences and area of origin…never thought of that possible link before. 🙂 Sometime there is just a fluke and the eggs aren’t all soft…glad that’s the situation.

        I’ll try sharing this on here again…this is the link for the acidified copper sulfate. Highlight the address and copy, then paste it into the url field on your browser then hit enter. Hopefully it will take you right to the page…

        If that doesn’t work, go to a search engine, such as Google and type in efowl acidified copper sulfate. They should come up with the website that I found. Best wishes!

      1. Nope – no email re acidified copper. Found a couple Self-Sufficient emails in the spam folder so maybe it got sent to limbo land as my spam folder doesn’t keep spam for long before I realize something important might’ve been in it! I ‘ve told my spam to allow you but everytime the darn thing updates something techy goofs up. Thanx 4 trying!

  34. But I like turkeys, Sylvester! They taste so good 😉 Well, I really didn’t need 17 of them, though. I just have a little trouble controlling myself when I decide I’m going to go for it, why not go big?! lol 🙂

    So glad you are enjoying reading here! I’m finding all the history of breeds interesting. Now if my history teacher could have taught us the history of western civilization through the development of chicken breeds, I would have been very interested!

    Thanks for the info on Ivermectin. I’ve heard of it but haven’t used it. I think the acidified copper sulfate can be used and eggs can be safely eaten, but not sure about the Ivermectin. Will have to check into that.

    Have a great Thanksgiving! Enjoy your turkey…hope it’s not a bantam. 🙂

    1. Hi Lisa Lynn,

      17 Turkeys? What does that turn out to be? 4 turkeys per person per year in a family of 4 with 1 turkey to spare? Of course, with bantam turkeys that wouldn’t be too much 😀 !

      We only like white meat so the last 4 years we’ve chosen turkey breast with wings and bone-in without the rear-end dark meat carcass. Buying just the breast may cost more but in the end the price yields about the same amount of edible meat. We don’t cook a whole bird so don’t have to keep a decaying carcass until city trash day. I tried boiling the carcass to make broth but it isn’t tasty because all the juices have been roasted out of it.

      Our 5 hens went into an Autumn laying lull so I took advantage of it and treated them all at once with Ivermectin. Easy to coordinate treatments when there’s only 5. For a big flock rotate a few hens at a time to treat. My friend rotates her 16 hens a few at a time because she relies on eggs for sales.

      My Silkie had an antibiotic injection with follow-up Tylan for 10 days. She laid 4 only eggs during that time so we just tossed them. But yes, toss 7 eggs after an Ivermectin or antibiotic treatment. Ivermectin is a thorough way to treat for worms and there’s no guesswork as you know which bird is treated and that she received the exact dose. No guesswork about whether she drank enough medicinal treatment in water because some birds will drink more and some not enough. Plus, Ivermectin covers nearly every parasitic worm contracted by fowl.

      I love being organic and don’t like antibiotics but there are times when being humane outweighs my “druthers.” Gapeworm is probably the most dangerous worm – it strangles a hen’s trachea. My vet was concerned about my Silkie’s breathing problems but couldn’t see a tracheal obstruction or parasites. But once he knew she had been treated with Ivermectin 3 weeks prior, it confirmed his diagnosis as bacterial and not parasitic and glad I used Ivermectin which he confirmed was excellent.

      Parasites get introduced to a healthy flock through wild birds. So I incorporated Ivermectin into my hens’ health regimen. I do 2x a year but I’ve read owners of large flocks will do 4x a year because their livelihoods rely on healthy fowl. Can’t treat just one time. The infected wild birds keep coming back and so do the parasites they keep bringing – worms, lice, mites, etc! Though very expensive for me I use Poultry Protector (organic brand) to spray my 5 hens on the recommended parts of their body plus all the crevices of their cleaned-out nestboxes before putting in new straw – for external parasite prevention. 1x a month they get nail pedicures and a Vitamin A&D ointment, or Vitamin E oil, foot massages for scaly mite prevention plus it softens the scales on their feet and they look like young pullets again! The vet said to massage their combs, wattles, and ear lobes with Vitamin E oil as it fights dryness and replaces necessary skin oils (healthier than plain petroleum jelly). My girls love the treatments and stay pretty still as it must feel really good to them! We treat at night after roost time when they’re calm and the oils have time to penetrate their skin before they free range the yard the next morning. My friend can’t afford a big expense for her larger flock and uses olive oil which also is excellent.

      Your history story is funny. Schools are getting so weird about their instruction that they want to look politically correct and order textbooks that portray the signers of the Constitution as gay including President George Washington. I mean, fine if gay is someone’s choice, but if religion is banned in education than so should the opposite beliefs of gay/lesbianism. Both should be banned if one of them is – just fair IMO. I mean, teach instead about the rare Dorkings, the oldest recorded domestic chicken breed, introduced into England by the Roman invasion of 43 A.D. Or how Marco Polo in the 13th century wrote about a Chinese fowl with fur called Silkie. Then there’s the Ken Burns Wild West series which interestingly reveals how horses got indirectly introduced into North America by the abandoned Coronado expeditions. And how the multiplying wild herds became sources of power and wealth to native American nations.

