Have you ever considered having your own laying hens? How about fresh eggs every day, a reduction of the food trash you throw away, and great fertilizer for your garden?
A great place to start is your local library. Grab a couple of books on poultry, and familiarize your self with coops, feed, chicken varieties, and such. I would recommend building your coop before you bring home your chickens. When building your coop, think about recycling whatever wood and other materials you have on hand already. Have feed ready, such as layer crumbles, and cracked corn. You can buy these at your local Tractor Supply, or Rural King. The two piece plastic feeders (white top, red base) are good. They will need a good watering system. I don’t recommend the plastic varieties, especially the similar white and red heated model. The lip that acts as the font sticks out beyond the main body is not heated, and in cold weather it will freeze. And it only holds a couple of gallons. And it is made in China, so avoid it. I recommend the large metal galvanized type that holds five gallons. You can also buy a galvanized metal heated base to go with it. Both of these you can buy at Rural King, and they are made in the USA.
If you plan on letting your hens free range, they will in general be much healthier, and in the warm weather months will keep down the ants and other bugs. You can use almost any type of fence to contain them, and move it around periodically to keep them happy, and spread the fertilizer. Just be sure you close their coop at the end of the day. Raccoons and other critters will try to get your hens, so build accordingly.
Most folks who are just starting this type of adventure won’t want to start with hatchlings. I recommend going with juvenile birds. McMurray Hatchery sells Started White Leghorn, Reds, and Black Star Pullets that are 17 weeks old, fully vaccinated, and ready to start life at your little slice of paradise.
Another option that is great for folks living within driving distance of Knightstown, Indiana is the Knightstown Sale Barn. This is a great place to buy hens, and it is quite an experience. here you’ll easily find almost any type of hen or rooster (be sure you ask if you are not sure). And remember, you don’t need a rooster to get eggs. If you are a suburban hobby farmer, your neighbors will thank you for not having any roosters. At the Sale barn, you can usually find chickens, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese, pretty much anything with wings.
There are some caveats when buying at auction. You don’t know the vaccination history of the birds. If you aren’t familiar with chickens, you also may not know how old they are, and hence how they are laying. But usually the price is right. Be sure to bring your own cage, though some sellers do inlcude the cage in the auction price.
In my next post I will be providing a coop design, links to other designs, as well as many other links to help you become a productive hobby farmer.