Raising chickens has always been a huge part of our lives. Over the years, we have hatched many chicks, built many coops and collected lots of eggs.
Chickens are a lot of fun. They have individual personalities, they provide nutritious eggs and their constant scratching turns food scraps into garden compost, almost overnight. But, they also need to be cared for, they dig up my garden beds and they poop everywhere…
fresh chicken eggs!
On average, our chickens lay one egg a day, depending on the time of year and the eggs range in color from blue, green, white, and brown, depending on the breed of chicken.
Fresh eggs are a little different from store-bought eggs. Apart from the fact that they typically have thicker shells and the yolks are more orange, they don’t have to be refrigerated and sometimes the yolk may have a ‘blood spot’ which freaks some people out.
do i have to refrigerate fresh eggs??
Freshly laid chicken eggs have a special coating on them that stops air and bacteria from entering the egg. If the egg was fertilized (you have to have a rooster for that), this coating would protect the developing chicks, but for us, it keeps the eggs fresher longer. Once that coating is washed off, they’re more susceptible to spoiling.
So, if you don’t wash the eggs, you don’t need to refrigerate them and you can keep them on the counter for weeks.
We store ours in this hanging basket, along with any veggies from the yard.
what do our chickens eat?
Chickens are omnivores, and pretty much eat anything. They stay in a 50 by 50 foot run where they have constant access to feed and fresh water. Every morning we throw them a scoop of bird seed, our chickens food scraps, and a few times a year we raise mealworms for them. When I am working in the yard, I let them out to free-range our 3 acres, where they eat bugs, lizards, weeds, seeds, and whatever they can sneak out of my garden.
Some people feed their chickens grit for digestion, but we have so many shells and sand in our soil that we don’t have to do that.
We also buy grain to supplement them throughout the day. Chickens typically eat a 1/4 pound of feed a day, so, our 13 chickens need 100 pounds of feed, or almost three 40lb bags, a month. I’ve been working hard to grow more food for them and encouraging the neighbors to bring us their food scraps so we don’t have to rely on feed. We’re getting there.
I always keep a container full of chicken feed and bird seed in their pen. I’ve tried lots of different feeders over the years and this is by far my favorite setup. I bought a food storage container, drilled out a few holes, and added these poultry feeder cups. It’s been through several rain storms and none of the feed got wet!
do we sell eggs?
There are a lot of requirements, permits, inspections, and fees required to legally sell eggs for human consumption in Florida. Maybe we will jump through the hoops one day, but for now, we just give them away and ask for donations to cover the feed and the amount of time and effort it takes to care for them.
Chickens are constantly scratching at the ground which quickly breaks down our food scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil. Their waste (chicken poop) is also nitrogen-rich fertilizer that can be used in the garden.
Every year, our neighbors give us some of their fertile eggs that we hatch in an incubator. We have great memories of hatching eggs and raising the babies until they’re big enough to fend for themselves.
The chickens also help pull weeds, eat pests, make compost and. The chickens can quickly turn a container of food scraps into rich compost and their fertilizer-rich waste is great to add to our planting beds.
We’ve had 2 different chicken coops over the years. I learned as I went and made changes as needed. The first coop worked great for a few years. We started small and built on it.
Sanitation is key to bird health. I set up the coop to be easy to clean and prevent odor build up. They like to be up high, so a place for them to roost is important, and they like to take dust baths, so they need sand to roll in.
But, it was too far from the house, and predators would grab chickens during the day. We’ve lost some to raccoons, foxes, hawks, and the rest of the large critters that come out at night. Now they are in the backyard, and we haven’t had any casualties.
Although we love having chickens, we’ve also learned some tough life lessons about losing chickens to predators, being chased by aggressive roosters, and shoveling chicken manure.
Our current chicken coop has a solar-powered chicken door that closes at night and opens in the morning, which is nice not having to let them in and out each day.
Legally, we can’t sell eggs until we can obtain a food establishment permit – meaning we need to undergo inspections, purchase processing equipment (an egg washing machine, sanitizers, placards, and a dedicated fridge), and proper packaging…so, in the meantime, we give them away. But! If you ever want to support…here ya go…