The Best Egg-Laying Chickens
Categories: On The Farm
Equipment for Raising Layer Chickens
Adult egg-laying hens can be easy to keep if you have the right housing situation. If you’re raising your flock from chicks, though, you’ll need a few more pieces of equipment. Before you bring layers to the farm, make have these things in place to keep your birds safe and sound.
Chicks start out in a brooder before being moved to a coop. The brooder can be a room (if you have a lot of chicks) or just a large heavy-rubber tote (if you have just a few chicks). The point of this draft-free space is to keep chicks safe from predators, warm, and close to their food and water. Have your brooder space set up at least 24 hours before you bring home your chicks so the air, bedding and water have time to warm up to the proper temperature.
Feeders and Waterers
Food and water are obvious necessities for chickens. You can find many feeder and waterer plans online if you'd like to make your own, and you can purchase them reasonably priced at your local farm-supply store. The feeders and waterers that you put in the brooder house might be appropriate to move into the hen house, but keep in mind that as layer hens grow, so does the amount of space they'll each take up around the feeder and waterer.
At around 6 weeks old, chicks can move into more spacious accommodations. The hen house also needs to be predator-proof to the max. Chickens will be vulnerable to predation throughout their whole lives. Egg-laying hens require roosting space and nesting boxes in the hen house, as well as feed and water. You may wish to have a mobile chicken coop—called a chicken tractor—or just a stationary coop. If you go with a stationary house, bed it and clean it out once each week (or use the deep-litter bedding system).
If your egg-laying chickens are going to free-range, consider fencing them in to protect them from predators, or you might just put them inside at night. If you're using fencing, go for the predator-proof kind: small-weave, potentially electrified, buried 6 inches so predators can't dig underneath (unless you're using temporary net fencing that will be moved regularly) and at least 5½ feet tall so coyotes can't jump over it. If you are putting up a small fenced enclosure, consider putting up overhead protection, too, to keep out hawks. Sometimes a few simple reflective strips running over top of the fenced area are all you need.
Tips for Keeping Your Layers Healthy
Oregon Department of Agriculture/Flickr
The topic of egg-layer health is worth a whole book itself. Understanding the basics of chicken health will help you keep your layers healthy and productive:
- Provide quality feed.
- Provide fresh water.
- Keep the coop, nest boxes and foraging area clean.
- Give egg-laying hens grit so they can take in calcium and build strong egg shells.
- Allow areas for dust bathing, as this is how chickens keep themselves clean and parasite-free.
- Quarantine new birds before adding them to your flock to be sure they're healthy and won't introduce any health issues.
- Consider Marek's disease vaccination for your chicks, which is an easy add-on if you're purchasing from a hatchery.
With the right breed, good equipment and attention to health care, your new layer hens will be providing you with fresh eggs from your farm or yard in no time. You'll wonder how you got by with grocery-store eggs for so long.