Many of us have grandparents who have raised chickens, gathered their own eggs, and eaten their delicious meat. It shows us that raising chickens is not hard at all. You don’t even have to live on a large piece of land to do it.
If you raise your own chickens, you can eat them without worrying about what the chickens have ingested or what medications or supplements they have been given.
You will even have a supply of fresh eggs each day. You won’t need to go to the grocery store whenever you need chicken or eggs.
Is it worth it to have chickens for eggs?
Raising chickens for eggs would indeed incur some costs. And even if you simply want to raise chickens so that you can have eggs to consume and not for profit, you are venturing into something economic.
Thus, you need to know what these costs are. They include the cost of housing (a coop), cost of buying chicks, cost of feeds and supplements, and costs that are unexpected like vet bills and repairs. With these, you will then have an idea of how much you need to spend to raise healthy and happy chickens.
The chicken coop
This would be your biggest expense. You can spend hundreds of dollars if you get your chicken coop from a local farm store. It would, more or less, cost you around $500.
If you want to save on this, you can make your own chicken coop. You can use salvaged materials to build one. There are many DIY guides online on how to build a chicken coop. Make sure to use non-toxic materials and be chicken friendly that is sturdy enough to last for a long time.
You can buy baby chicks for $3 or $5 at most. If you buy the egg-laying hens, you can spend between $20 and $50. You will need at least 2 chickens but if you want more eggs, then you will need more.
For most experts, it is better to buy chicks and raise them to maturity than to buy adult chickens. However, raising chicks will require additional costs. This includes buying a brood box so that they are kept warm. They will also need a specialized chick feeder. Plus, the cost of setting them up to thrive as adults. You can spend around $100 to $125 on these things.
If you decide to buy pullets that are almost laying, then you can save more. You will only need to spend once on a coop, feeder, and other supplies. These can be used for their whole lives.
Feeds and supplements
You will be spending a few dollars a month to buy chicken feed for your flock. If you want to save money, it is better to buy in bulk directly from a local grain manufacturer.
Another way to save on feeds is to let your chicken forage for their food. This can also help groom your landscape when your chickens roam freely. But it can also affect the quality of the eggs. Your chickens need variety if they are to be healthy and lay tasty eggs.
Other ways of cutting down costs include growing indoor fodder, raising mealworms, fermenting feed, and supplementing with mill grains, or garden scraps. But these will take time and a lot of thought.
So, to start-up, we are looking at around $560 for a chicken coop and 3 layers. Your other costs including feeds and extras would come up to roughly $25/month. If you include vet bills, they could range from $25 up to $100.
Let us compare this to buying eggs from your local grocery store. Regular eggs could cost you $3.50 a dozen/week or $14/month. Free-range eggs could cost you $7/dozen/week which would only amount to $28/month.
Buying eggs from the grocery store will come out more cost-effective than raising chickens in your backyard.
However, some people sell some of their eggs to offset the cost. And if you go along the way of keeping costs down, then owning a small flock can pay off.
Many backyard farmers raise chickens for eggs, not for anything financial. They do it for the love, the birds, the fresh eggs, and the fun. And though it may be cheaper to buy eggs from a store, the quality of the egg would be nowhere as good as an egg from your own hens.
So, is raising chickens for eggs worth it? The answer is YES. Keeping chickens is not about what you gain financially. There are many benefits to raising chickens that are more than monetary value. You get to enjoy their company and it gives you plenty of physical and mental health benefits. Plus, you get your fresh eggs every day.
Hence, if you are going to raise chickens for eggs, do it for fun, as a hobby. You are indeed doing something worthwhile.
What is the best thing to feed chicken for eggs?
If you are going to give your chickens a good diet for eggs, then it should be a high-quality poultry pellet. Layer pellets should provide your chickens with a good amount of protein and minerals that will help them keep on laying eggs.
Make sure to purchase your layer pellets from a reliable store. This will ensure that you are giving your chickens food they will give them their nutrients in the right proportions. If you want them to have optimal growth and production, then they should be getting a balanced diet.
Layers need to ingest large amounts of calcium for their eggshells. To ensure continued egg production, layer diets should contain at least 14% protein.
Another way of providing high protein to your layers is to give them wheatgrass. With a high protein diet, your layers will be healthier and will give you eggs that taste better. To this, you can also add alfalfa and grass hay.
While most of your chicken’s dietary requirements will be met through their regular layer pellets, you can improve their egg-laying by giving them a little treat even now and then.
Mealworms are a good treat because it contains 50% protein. Just make sure to control the amount you give them. If you give them too much protein, it can be harmful to their kidneys.
