Episode 18: Full Show notes
Hello, I’m Janet Davis and welcome to Food Plus Freedom Podcast. Today is February 2, 2024. Episode 18: Raising Layer Chickens: Facts, Myths, and Reality.
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Now on with the show.
Episode 18: Raising Layer Chickens: Facts, Myths, and Reality. I’m going to give you seven of them.
February kicks off our 2024 Chicken Project. This means you’ll gain lots of information about chickens, recipes, feeding them, meat, eggs, and so much more.
The majority of our updates will be on the website at foodplusfreedom.com/projects. Make sure you head over there and check it out every week. We will also have videos and podcasts with chicken information as well.
Let’s get onto some chicken information.
Some general information for someone who wants to raise chickens or already is and wants more information.
What is a chicken? No, I am not asking you which came first the chicken or the egg, we don’t need to go there. But what is a chicken. The simplest definitions is a chicken is a domesticated bird kept by humans primarily as a food source, except that would be inaccurate because turkeys, ducks, quail are also all birds that have been domesticated for a food source. But they’re not all chickens are they?
So what is a chicken? Chickens are poultry. Chickens are birds that can fly into trees, tops of barns, and onto porches to get away from predators. But can’t fly away so they aren’t caught. To me they look like mini, sweet T-Rex and other dinosaurs from the movies.
According to the USDA chickens are considered livestock. This means that there are different regulations from the federal, state and local areas when it comes to chickens. Under USDA if you have 1 chicken you have livestock, and they want to know about it. Which is another story in it’s entirety.
Let’s get into some Myths, Facts, and realities of chickens Specifically Laying Chickens. I have seven for you today.
1) Myth: You can only raise chickens in the country.
I love this myth. One a lot of people don’t even know about it. First thing you need to know is if you are allowed to raise chickens where you live. Chickens are one of those animals that is very difficult to hide and raise. So you’re not really going to be able to raise them in an apartment. I’m sure you can try, but it will be more difficult. Though I have seen people have pet chickens that wear diapers and funny clothes. None of them are in my group of friends. Here chickens are for meat, eggs, pest control, entertainment, and sometimes warning devices.
However, If you live in a town find out what the law is for having chickens on your property. It may fall under the state, the city, the township, or the county or all of them. You just really need to go check it out. You’ll be surprised how many places allow you to have up to a certain number of hens. In my area it’s six hens. Hens being a female bird. The thought behind this is that hens don’t crow and aren’t loud. Funny, they can be very loud especially when they are laying an egg or are disturbed. Find out what the law does say.
A rooster, or male chicken, does crow. And it’s not like the movies or books where they crow when the sun comes up. Our roosters crow when the sun comes up, after it’s up, and when it’s gone down. Our roosters crow when the hen’s aren’t where he wants them to be, or if there is something out of place to alarm the hens. Our rooster crow basically anytime they want to because they’re rosters. And yes, you can still get eggs from hens even if you don’t have a rooster. A rooster has nothing to do with your hens laying, just with having something to do with your eggs fertilized.
Reality: Chickens smell so if you’re going to raise them in town you’ll need to make sure your coop stays clean. And if you live in hot weather they smell faster. If you’re going to free range your chickens, meaning you’re going to let them run around your yard or in an area in the country make sure you’re chickens are safe from predators which include humans and animals.
2) Egg Color means something special.
Ha, sorry, I don’t mean to laugh. It means your chicken is a specific breed of chickens. Not that your egg color means something else besides this. For example, Easter Eggers and Americaunas lay colorful eggs such as blue, pink, green, turquoises, olive, and other colors, plus different hues of these colors depending on the bird. Wellsummer and Marans lay dark brown eggs. Many breeds, including Rhode Island Reds lay a lighter brown egg. Leghorns are known for white eggs. We have a chicken that is a cross of who knows what that lays a nice white egg.
So then why are most store-bought eggs white, and most homegrown eggs brown? I noticed a number of years ago homegrown brown eggs became a marketing scheme in the stores because they are brown eggs so they must be better. False.
White eggs are easier to candle, which is how the egg industry looks into the egg to make sure there aren’t any blood spots and for fertilization. Easier, means faster for an industry. So the egg industry made it so all the birds they were raising for eggs were white layers. A nice clean white egg also looks amazing when you open up the carton.
If white eggs look so amazing, then when would home grown egg raisers look for other colors? I’m going to guess from my experience is that when we got to the homestead and started raising chickens, we didn’t want white eggs. We wanted heritage breeds. More heritage breeds lay brown colored eggs or colorful eggs. Home growers pick their birds by many more traits than egg color. Plus, from what I could find in the 100’s of different chicken breeds, more don’t lay white eggs, than do.
Reality of egg color. It doesn’t for anything for it’s nutrition, it doesn’t mean anything except for the breed of chicken they came from.
3) It takes 20 to 24 weeks for a chicken to begin laying eggs.
Young hens or pullets become sexually mature between the ages of 16 and 32 weeks, which is when they start laying eggs. It depends on the breed and I’ll say that a lot. Chickens are just like humans, they all mature at different ages. Rule of thumb is the heavier or larger the mature hen will be the older they will start laying eggs.
There are exceptions. We had Bress Chickens that started laying at 20 weeks. We’ve had other chickens that didn’t start laying until almost 30 weeks. We haven’t had any go as long as 32, but I have heard of some going that long.