      I love that my friend was able to home-school her 5 kids. One was in college by age 15 !

      A lot of friends are going vegetarian and we haven’t eaten beef ourselves in years. This just could be our last turkey feast – NOT! We don’t eat beef and it’s getting harder to eat chicken since we got our girls but those bantam turkeys are too delicious to pass up LOL!


      1. Hi Sylvester,
        I thought I replied to this…not sure what happened! Well, I raised enough turkeys for our family for 2 years. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to raise them this year, so I wanted one each for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I also raised turkeys for friends who joined a turkey co-op…that’s where all the extra turkeys went. 🙂
        Thanks for the info on the Ivermectin. I’m hoping not to need it, since I would have to throw away so many eggs. But it’s good to know if I do need it. In the mean time the acidified copper sulfate has worked very well and I don’t have to throw those eggs away.

        I hope you enjoyed your turkey dinner! Have a great day!

      2. Hi Lisa Lynn,

        Fantastic! A Co-op! How nice to have one!

        Just to save me a little research time, where do you obtain the acidified copper sulfate for your flocks and do you use it on all fowl or just chickens?

        Thanks 😀

      3. Here is a link to a company that sells if for a reasonable amount…

        I have read that you can use it on turkeys and ducks, but I haven’t tried it on turkeys yet. My ducks haven’t had a problem with it.

  35. Hey Sylvester,
    Thanks for the site suggestion…I’ll have to look them up. I have been using Henderson’s breed chart, put out by Cornell University, I believe. It shows how many eggs and what size to expect from a breed as well as their broodiness levels and tolerance for cold and heat. It has been a great reference tool. You may have seen it already. 🙂

    I don’t have any more White Leghorns now. 🙁 I think my goal for the next 6 months will be to reduce the size of my flock a bit so that I might be able to keep turkeys next year. I had turkeys last year and really enjoyed them. I like to raise my own meat and after the holidays this year I will be out of the turkeys that I raised last year. We’ll see how this plan progresses…somehow my plans have a way of evolving into completely new plans!


    1. Hi Lisa Lynn,

      How fun – turkeys! I once asked a breeder for a bantam and she offered me a turkey! Last time I looked, turkeys are not bantams LOL. I envy your ability and room to raise them!

      I heard that it wasn’t safe for turkeys to free range an area used before by chickens – or vice versa? Something about some disease? On the farm Mom kept ducks and geese around chickens but never had turkeys and now she’s not around to ask why.

      Henderson’s Breed Chart is a fun reference but limited (50-60 breeds briefly covered). From what it says about updating, there haven’t been additions in a couple years. is fun to see what a breed looks like but they’re not thorough on details of some rare breeds on their site.

      I won’t get Turken after all. The fowl used to get naked neck was Madagascar Game fowl – not a natural chicken breed. Detailed genetic info by BuckGuy20 on covers a lot – he posted a pic of a stuffed Madagascar Game fowl from a Northern France museum. I prefer landrace chickens that have the good sense to breed with their own. Man’s purposeful cross breeding with game fowl IMHO is so different as to not be the same species. Birds left alone and not force-bred know how to breed correctly. Had an English Budgie who wouldn’t let our amorous Cockatiel crossmate when he wanted to mount her! They know.

      Ameraucanas and Araucanas were created naturally from South American landrace breeds. From research, there’s no game bird like Malay or Madagascar crosses – just smaller chicken-types like Olmec, Rapuni, Colloncas, etc. Some other landrace breeds are Hedemoras, Icelandics, Swedish Flower Hens, and Olandsk Dwarfs. These landrace birds evolved through natural selection and only the hardiest survived their geography. My favourite is the Swedish Flower Hens who are so curious they follow you around their pen as you walk (youtube from Greenfire Farms – very cute). All these landraces are readily available in USA now.

      Nearly all breeds created for both meat and huge eggs had Leghorn or Dominique bred into them for increased egg production. IMO why not get the direct heritage breed that is the prolific layer from the start – the unaltered White Leghorn, Dominique, Silkie (not a bad layer for a bantam), Java, Light Sussex, Light Brahma, etc. These breeds have been heritage for centuries. I wouldn’t mix all in one flock but would choose selectively.

      For meat birds that still produce many eggs, breeders have mixed Game fowl into chicken genetics for meat, and Leghorn or Dominique for increased egg production. Bingo! Cream Legbar, RIR, New Hampshire, Delaware, Buckeye, Cornish Game, Barred Rock, Jersey Giant, Cornish X, Chanteclers, American Hollands, Jaerhons, Ambers, California Grey, or Sexlinks to name a very very few.

      I love birds, all birds, and their adorable antics. There are sweet ones, aggressive ones, tall ones, small ones, pretty ones, ugly ones, purebreeds, mutts, etc. Just decided for my layer breeds to go with unaltered/ non-reconstituted breeds – Leghorn, Dominique, Java, Silkie, Light Brahma, EE, Ameraucana, Araucana, and Light Sussex all look to be the only choices for me. Exchequers are a sport from the White Leghorn and not created; however they’re reported to be delicate as chicks..