Other treats you can give your chickens include baked, crushed eggshells which are full of calcium; dandelion leaves, kale, chickweed, and cabbage, which are high in minerals and vitamins essential in maintaining your hen’s good overall health; fruits in moderation for their source of vitamin A, B1, B6, C, and antioxidants; and fresh veggies to keep your hens hydrated and gives you better-tasting eggs.
You can give them scratch grains. Just scatter them around to encourage your hens to scratch and dig. But don’t give them too much because it can cause hens to be obese.
If you have sick birds or birds recovering from brooding, you can give them scrambled eggs. This will provide them with an essential protein boost that will help get them through their tough times. Their production abilities can also increase with this.
Just remember not to overfeed your layers. Obese hens are unhealthy hens.
How long can you leave eggs in the nest (before they go bad?)
A mother hen takes two weeks to gather her eggs for incubation. During this time, the first egg is still fresh to develop into a chick. It hasn’t gone bad even though it has been sitting in the nest in varying temperatures. This shows that it takes a while before the eggs go bad even without refrigeration.
But you should not leave eggs out in the nest for long. If you do, these eggs can attract predators, or they can accidentally be cracked or broken. It can also inspire broodiness in your hens.
They can also freeze and crack if the temperature is very cold. A cracked egg has no protection for its contents. It is better to discard it to be safe but you have just wasted a good one.
The egg bloom is the protective mineral layer on the egg’s surface. This protects the egg from infection. If you haven’t washed your eggs, then the bloom is still intact. This will allow you to leave the egg at room temperature for at least a month and they will still be fine to eat. Then you should start thinking of refrigerating them.
It is best to eat your eggs in under two weeks because they tend to taste better. But as long as the egg is eaten within a month of it being laid, it will still be good.
Eggs only get worse if bacteria have invaded them. They don’t just rot for lack of refrigeration, or else it would be impossible for hens to hatch chicks.
Although storing eggs at room temperature is fine, they will last longer if you refrigerate them. If you keep your eggs inside a sealed container, they can last for up to six months and still stay fresh.
How do you raise chickens for meat at home?
Raising chickens for meat is quite different from raising chickens for eggs. You will need to learn a few things and prepare for some additional steps including slaughtering and processing the birds when they are fully grown.
You need to first purchase baby broiler chicks. Most farmers purchase meat chicken that grows to maturity in around 8 weeks.
You also need to provide them with shelter and the right temperature. Baby chicks are fragile and so they will need protection from predators. Their temperature also needs to be regulated.
During the cold season, you will need a heat lamp to maintain its temperature. If your chicks are huddling in a corner, then this means that they are cold. You can tell if they are warm if they are happily walking around.
You will also need a larger coop to accommodate more birds at a time. A small run attached to the coop is good. If you raise your chickens on pasture, then the meat that they will produce is higher in omega-3.
Food and water should also be provided. In the course of their life which is about 12 weeks, a meat chicken will eat about 15 pounds of food. This can hopefully help you estimate how much chicken feed you will need.
You can easily buy commercial feeds that will provide your growing chicken the essential nutrients. For the first two weeks, you should feed your chickens a high protein diet. After this, you can feed them with feeds with less protein.
Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water in their pen.
From here, meat chicks are then easier to care for. Just make sure that their environment is clean and give them plenty of food and water and they are good to go.
When they have grown to around 5 to 7 pounds, which is the full size of broilers or roasters, you can now butcher and process your chickens.
Meat chickens can be raised to maturity for about 8 to 12 weeks. By this time, your mature meat chicken will have meat that is fresh, tender, and juicy.
It can be extremely rewarding to raise chickens for meat. And you get to eat delicious meat as well.
Can you eat chicken that dies of old age?
It probably isn’t very good to eat a chicken that dies of old age. They could be very tough when they die old.
Although the meat can be tough and stringy and perhaps not smell so good, it is not harmful to eat it. They are often very gamey and people would find it distasteful.
If the chicken dies and the blood is not removed, the meat would be of low quality. When blood is not purged, it can result in contamination because of poor circulation. It can also spoil more quickly even after cooling.
But if you have an old hen that no longer produces eggs and you find it necessary to butcher it, then you can use its meat for good chicken stock. You can cook it on a slow fire for 48 hours. This will help bring out all the nutrients in the chicken meat. You can also brine the chicken to make an edible, flavorful chicken.
Can you eat chicken with bumblefoot?
When ammonia from manure gets on the feet of your chicken and it doesn’t come off, then it develops bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is caused by staphylococcus bacteria. It enters the bloodstream of the chicken through a scratch or an injury.
If bumblefoot is not treated immediately, it can lead to permanent lameness in birds. Blisters will grow on their feet which will render them unable to walk.
When asked, most people would rather not eat chicken that had bumblefoot, not because of anything, but because they find the idea to be gross since it is a staph infection.
