Why are so many backyards filled with the sound of clucking chickens? As of 2018, there were 23.7 billion chickens worldwide. There are more chickens than any other domesticated bird or fowl in the entire world.
On the plus side, chickens are energetic, sociable critters that keep themselves entertained by pecking for bugs, underground insects and grubs. Also, an adult hen will provide the caregiver with 2 fresh eggs every 2 to 3 days. Chickens are also good garden companions. They will hunt for pesty insects and worms, and will devour overripe vegetation that may have fallen on the ground, and they love doing it. Also, some people raise them for meat. However, these gifts of nature do not come without a price.
The experts recommend that you keep 3 to 6 chickens, if you are so inclined. However, this comes with a cost. First, keep in mind that chickens are easy prey for varmints. Therefore, you will need a safe, sturdy pen to house them. Materials for a pen include enough space to have feeders, watering pans, nesting boxes, and a roosting area. You will need one nesting box for every 3 chickens. Chickens begin laying in the spring, continue through the summer and will lay into fall if they have 12 to 14 hours of sunshine. You will need to be available to collect eggs daily, and it will be great fun to hear your hens clucking happily after they lay their edible treasures. Be sure that you’re not prohibited from having chickens in your neighborhood as some HOA’s do not allow livestock of any kind. Also, you need to care for them by buying feed which costs about $20 per a 50-lb. bag.
Young chickens are the most productive the first two years, and they live to be 5 to 10 years of age. So, you will need to replace older hens with young chickens. Baby chicks are available at your local feed store. It is not recommended that you keep a rooster. It is far easier to just buy young chicks to replace the older hens. Don’t forget that chickens “poop,” and you will be the one who has to clean the pen. However, chicken manure makes good fertilizer, and can be added to your garden compost.
There are hundreds of different breeds of chickens. Among the most popular egg laying hens, are the Rhode Island Red, raised for meat or eggs, Plymouth Rock, known for heavy productivity, and the Leghorn that lay large white eggs. Having been domesticated for thousands of years, they come in a variety of colors, and have many unique characteristics. Some breeds are fluffy, some are frizzy, or have regal plumage, and some are speckled with various colors. Some hens lay light brown to medium or dark brown eggs. Some exclusively lay white eggs, and there are even chickens that lay pastel colored eggs. Do your research before buying your backyard chicks. The Internet has a wealth of information regarding the different breeds, their color and characteristics, temperment, and egg production.
Just be sure to do your homework before investing in these egg laying wonders. Then, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor by gathering fresh, warm eggs for breakfast, and listening to the satisfied clucking of your backyard producers. Chickens may be egg-actly what you need!
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