      Mantes, Orloffs, Pavlovskaya, and Chaams are some reconstituted breeds brought back from extinction through genetic studies but are not the original saved breed. I think it’s interesting how they can make an extinct breed a reconstituted bird when the original breed is extinct. I’d like to see them recreate the extinct Dodo bird or Pterodactyl – LOL.

      Had so much fun on this blog! Talking with you has caused me to research more and I’ve altered some of my plans as well! Thank you.

      1. Hi Sylvester,
        Wow! I guess you have been doing your research! That’s a lot to take in at one gander 🙂

        Bantam turkeys sounds like a great breeding project…I bet there would be some urban and suburban poultry enthusiasts who would be very interested in a bantam turkey! 😉

        It is true that chickens can have a parasite that carries a disease that causes blackhead in turkeys. I haven’t kept them together before, but if I were to keep a small flock of Turkeys, I probably would have to keep them in the same coop…unless I add another coop to our small property. I have read that treating your chickens with copper sulfate as a worm preventative will reduce the chances of this disease to almost nil. That was my plan. We’ll see if I actually implement those plans. 🙂 It’s all a learning process and I’m always interested in learning more. The biggest issue is that I usually learn by making mistakes!

        Thanks for all the info…I have to read up more on these breeds! 🙂

      2. Hi Lisa Lynn,

        Glad you are knowledgeable on all your poultry breeds! Thanks for the info on the turkeys. For your personal needs you probably won’t need to raise more than 2 to 4 turkeys for the freezer since they take so much room to raise – you’ve got plenty of chickens to use for meat throughout your year. I love talking to people to share but mainly to learn from their experiences even more. Your individual forum has been more helpful than you can imagine!

        I went the route to learn but some subjects just suddenly stop. However I found a BackyardChickens thread about the special diet Ameraucana/ Araucana/ EEs need beyond a typical layer diet because of what the islander people had available for feeding these evolved breeds. These breeds have by natural selection survived on crustaceous diets, quinoa, sweet potatoes, turmeric, etc. Now I know why my Ameraucana breeder told me to feed a lot of certain types of proteins to the juveniles when she shipped them to me – she just never explained why. Another BYC thread said to feed sunflower seeds only in the fall and winter to EEs/Ams/Aurs but never answered the question why?

        EE/Amers/Aurs – history goes back thousands of years because of Micronesian/ Indonesian populaces breeding them from various junglefowl which ultimately led to migration to South America and crossbreeding with European chickens in the last few centuries. These birds are the most landrace type of breeds around with history going back not centuries but millennia. I think Dorkings are the other longest history known.

        Unfortunately keeping parasitic wild birds out of a yard is impossible. For control, i’ve heard about copper sulfate as a worm preventative. I asked my Buff Leghorn and Ameraucana breeder and she uses Ivermectin. It’s for horses but dosage for chickens is by weight. I administer it twice a year (not orally but under wings on skin – one drop per each pound of chicken’s weight). My vet said it was excellent which was a surprise since the medicine is approved only for equines. $7 for the paste tube – for 5 chickens I’ll never use it up. I add ground shell-less pumpkin seeds into the feed as a natural wormer. I never tried the garlic water treatment method or the ACV method yet.

    2. Hi Lisa Lynn,

      Recently went to Henderson’s Breed Chart and after this Spring it’s no longer going to post on Cornell University but has a link to it’s new site – you may want to visit the new site to bookmark for future reference?

      I also emailed Mr. Henderson that Silkies are the largest USA bantam and lay “small” rather than “tiny” eggs as his chart had specified. He said he had no experience w/ bantams and was glad for any input re: Silkies. With all the new European breeds Greenfire Farms is importing for USA distribution Mr. Henderson may be needing to expand his breed chart soon LOL!

      1. Thanks for the info, Sylvester! I’ll have to check out their new site and update any links I shared. 🙂 Thanks for answering Sel’s questions about the chili powder too! I order from Frontier Herbs and I’m going to try getting a pound of this to add to my chickens feed.

        I haven’t had any experience with bantams or Silkies. Well, I take that back. I had one bantam Silky that came with some mixed birds I bought off of Craiglist and the poor little thing was so sickly I ended up putting her down. 🙁 I tried antibiotics and worming, giving her feed by herself in a warmer room…nothing helped.

        It’s always good to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by! I think I might need to change my settings so that there can me more than 5 comments in a thread…we seem to be using them all up pretty quickly. 😉

        Have a great day!

  36. Hi Lisa Lynn -This might be a duplicate reply as my computer wiped out my previous reply LOL!

    Great Dad to help out! On the farm, we had to invite relatives and made a day of processing chickens and geese for the deep-freezer. Young Cornish X chicken feet are tender and don’t require long boiling but old chickens or cockerel feet take a bit longer to cook to tenderize for slipping the little bones out of the cooked feet.

    There are so many adorable Turkens – there’s even Turken (Show Girl) Silkies! Popular consensus from Turken owners is that they are a great breed. Too bad the regular size are too big for my little flock now.