Although this is a staph infection, cooking will kill the bacteria so it would theoretically be ok to eat. And besides, most of the time our chicken recipes don’t include the feet.
Or, you can treat the bumblefoot condition before cooking the chicken. If you gave your chicken drugs, make sure to know the withdrawal time of the drugs you gave. And, to be safe, just don’t eat the feet.
Can you eat chickens with other diseases like coryza, ascites, mycoplasma, or coccidiosis?
Infectious coryza is an acute respiratory infection of chickens caused by a bacterium. It gets transmitted through direct bird-to-bird contact. Birds can also catch the disease by breathing airborne bacteria and consuming feed or water that is contaminated.
Signs that your chickens have coryza include swelling of the face, watery eyes, and a foul-smelling discharge of mucus from the nose and eyes. They can have swollen wattles, and mucus and pus can fill the sinuses around the eyes.
The good thing is that these bacteria do not spread from birds to humans. So, if you eat meat or eggs of birds infected with coryza, it will not harm you at all. There is no known health risk to humans.
The condition called ascites is also known as water belly. This is a common condition for the rapid-growing breeds of poultry. Its main cause is pulmonary hypertension.
This happens when the heart and lungs of birds are under a tremendous amount of stress. It will make the abdomen swell and enlarged. It feels as if the chicken’s belly is full of water when poked.
Ascites are not a disease. It is a heart failure problem and not an infection or anything contagious. So, humans can eat chickens with this condition.
Just make sure to wash it all out and you can eat the chicken’s muscle tissue. Just skip on the organs on this one.
Mycoplasma is a treatable, slow-growing bacteria. Signs of infected birds include runny nose, cough, unusual breathing sounds, and swollen or puffy eyelids and face.
Although humans can spread these bacteria, it does not affect them. When properly prepared, chicken meat is safe to eat. But if birds are treated, you need to determine the specific withdrawal times of the antibiotic given. Mycoplasma in poultry does not cause disease in humans.
The protozoa cocci live in specific species of birds. This means that you cannot get it. Chickens carry this at all times. Coccidiosis is an illness that happens when the coccidia flora is not in check and the bird’s system is overwhelmed.
Chickens can get killed with this condition if it is left unchecked. Medication is possible. Chickens with coccidiosis can be eaten if it is not under the medication and if the chicken has not atrophied.
How to humanely slaughter a chicken
Part of raising chicken for meat is learning how to butcher them properly. Here are some of the more humane methods for slaughtering chickens.
You will need a very sharp knife for this. Have someone hold the chicken upside down with her wings pinned. Or, you can also use a kill cone.
The throat should be sliced by the knife on the part directly under the chin or on either side of the larynx. Make one cut parallel to the jaw bone on each side. With this, the arteries are sliced and not the trachea.
The chop or decapitation
If you are a beginner, then this is the easiest way for you to slaughter your chicken. However, it can be very messy.
You will need a sharp axe or hatchet. Make someone hold the chicken upside down and when it has calmed down, lay its head on your chopping block. Then swing your axe hard. You should not be fearful to hit it strong. It is more humane if you swing it really strong. And the blood is going to go everywhere.
The cervical dislocation
It this method, you need to snap the spinal cord behind the skull to stop the supply of blood to the brain. This will make the chicken unconscious and within 15 to 20 seconds, the heart and brain will be deprived of blood and the chicken will die.
Cervical dislocation by broomstick
The result of this method is the same as the above. The goal is to detach the head from the neck which can cause unconsciousness and quick death.
You will need a broomstick or a stiff, strong stick, pole, or bar. The chicken should be placed down on a hard surface between your feet. Then place the stick behind the chicken’s head. Step down on the stick while pulling the chicken’s back legs simultaneously. This will snap the chicken’s neck.
You should wrap your chicken in a towel and place it on the ground. Then kneel over the bird and use your pellet gun close to the head of the chicken to shoot it. This method is fairly easy.
It is not enjoyable to put down a chicken. But if you are raising chicken for meat, this is a necessary procedure and so you need to know how to do it properly.
No matter what method you choose, your chicken will surely twitch and convulse strong for about a minute before it dies. This is something normal so don’t be scared. Just be calm and confident so that the slaughter will be cleaner and more humane.
Can chicken go bad in the freezer?
If you keep your chicken in the freezer with a constant 0 degrees F temperature, then it will keep it safe indefinitely.
Although your frozen chicken may remain safe forever, the same can’t be said for its quality. Over time, all frozen foods will eventually deteriorate when it comes to flavour, texture, and taste.
Raw chicken pieces can be stored in the freezer for up to 9 months, while a whole chicken can be frozen for up to one year before its quality starts to fade. So, if you want to enjoy the best quality of your chicken, you should eat it within a year.