In reality, there are more factors than age to when a chicken starts to lay eggs. It depends on the breed, the amount of sun or light they are receiving, temperature, food, and water. Chickens need 14 to 17 hours of daylight in order to start laying eggs. Once they are established they can and will lay with less light than that, but just not as often.
So if your chickens are becoming 20 to 23 weeks and it’s in the middle of winter and you’re not giving them more light and it’s cold and they aren’t getting the right nutrients. They are probably not going to lay the eggs. They need the nutrients, the light and the water. Many people don’t think aout the water and I have seen chickens eat ice. But when we give our chickens in the winter time warm water our egg production goes up.
4) Myth Rooster’s are mean
I suppose some rooster’s can become mean, but it’s usually because they are being territorial. Some breed’s of chickens are more docile, while others are more high stressed. This high stress can cause a birds temperament to be more hostile or mean. Other issues can be due to housing, space, and other animals that are around. Some breeds prefer free ranging and large areas to roam, while others don’t care.
Reality: Yes, you can have a mean rooster, but most aren’t naturally that way. And if you do have a mean rooster. If it’s mean to you or another animal don’t put up with it. Either figure out why and change the situation. Or get rid of the bird.
We’ve had very docile roosters start fighting with other roosters because it became a dominance thing. We ended up separating these birds to different areas of the homestead. And the problem was solved.
You also need to be mindful of how many roosters you have compared to hens. The roosters will get territorial over his hens, they are his girls after all. You usually want 8 to 10 hens to rooster depending on breed. This also works great for when you want to incubate and have fertile eggs.
Also If you are raising roosters for meat don’t raise them near the hens or it can become really crazy. Your roosters are jumping over fences and their fighting for the hen’s attention.
And lastly don’t be afraid of your rooster. They will feel your fear and feed off of it.
5) You should get an egg a day.
How many eggs per week depend on the breed. I know this seems to be an answer to everything. But it’s true each chicken breed is a little different.
It takes between 23 and 26 hours for a chicken to create an egg and lay it. How much time between each egg is breed related.
In reality chicken breeds that are considered layer chickens lay more eggs than meat chickens or dual purpose chickens. Some chicken breeds boast 300 plus eggs a year, while others are suppose to lay around 200 to 250 eggs a year.
Besides breed, the conditions the chickens live in will have an impact on egg laying as well.
6) Egg labels lie. Oh wait this isn’t a myth this is true. What made me bring this up is that I saw an egg carton with many label on it. A couple labels said free ranged and vegetarian fed chicken.
Why is this a lie? Well because chickens aren’t vegetarians. Sure if they are only fed grain and locked inside a building or raised on a cement floors where bugs can’t get in, you might have a chance of vegetarian eggs.
But if they’re locked in a building raised on cement floors, they aren’t free ranged chickens.
Chickens are actually omnivores, for they eat plants and animals. This includes fruits, vegetables, grains, bugs, ticks, small frogs, worms etc. They are fun to watch when they catch small worms and run off then the rest of the flock runs after them.
And truly free range means they get to roam around outside. It doesn’t mean they don’t have fences or in movable chicken runs because you do need to protect your animals. In fact the bugs, plants, and grain makes your egg yolks more nutritional.
Reality: The egg labels I’ve seen at stores are ridiculous, because many don’t make any sense. And they are marketing schemes and the definitions for the words are mostly vague at best or not defined at all
7) If your chickens stop laying they are done and you need new one?
Every year chickens molt. Molting occurs 1 to 2 times a year, typically in the winter, when chickens loose there feathers and grow new ones. It’s like a renewal for the chicken. The hens stop laying and put all her energy goes into a new set of feathers they loose some at time, then grow back. You’ll see thinning. And sometimes they can look really bad.
Once they are done molting, which takes eight to twelve weeks or more your hens will begin laying again.
How can you tell if your hens are molting or just done laying egg?
When you’re chickens begin to molt you’ll see extra feathers flying around and bald spots on your chickens. The feathers can also grow back in a different shade than the original ones.
Since we incubate chickens for spring and fall, to keep ourselves sin eggs we have chickens molting throughout the year.
In Reality: Chickens molt and you shouldn’t do anything about it but wait. It’s the way a hen recoups to lay more eggs. Chickens usually lay more eggs the first year then any other year. But can lay for four or more years.
Layer chickens are a great source of food and entertainment. And yes, once they are done laying you can butcher them. Even really old chickens taste good in soups, stews, or pressure cooked. Plus, they make excellent bone broth soup.
Thanks you for listening. lease go to our website foodplusfreedom.com to gain more info on homesteading and chickens.
If you found this information useful please pass it along to your friends.
Remember anyone can homestead, which means you can too.
Now hang on for the tip of the show.
Quick tips that help your hens lay more eggs:
Make sure they have grit: Since chickens don’t have teeth they need help grinding up their food. Grit which is a hard substances given to chickens such as oyster shells, peas, pebbles, etc stays in their gizzard and helps the chicken grind their food. If they can’t grind their food they can’t lay eggs.
During cold weather you can add cayenne pepper to their feed, give them warm water or use a water heater. Make sure they have plenty of water.Plus you can add garlic cloves and Apple Cider Vinegar to your chickens water.
Not only will these items help you gain more eggs, they will make your chickens healthier too.
Now you know.
Grow Food – Eat Local – Gain Freedom.
Until next week have a great weekend.