    I read about Colonial parks with Dominiques free-ranging. The hardiest of the colonial Doms that survived disease, predation, or the cooking pot, were a better stock than the recently recovered 1970s Doms. The Doms almost went out of existence because of newer Asiatic or show breeds. The Dom was the founding stock of the created Barred Rocks which also had game bird infused in them to make them bigger than the Doms. However, I shy away from any breed with game bird or Malay background because its a gamble whether an individual hen’s latent aggressive game bird gene will show up. Whereas Doms have remained unaltered for centuries and breeders are preserving its integrity today.

    So-o-o very sorry about your 2 hens! Were they the same breed? A female Cooper’s Hawk kept watching our girls. I set up a bird feeder and now she goes after the feeding Mourning Doves in flight and leaves my ground hens alone.

    Marans don’t always lay dark eggs and they are an aggressive breed. They’re ok with humans but with smaller breeds they nip and chase and fight for no reason. They are lazy foragers but love to eat your feed. 3 of us chicken owners avoid them now. Talked to a Welsum owner who said his eggs are as dark as most Marans but the Wellies are active foragers and better tempered.

    My usually sweet gentle 4-year alpha Leghorn has escalated an aggressiveness toward her flockmates right after her Sept-Oct moult. She chases hens away from all the feeders but doesn’t eat the food herself. She rousts everyone off their roosts in the evenings. She chases and nips hens in the nestboxes even though she isn’t laying an egg herself. She pecks on the heads of the gentle Silkies. She disturbs and terrorizes dust-bathing hens. I had a Marans re-homed for the same issues and tomorrow the Leg is being re-homed to a flock of larger hens. Sad because we loved her for her humane tenure as alpha leader and her gorgeous XL eggs! But it’s best to re-home or cull a problem hen before she causes injury or worse. From experience we know the situation won’t change so swiftly we are removing her to preserve peace in the flock. She is the most intelligent alert breed we ever had and was the yard watchdog chasing away stray cats and alerting to flying predators. We will miss her and wonder which of the remaining girls will be able fill her place as humanely as she did for nearly 4 years.

    1. Hi Sylvester,
      The history of the Dominique breed is very interesting…I love to learn more about the breeds I keep or am interested in keeping. 🙂 Because I have such a large flock, the dynamics are different. There are a few hens that are a bit aggressive and chase the younger, smaller hens away from the feed or treats. But they all seem to work it out among themselves without too many problems. Welsummers are another breed I’ve always been interested in. 🙂

      The 2 hens that were killed were a White Leghorn pullet who had just started laying and a Red sex link hen that was about 18 months old.

      I’m sorry to hear that you have a hen that is disrupting the peace of your flock. I wonder why the change in temperament? I haven’t had any chickens that started acting like that. It makes you wonder what is going through those little chicken brains! Are you planning to replace her?

      PS: Thanks for the tip on the chicken feet. 🙂

      1. Hi Lisa Lynn, I am devastated about you losing the Leghorn and the Sex-link – they are both such wonderful layers and young that you would’ve had a lot more years service from them. We once had a German Shepherd break into our yard with another fluffy stray but luckily the chicken wire and coop held up but not before they did a lot of damage to it! Can’t owners be responsible for their animals who are pets in their own yard but vicious predators in mine!

        Our White Leg re-homed to a flock of similar sized hens. My friend said the Leg would enter lower on the pecking order and can’t disturb it much plus she wants those XL eggs our Leg lays! For a replacement I am asking another friend for an EE because I know her EEs are sweet tempered and she’s raised them from her own laying hen’s fertile eggs. If she has only mixed breeds left, I’ll wait until Spring for a Dom hatchery chick from the feed store. Apparently Dom is a popular breed that he keeps in stock – a lightweight brown egg layer that doesn’t lay dangerously oversized eggs for her breed size (one reason I stay away from Sexlinks who exhaust themselves laying frequent huge eggs by year two). My friend’s Sexlink went egg bound after her first moult and she was in horrible pain. Egg problems can happen to any breed but the Sexlinks seem to have more issues than I personally care to deal with – very sweet birds though.

        Love the Welsum’s too but will wait til my Silkies go to Chick Heaven before I add 6-lb layers to my gentle flock. I briefly entertained Cream Legbar and Blue Isbar for their blue and mint eggs but I discovered they are a bit bigger, more independent, and more aggressive than the sweet EEs and Ameraucanas. said they got an Ameraucana flock because they are known to accept other orphaned or injured breeds willingly into their flock. That was good enough info for me!

        Love your blog!

      2. Thanks so much for your kind words, Sylvester! I appreciate it. I really enjoy my EEs and Ameraucanas. They are wonderful birds. I’ve considered keeping a flock of just those, but I have trouble sticking with just one kind. 🙂 Thanks for reading and sharing…it means more than you know!

      3. Hi Lisa Lynn, Ditto on the kind responses!

        I was mistaken about the – it should be that talks about their different breeds.

