Raising Chickens – Read Our Interview with Sally, who raises Chickens in Her Backyard
Hi! I’m Sally from 20 acres in rural Missouri, and I’ve been raising chickens for fun for 6 years now. They’re so entertaining, and so rewarding – feed them leftovers, they give you eggs. Besides taking care of the chickens, dogs, and husband, I love to garden, cook, spend time with the kids and my girlfriends, hike, and be in my pool in the summer!
Farm fresh eggs have much, much more flavor than the store bought. Once you start eating fresh eggs, you’ll be able to tell the difference. We never order eggs any more when we go out to breakfast, they have no flavor. The yolks in fresh eggs are much darker.
Sally, what made you decide you wanted to try raising your own chickens?
I had a friend who started raising chickens, and it is something my husband and I had talked about, but we weren’t sure how much work it would be. I realized that it really was pretty simple once you got set up, and I just loved watching her chickens, so we decided to give it a try!
What’s the first step you need to take once you’ve decided raising chickens is for you?
Well, first you have to find out if it is legal. If you are within the city limits, you need to make sure there is a city ordinance that allows chickens, and if there is a limit on how many you can have. Most places will not allow roosters – only hens. Roosters are loud and mean anyway! Then you need to make sure you have enough room. We live in the country, so we have no limit. Right now I have 11 chickens, and that is a good number for me. Also, we had some trouble with something wild getting in and chowing down on our girls, so we put an electric fence up a couple of years ago.
Is there a certain amount of space or land you need to keep chickens happy and healthy?
I have heard you need about 4 square feet per chicken in the chicken “yard.” The coop doesn’t need to be as large, as they will spend most of their time outside unless they are sleeping. Mine do not like to go out in the snow, but I usually shovel off their little ramp and area around it so they can get out, otherwise they get “cooped up!” Also, they need a roosting bar and some laying boxes in the coop. My friend just uses 5 gallon buckets on their sides for her laying boxes!
Where do your chickens live? Do they like the sunshine or prefer the shade?
They have a darling coop that my husband built and is attached to my garden shed – I can actually open the back of the laying boxes to collect eggs right from my garden shed. Their coop has room under it outdoors where they hang out when it is raining or in the deep heat of the summer days, otherwise they love to be out scratching around in their pen.
What do you feed your chickens and how often do they eat?
They get regular chicken feed that I get from the local farm store, as well as some cracked corn every day for a treat. They also get anything from the house that has gone bad (today they got half an enchilada I forgot I had left over from dinner out a week ago!!) During the summer when I have a big garden, they get plenty of goodies from there – which they love. They also will eat grass and weeds I pull up and throw in. Basically, chickens will eat pretty much anything and are great garbage disposals :)
Chickens eat bagged chicken food, kitchen/refrigerator scraps/leftovers, bugs, grass, pretty much anything you throw in their yard. Free-range chickens are the same, but are usually hunting for bugs. They are supplemented with chicken food and scraps as well, though.
Where would one go to purchase chickens?
You can buy your chickens at any local farm store – around here they have “chick days.” You can also order them by mail! That’s how I got my first “batch.” They are around 2-3 days old when you get them in this little box with holes in it, chirping away. You can buy “pullets,” which are supposed to be female chicks only. Yes, someone actually goes through the baby chicks and checks their privates to see if they are boy or girl – don’t ask me. They are supposedly right 90% of the time, and I’m not sure if it works on all breeds. So even if you ask for pullets, you will probably end up with a couple of roosters. You can tell they are boys by about 4-6 weeks, and you will want to get rid of them because they are mean and rapists.
Can you tell us a funny chicken story?
A few weeks ago, I found that 3 of my chickens had gotten out of their pen (we think they flew over a fence that was low in a spot, which the hubs quickly fixed.) I found 2 of them and got them back in the pen, but couldn’t find the 3rd. I was afraid she was history. About 3 hours later, I was walking through my living room, and there she was on the front porch, looking at me through the window! I wish I would have gotten a picture.
Do you have a favorite chicken?
I have 2 Americauna chickens that are different colored, their names are Lucy and Betty. Lucy is a beautiful gray chicken, and Betty is an unusual black and white.
What’s the difference between a chicken and a hen?
A hen is a female chicken. Many people are confused about chicken eggs – a hen doesn’t need a rooster to lay an egg. Human women release an egg every month, just as a hen releases an egg every day or two. In other words, no men needed, unless you want the egg fertilized so you can have baby chickens.
How many eggs does a chicken lay?
Different breeds of chickens lay different colors of eggs and at different rates. Most will lay an egg every day or two – I have 11 chickens and will get anywhere from 3-8 eggs a day. They do not lay as well in the cold of winter, and your supply is usually cut in half or more. I was getting 0-2 eggs a day for a couple of months last winter.
What is your favorite way to prepare & eat eggs?
I love a good quiche, but I probably like them best just fried in a tiny bit of coconut oil, over easy, with some good toast to sop up the yolk :).
Thank you Sally! Can we all move in your shed?
If you’re giving some serious thoughts to raising chickens in your backyard, read on!