        Many owners love their Ameraucanas and EEs but Our Fly Babies went a step further to explain why. Just saying a breed is great doesn’t help the rest of us understand exactly why. So I can make an informed decision on the breeds I ultimately select, talking with a breeder and other owners is what gave me the knowledge for an informed decision about getting Ameraucana and Dominique.

        I love Leghorns because we had them on the farm for years – alert, intelligent to the point of learning voice and hand commands, usually gentle, mind their own business, not broody, large eggs, good feed conversion, and so much more. Being white is not a deterrent for camouflage as the breed is so alert it usually escapes predation unless challenging a predator which is not unusual for brave Leg hens.

  37. Hey Sylvester,
    Cooking the feet down for the hens is a great idea! I just processed 7 chickens today with my Dad’s help. I’ll have to try that.

    I think you would like the Turkens, if you could get one someday. They are pretty lively and non-aggressive. I have 5 of them and they are fun to watch. 🙂

    Sorry about your Dominique…they are lovely birds to see. I went to a fort that had been recreated to look like it did during the Blackhawk wars (happened nearby) and they had a small flock and said that they were better at foraging and were more wary of predators. I think I need that! I just lost 2 hens this morning. 🙁

    I’d love a Maran for the dark eggs. But I’m not sure when I will be adding new blood to my flock. I’m sure you’ll hear about it if I do!

    I think my freezers are all pretty much filled to capacity now!

  38. Hi Sylvester,
    I have 7 more meat birds to go in the freezer…tomorrow is D-day for them. I have 18 mixed breed youngsters, about 2 months old. The roosters will be made into soup and the pullets will be saved for replacement layers. I have one adult rooster and 26 hens and point of lay pullets. Right now I am leaning toward just hatching out my own replacements from my mixed breed flock. It’s fun to see all of the colors and different combs. Plus I have some Turkens in my flock and quite a few of the youngsters are obviously from their eggs. So they are some pretty weird looking little things. 🙂

    I’ve always thought I’d like some Dominiques. But then there aren’t too many breeds that I don’t want, lol! My Orpingtons have always been such mild mannered ladies, I was surprised to hear that you’ve had some pushy ones.

    Thanks for sharing! It’s fun to hear what other chicken keepers are up to. 🙂

    1. Awww! Turkens! Another type I would have loved to try! So many owners swear by them as being good layers, non-aggressive, and easy to process with less feathers. Must be fun finding all those new chickies!

      My friend had to process her Easter Egger “pullet” last week who started crowing! She also processed 6 Cornish Xs and didn’t know what to do with all the feet. I cooked, de-boned, and fed the gelatinous flesh to my hens who went nuts for the extra protein! I also hard cook eggs (unfertilized) and chop em up for extra protein for the hens when they occasionally lay more than we can use.

      Orpingtons, Australorps, and Marans are all probably great in a large breed flock. I know people love their Orps, Lorps, and Marans but we haven’t had a good experience adding them to a mixed flock and prefer lightweight, friendlier, rather than aggressive chicks. This limited us to Leghorns, Ameraucanas, Easter Eggers, and Dominiques as the gentlest lightweight – yet prolific – layers especially if bantams are present. We still get a colorful egg basket, better feed-to-egg ratio, and a quieter flock. Sadly lost my Dominique who was a feed store’s end-of-season hatchery chick. In the short time we had her, we fell in LOVE with her outgoing personality. Best temperament of any chick we’ve EVER had and will go with a Dom again. Since Doms, like Leghorns, EEs, and Ameraucanas, are smaller and gentler, I wouldn’t recommend integrating them into a flock of heavier fowl to avoid getting bullied.

      None of our breeds classify as meat fowl but then this subject is about laying hens and in that area our gentle ladies excel. Though not classified for meat, my friend’s processed Easter Egger cockerel was as big as her Cornish Xs so he still will make a nice soup. My friend’s sexlink hybrids seem to have more problems than the heritage breeds as far as laying – either the eggs are hugely oversized double yolkers or mis-shapened or the hens have problems laying soft shells after a moult even though they have at-will calcium, layer feed, and greens available. It’s been our flukey experience that the heritage breeds overall have had less laying problems.

      Pack that freezer, Lisa Lynn – I envy your ability to be able to do so – LOL !

  39. LOVE this blog! So much good info and experience. Every situation and backyard is different so appreciate ALL the info. Hens love all kinds of peppers (including the plant leaves!) so we feed our hens red chili pepper seeds occasionally as treats whether they lay or not. My friend has both production hybrid and heritage as layers. However, noticed every couple years they have to change out the production girls who get spent by year two. I’ve had RIR and White Leghorns and both are good layers. However, for small feed-to-egg conversion the Leghorn has been our family’s favorite. Plus, the Legs can lay very well into their 5th-6th year and beyond. Keep her healthy and nutritionally supplemented and she gives years of service. Just remember that normally layers produce 20% less each year of their laying lives no matter what breed is chosen as layers. We like keeping the old hens around to keep a balanced temperament flock and Leghorns fit that criteria of minding their own business, are active foragers, continue giving an occasional egg, and can humanely and non-aggressively defend their position in flock politics. We don’t keep any breed weighing more than 5-lb to avoid bullying and to keep feed costs down. We figured with our initial backyard flock setup we spend $10 per/dozen eggs produced so making money or breaking even is not our goal. But the initial setup cost less than buying one purebred dog that can cost up to $1,000 per/year or more in breeder costs, yearly immunizations, veterinary costs, licensing fees, adequate housing/fencing, feed, and noise factor. The hens cost a lot less than a purebred dog, plus they don’t bark at night and their fertilizer is gold for the backyard lawn not to mention bug control! Plus they reward you with those beautiful organic eggs. Get a cuddly breed like a Silkie and you have a lap pet as good as a puppy although our Leghorns think they are lap dogs too – Smiles 😀

    1. Hi Sylvester,
      I’ve had White Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds and they are great birds. 🙂 I like your approach and can understand your comparison to keeping a pet dog! I guess I tend to think of the economics of keeping chickens somewhat, although I know I spend more on eggs and chicken than I would if I bought it. But I like knowing that mine are organically and humanely raised. Enjoy those fluffy ladies of yours!

      1. Thanks, Lisa Lynn! We do LOVE our girls and it’s so hard to keep to the 5 hen limit in the ordnance so we are very careful to research flock integration of different breeds – good temperaments, lightweight breeds to minimize bullying, plus are decent layers. Found that for bantams, the Silkies are probably the best all-round good-size egg layers once you find a gentle method to break their broody periods – but then, nearly every bantam breed is broody. We found the prolific lightweight Leghorns and Ameraucanas are good integrated breeds in almost any flock mix – plus they fit the pet factor for us.

      2. Hey Sylvester,
        I bet it’s tough :> I have trouble keeping it under 50! I’m trying to get my numbers back down into the 20-30 range, but the girls just went gangbusters with the eggs again, so not too much culling going on.
        I have one White Leghorn right now and she is laying pretty well. I’ve always had good luck with them and Ameraucana (I have 3 and one is 3 years old and is the only one I know needs to be culled).
        I think my favorites are Rhode Island Red, White Leghorn, Ameraucanas, Black Australorps, and Buff Orpingtons. I’ve never had silkies…but they sure are cute. 🙂
        Thanks for sharing!

      3. 50! Thought I had MY hands full! So sad one of your Ameraucanas needs culling – 3 years doesn’t seem that old? Your layers are good breeds but I personally don’t care for Buff Orps as chicks – side by side w/ Leghorn chicks they are more aggressive than mind-their-own-business Leg chicks. My friend’s Orp adult layer is a bit pushy too – she should be w/ her own breed rather than a mixed flock. Another lightweight brown egg that has recently impressed me is the Dominique – small like the Legs but a better temperament than the large Barred Rocks, superb forager, good feed-egg ratio, and non-pushy as chicks. We will get a Dom again in future. Yes, Silkies are cute. They are one of the largest and lay the biggest egg of the bantam breeds. They lay up to 6 eggs/week. Allow 2-3 weeks for them to get back to laying after a broody session. All bantam breeds are determined broodies which lowers yearly egg numbers but make great surrogate setters/moms. Silkie bantams are hardy free-rangers. However, keep their furry bodies out of heavy rains/mud – which is not a problem for us in sunny Southern California – hence we have the luxury of having two of the fluffies in our flock! I reserve recommending any bantams in general other than to preserve a heritage breed or as pets. Like it or not bantams do require a bit more watching and upkeep than LF..

      4. I have my chickens because I enjoy them. Yep I am eating some of the most expensive eggs ever, but I know where they came from and enjoy taking care of my girls and rooster.

  40. I’m about to get my first laying hens as an adult (we always had them when I was a kid), and stumbled on this article while looking for ideal laying conditions. Great article here and thanks for posting this.

  41. A friend who had a garden stand selling eggs told me about an out of state visitor she talked to one day. He asked if she knew how to keep the chickens consistently laying when they were at that age and not old. In California the commercial growers give their chickens hot pepper powder. So, my friend decided she would try it. Her first source was just her bulk jar of chili powder. She thought “Why not give it a try?” That worked! Since that time I’ve passed this tip onto other country people and every one said it worked great. Hubby and I no longer farm but once a country person, always a country person. Best of luck to you. We were there 45 years ago and raised 4 children. Great blessed life!

    1. Hi Nancy,
      I never heard that before, but it sounds like a great idea to try 🙂 Thanks so much for the suggestion, and for stopping by to visit! It sounds like you have enjoyed living on the farm! Best wishes!

    2. this is interesting, i must ask how often you included the chili powder in the food….
      did you notice if this made a difference in the egg yolk color? Also how much
      chili powder did you add? thank you,

      1. Hi Sel,

        We have 4 hens in our backyard. My DH will sprinkle Red Chili Pepper flakes (the kind that goes on top of pizza) on top of their fresh food that he special mixes for them every day. We don’t rely on baked dry organic layer crumbles for much nutrition. Some days he puts flakes into their free-range wild bird mix that he scatters as scratch or puts in a dish for at-will eating. I have an Ameraucana that likes my Bell Pepper and Jalapeno plants to pull off leaves to eat – she is our Latina from South American origin – loves corn, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, crustaceans, fish, and whole quinoa and other whole grains! We never tried the chili in powder form as the hens can’t pick around it the way they can the flakes. In flake form they eat it if they want which is usually always! As for yolk colors, our chickens eat so much beta-carotene rich foods and natural yard growth that I couldn’t testify that chili flakes make any contribution but the chickens love to eat them anyway. We have one Silkie that gets excited eating our fresh aromatic garden Bell Pepper seeds off the fruit of the vine. We tried feeding her store-bought Bell Pepper seeds but she turns up her nose at store-bought LOL!

      2. thank you for your kind info. i have 50 hens, i do feed organic and i use a wild bird mix with a higher protein then that ‘other’ stuff. i mix as well, seeds, oyster shells, fish oil…and a wonderful
        scratch i found that has fish along with many seeds. when one opens the sack the fish odor comes out strongly. The hens do get quite a bit of organic free range. Yes, they love to pick off all the veggies…that is why i plant extras. really, these veggies are for them.

        It would be interesting to know what kind of mix you combine, if you don’t mind sharing. Where are you guys located? i am in Calif.

        When the Aurac and EE hens begin to lay, they dutifully continue til the eggs are exhausted.
        The they go into a few months rest period. Of which is fine. I need to go through some of the hens soon, since they are older and laying is getting sparse. We don’t have the heart to eat them, so i have them all sold. This couple will cull them. I have the french marans…we call them chocolates.
        Due to their egg shell color. One thing about the taste of their eggs, richer and yolks the color of
        orange juice. These hens are so personable. Their walk and manners are so French.

        Hope to hear more from you….thank you, Sel

      3. Hi Sel: Yep we’re in So CA also.

        Sounds like you are doing a great job w/ your feed and variety diet. We mix whatever we have on hand w/ several at-will feeders w/ different contents around the yard and keep a garden with lots of peppers and cukes just for the girls. If you read all my 20 or more Sylvester017 posts on this Laying Hens site you’ll get an idea of why, how, and what we feed the girls. We have 3 different breeds w/ different nutritional requirements. If after reading all my posts on this Laying Hens blog site haven’t answered your questions, let me know; otherwise I have a tendency to get too wordy LOL!

        Lisa Lynn has been a great help too. Sometimes we need to compare other’s experiences to know if we’re on an acceptable path w/ our own flock methods. Some people advise against feeding whole grains (i.e. wheat,etc) to chickens while others advise for it. We’ve been feeding whole grains like oats, quinoa, wheat, fresh corn, flax, seeds, etc, at-will and like my farmer folks used to say, “Chickens will eat what their bodies need.” One blogger I read said he wasn’t sure his chickens had the good sense to eat what they needed as his flock ate a styrofoam block in his backyard! Another blogger answered him not to worry – that the chickens had fun and the styrofoam would come out in the same form it went in! I never laughed so hard over a blog before!

        Also you’ll note we had a Marans we had to give away because she did not blend w/ our lighter weight girls. She was a bit indifferent to human attention, was a lazy forager, expensive appetite, sporadic layer for a new pullet, and pushy in the flock, so we don’t keep any hens over 5 lbs now.

        Marans would be a breed kept together well but not in a mixed flock in my small flock experience. So nice that you can keep Marans and I’m jealous LOL! Maybe someday in future I can dedicate space to just Marans or just Welsummers for the dark eggs but at the moment my needs are to keep gentle tempered smaller LF in a somewhat small backyard space. I have to plan everything around 2 Silkies and those little girls can live 10-12 years! If they weren’t so endearing and give such large eggs for bantams, I wouldn’t keep them. They are one hardy breed to own and make the other two LF look lazy!

      4. Hi there, about the Marans….we have loved having them in our flock.and with no problems from the other girls…here is the thing,
        As with humans, animals do make their way….they are smart enough
        to realize to stay away from the bullies, and associate with the
        personalities they get along with. Perhaps, you had a ‘bully’ maran?
        sooner or later, she will collide with another bigger bully.

        Never had any of the girls fight to the point of injury or death, all
        we know is this…animals are so much like humans…same type of problems and same diverse different personalities….

        The saying…’birds of a feather’ holds true. Give the marans another
        chance. i think you will be glad you did….

        Wanted to mention, the girls have kept up with the laying this winter pretty well. Considering all the stigma related to egg laying.
        I did up their protein value, and with no repercussions. Of course
        we found the fish oil in the food is exceptional for their health and
        sunny disposition besides the flavor…

      5. Hi Sel, thank you for the Marans input. We’ve re-homed her months ago to a friend who uses her eggs for sales. She was 7 lbs & jumped on the back of a Silkie pullet digging her claws into the back of the under 2-lb bird who was practically screaming. Marans was re-homed that day! But the new owner says she is still unpleasant & nips at the gentler independent breeds like the EEs, Ameraucana, & lightweight Leghorns. Just been nasty no matter where she is but my friend puts up w/ it because she has a nasty Marans herself w/ her flock. 3 of us friends have had Marans & we agree that they are not the best to integrate w/ gentler or smaller breeds. Greenfire Farms says of all their Marans, their Wheatens have been their best tempered but we’ll pass. I know people love their Marans but we have experienced a few breeds & Marans will not be in our yard again – she didn’t lay any more prolifically than our Silkies & her eggs were only about golfball-sized. My friends are disappointed in the medium brown egg colors. In my individual preference temperament is more important than egg color. Again thank u 4 the great input!

      6. ohhh…how sad, what a feisty little frenchy…:) and here we are with quite a few in our flock…with no problems. In fact, the Marans are so freindly. Gee, what a shame. We love the choco color of the shell, and the eggs are extra special flavor. Well, sorry to hear….Ours jump on our
        arm when we extend it as a perch. Just goes to show not all are what you describe.
        Hopefully things will change down the road…..sorry to hear…

      7. Yes, it was sad as we had great eggs-pectations. She was ok w/ humans & quite pushy to get to us for treats but that’s because she was such a greedy hen. She was not a good feed-to-egg ratio hen & 3 of us friends have yet to see “chocolate” eggs. She would lay solid medium brown, or med brown w/ large dark speckles or a bunch of little dark speckles, or half the egg was light brown & the other half medium brown – she was all over the page in colors but never did we get a solid chocolate like u see in photos (which cameras I don’t trust because my own camera shades darker & not true to color). And like I wrote before, Marans are ok w/ humans or w/ each other but I wouldn’t mix them w/ gentle/small birds. I learned a valuable lesson about mixing bantams & LF.

      8. so sad, this is the reasons many breeds get a bad resume………yet as i explained to
        you, we have great hens, egg color, beautiful choco. taste, incredible. Do you suppose
        it was a bad breed? this does happen in all breeds of the animal kingdom. No matter
        the reputation and integrity of the so called breeder. At times, inter breeding gives results
        as you point out. Just as humans, personalities predominately have much say. Anyway,
        we are happy with ours, though i don’t breed them. Such a sweet bunch. 🙂

      9. Hi Sel – our Marans was hatched from breeder eggs – must’ve been a bad strain is all I can say. Unless u get a strain from top-notch European lines (some are here in the US) then I wouldn’t bother getting Marans. There are some quality lines but I don’t want the expense to take the chance. I’m happy w/ my sweet flock of 4 girls 4 now – Smiles 🙂

      10. As i thought, breeding these wonderful hens is not a genius, simply precaution
        Explains quite a bit….reading and hearing negative comments about these
        sweeties, always has its reasons……..

      1. Hi Luana Alexander – hot pepper powder is nothing more than ground chili powder sold either in the spice aisle at the grocery store or sometimes in bulkier cellophane packaging. And it can be any kind of red hot pepper. We use the red pepper in flake form (the kind you sprinkle on top of pizzas in the fast food restaurants). The red pepper flakes are also sold in the spice aisle at the grocers. Hope that helps. Everyone can choose what form they want for their own flock & how often to use it. We don’t use it that much as our girls are pretty good layers and I don’t want to force them to lay MORE – LOL ! I find that a worming regimen 2x/yr & lice preventative treatment w/ organic Poultry Protector keeps the girls healthy, happy, & laying w/o using winter lighting or stimulants. We feed the flakes more as a treat than a stimulant but that’s just me.

  42. I just found your blog while searching for good ideas on turkey butchering for later this fall. I’m very impressed with your content. I do have a question for you…how can you tell which hen has slowed down on her egg laying? Ours share nesting boxes and I have no idea who is laying which egg. They are all in the age of peak production and I’m seeing numbers that would equate to each of them laying 2 out of every 3 days (Speckled Sussex) which I’m happy with. So this question is for the future. Thanks for any insights you may have and keep up the great work!

    1. Hi twinsetjan,
      Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m so glad to have you here! I’m glad you found the butchering article 🙂

      The easiest way to tell if a hen is laying well is to separate her from the flock in a comfy coop of her own. Be sure she has all the food, water, and oyster shell she needs and a nice, clean nesting box. This will likely stress her out a bit, to be separated, but she will lay any eggs that are ‘in the works’ for a few days, allowing you to tell if she is still laying. You can also take note of the size and shape of her eggs…you may be able to identify her eggs from the other hens’ eggs in the future. Then you can keep an egg ‘diary’…to track who has laid each day. I have also read about trap nests…the nesting box is set up so that the hens can go in, but can’t get out. Each day your remove the trapped hens and make notes on which ones are going into the nest box to lay.

      You can also tell if a hen is laying by looking at her comb and wattles. If they are quite red and large, she is in good laying condition. If they are pale and small, she is probably not laying many (if any) eggs. Her abdomen should be large and soft and her vent should also be wide and moist. The Pelvic bones will be wide enough to fit 3 or more fingers between them if the hen is laying. Of course, these indicators will tell you if a hen is laying, but not how well she is laying.

      If you wish to keep the best production, plan to just butcher all hens when they go into their first molt. Have replacements ready to take over when you are expecting this to happen.

      Best wishes!

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